Why I Hate the Religious and Teabagging Right

I noted in my last post that Beirut has an edgy vibe. After only one day here I’m obviously not an expert, but from what a few people have said, I think part of it may be the fear of renewed war. For the Lebanese it’s not a matter of if, but when. And while the proximate worry is simply another Israeli incursion, the context of that is their 15 year civil war (1975-1990). The precise causes of that war are still murky, but in large part it had to do with politicized sectarianism within Lebanon’s diverse population.

That’s why people who think all Christians must vote Republican scare me. They’re politicizing religious sectarianism in a way that never ends up well. And those teabaggers who are suggesting it’s time for a violent solution to the problem of our failing government have no idea what types of forces they’d really unleash.

Here in Beirut you can still see the bombed-out buildings. A 30 story apartment tower with holes blown in the side is a perfect image for what these fools would achieve. They don’t understand the ruin of infrastructure, the economic devastation, the families living in fear of being targeted and killed just because they think social security is a good thing. They don’t understand that those who seize power by force are inevitably corrupt, creating a gap between governing elite and common person the likes of which these comfortably angry whites can’t even begin to fathom.

These fools believe a revolution would be quick and painless enough to simply set America back on course, and they don’t understand that they would actually be setting it off on a wholly new course, one that would be socially, economically and politically ruinous.

They’re basing their beliefs on the American Revolutionary War, one of the few revolutions that resulted in a reasonable approximation of popular government, accountability, and lack of corruption. But they don’t realize how unusual that situation was. The colonies all had functioning governments that had been in operation for decades–in fact a primary cause of their conflict with England was the new constraints on the autonomy they’d historically observed. While they reorganized their forms, to become state, rather than colonial, governments during the war, they were building voluntarily on what they already had. And they voluntarily agreed to a centralized organizing body (later to become the collective government of those states), built upon the same general principles. So even while the Revolutionary War was very damaging to life and property, the end of it saw not so much a new government, as the re-established and extended the autonomy they’d traditionally enjoyed.

No such outcome would be foreseeable for a new American revolution. In fact a revolution would be an egregious misnomer. What these folks are calling for is nothing less than civil war. If they’d like to see how well that turns out, they should spend a few days in Beirut.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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24 Responses to Why I Hate the Religious and Teabagging Right

  1. D. C. Sessions says:

    You’re supposing that the warrevolution would be between forces that are vaguely matched. They’re counting on an overwhelmingly popular uprising against a handful of usurpers who have taken over the government from the vast majority of people in the USA. (“Great silent majority,” remember?)

    You see the variety of people across the country, and they see the homogeneity of the people in their social circle.

    As with many issues today, this one hinges on an ideological disagreement over objective facts.

  2. I don’t like to think of myself as a defender of the tea party or the religious right, but it’s not clear to me that most of them are actually advocating revolution or violence. This could be due to my ignorance more than anything….maybe I don’t follow the news enough.

    I do agree that a logical conclusion one can take from the rhetoric of the tea party and from some of the apologists of the religious right might indeed be one of violence and revolution, but outside of the Westboro Churchites and their like, I don’t see a lot of explicit calls for violence or revolution. (Even the Westboronians, to my knowledge, don’t really call for physical violence–although they engage in what might be considered verbal violence and they praise the violence that results in soldiers being killed–but my knowledge of them is limited.)

  3. D. C. Sessions says:

    Pierre, they’re using revolutionary rhetoric which is for now mostly metaphoric, although a visible subset make a big show of marching around with firearms at political events (etc.)

    The trouble is that metaphoric appeals to violence can lead to — and mask — transitions to actual violence. Yes, a lot of it is play-acting for adults. We have too many examples, though, of that play-acting for adults being an early stage of paramilitary organization where the majority wake up one day to find themselves being led by a cadre dedicated to the real thing.

    A big part of what I’m seeing is widespread “othering:” casting events in terms of “Real Americans™,” and “liberal elites,” “islamists,” and of course “furrinersillegals.” For those of us who remember the American antisemitism of the 30s, a lot of the rhetoric is spookily familiar.

    That’s why (unlike our host) I’m less worried by thoughts of shelled buildings than I am of some other, less violent, revolutions of the 20th century which may have had a few broken windows but little mass bloodshed. Until the revolution was over, anyway, and the new Leader got on with securing the new Government.

  4. buddyglass says:

    Not that I support violent revolution (civil war), but…

    Don’t we have plenty of examples from the modern world of essentially bloodless coups? If one has the military in his pocket (or enough of it) that sort of works against armed conflict.

  5. D. C. Sessions says:

    Don’t we have plenty of examples from the modern world of essentially bloodless coups?

    Of course we do. Thailand a few years back was a good example, but I would vote the all-time winner to be Germany in 1933.

    If one has the military in his pocket (or enough of it) that sort of works against armed conflict.

    That’s one way (the usual one in banana republics, actually). It’s far from the only one, though. As, for example, the European examples in the 20th century.

    In large part, it comes down to how committed the populace (often including the armed forces) are to the structure of the society and government. The USA has always been pretty high on that scale, which may account in part for our remarkable stability. The recent talk about secession, “second amendment remedies,” and a general attitude of “elections are only legitimate if my side won” cast doubt in that quarter.

  6. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Mr. Hanley seems to be letting his inner-Hobbes run free.

    Are there really that many Tea Party attendees (you can’t really call them members, can you?) advocating violent solutions? Maybe. To be sure we can count on the media to find the looniest for sound bites, but do we have any hard evidence of the prevalence of such attitudes?

    Here’s the thing to me. A substantial plurality of the Tea Party crowd is, um, my cohort. Sixties era Baby Boomers some of whose fondest adolescent memories are of shouting for a revolution in various protest rallies in the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. Of course, they’re also the same hypocrites whose attitude toward marijuana is “Fine for me but not for my kids,” so the rhetoric needs to be taken with a grain of sand or salt or whatever the hell one needs a grain of in such matters.

    I do agree, however, about the prevalent Christian iff Republican nonsense. I’m not at all sure the Venn diagrams of the religious right and the Tea Party crowd would overlap as much as Mr. Hanley seems to suggest, but however many of them there are, they’re nuts. But then anyone whose core belief is that God is on his side and his side alone and that he and only he has the right beliefs is, IMHO, nuts.

    Such lunacy, however, is not confined to the religious right. One of my best friends is an Episcopal priest and a self described socialist. I think he firmly believes (though he may not admit it as such) that one cannot really be a Christian in any, um, serious sense unless one’s politics are at the very least “progressive.” The contemporary left, however, simply is far more secular in general than the contemporary right, thus one doesn’t hear the voices of the religious left as frequently. But they’re out there and as both Protestant social gospel movements and Roman Catholic liberation theology movements in the past century have demonstrated, they would be just as abusive of power as the religious right, given the opportunity. Only in different ways.

  7. D. C. Sessions says:

    Are there really that many Tea Party attendees (you can’t really call them members, can you?) advocating violent solutions?

    From low-N personal contacts, I’d say a pretty fair number fantasize about the BATF coming to take their guns away, which triggers [1] The Revolution. We can get a rough idea of the overall numbers of this subset by the run on ammunition last year. Of course, storytelling over beer isn’t terribly reliable as a predictor, but it does make for a good bit of ground clutter and can provide raw material for the more action-oriented types.

    [1] Not originally planned, but I won’t apologize either.

  8. Matty says:

    A few questions if you may.

    -DAR has already asked how prevelant such attitudes really are but not being in the US I don’t even know how common they are in the media and how they are presented. Is this something that pops up in internet discussions and footage of public demonstrations or do you have serious pundits sitting down for an interview on TV and saying “I think we should have a revolution”?

    -How long has this been a part of your political discourse, I remember seeing criticisms of Bush and Clinton and while much of it was overblown I don’t recall calls for revolt?

    -How do they get away with it? I’m not talking about government censorship here but I find it hard to imagine journalists covering what amounts to advocating terrorism and not, at the very least, calling it such, nor can I imagine the general public responding to such calls with anything other than horror.

    OK I can imagine these things but I can imagine having wings, I can’t believe it would happen.

  9. ppnl says:

    The sad thing is that the republicans could have easily taken both the house and senate with solid majorities if not for the tea party and religious right. Without those perverse influences they could be free to address some actual republican principles like actual limited government and paying down the debt.

    Republicans could have easily won the last presidential election except that McCain felt he had to cater to the religious right. The thing is he did have to cater to then in order to get past the primaries. Once past the primaries he had burned too many bridges.

    The problem republicans face going forward is not with liberals. The problem is a structural defect in the party itself. I see no way out without restructuring the entire primary process.

  10. Mark F. says:

    I’m a pretty strong libertarian, but I think any attempts at violent revolution are stupid and most likely unlibertarian in practice -and hard to pull off. I can’t understand all this concern about the religious right and teabaggers. A few crackpots may imagine some violent coup, but come on. This is like being concerned the KKK is plotting a violent revolution. Most are quite happy to work in the system.

  11. James Hanley says:

    I don’t think there are a very large number of people advocating violent revolution. But I would note that the Republican Party’s senatorial candidate from Nevada actually suggested the “2nd Amendment” solution. When serious (as in have a serious chance to win) candidates to your nation’s highest legislative body can say such things without being thoroughly rebuked and rejected by their own party, I think it’s time to take noticed.

    As to how much overlap there is between the religious right and the teabag enthusiasts, I didn’t intend to suggest there was a lot, although I can see how it would appear so. Rather, I intended to suggest that these are complementary strains of thought, both of which tend to lead to the same terrible outcome.

    I agree with Matty that, “nor can I imagine the general public responding to such calls with anything other than horror.” Except that it has actually happened here in the past year.

  12. ppnl says:

    Matty,

    OK I can imagine these things but I can imagine having wings, I can’t believe it would happen.

    A few years ago I could not imagine that Glenn Beck would be given a prime time show on a major news channel. Reality continues to confound my imagination.

  13. D. C. Sessions says:

    Without those perverse influences they could be free to address some actual republican principles like actual limited government and paying down the debt.

    Don’t confuse advertising slogans with policy.

    The “debt reduction” and “limited government” talk has about as much to do with real right-wing policy as “second amendment solutions” talk does. Both are purely emotional talking points when coming from candidates.

  14. Heidegger says:

    Greetings, James! Sounds like your trip is enlightening with only a few speed bumps along the way. Now about this word, “teabagging”, you are no doubt aware it is an explicitly vulgar, offensive, sexual epithet that refers to a man placing his scrotum into the mouth of another person. I think it would be fair to say it’s a term that grossly misrepresents and insults members of the Tea Party movement sort of like, hmmm, using the word, “pro-abortion” to characterize people who are “pro-choice” regarding their views on abortion. You’re certainly capable of casting your slings and arrows at the tea partiers without needing to use such a cheap slur.

    And about this Israeli “incursion” into Lebanon, if that wasn’t self defense, nothing is.

  15. Matty says:

    And about this Israeli “incursion” into Lebanon, if that wasn’t self defense, nothing is.

    Let us assume that Israeli action in Lebanon past and future is 100% justified and follows all the rules of war regarding treatment of the enemy and non combatants. It still would not follow that Lebanese people are wrong to fear a return to conflict. If a bomb is dropped on your house by people who were right to be bombing and took every effort to avoid civillian casualties and made an unavoidable mistake the house is still bombed.

  16. Scott Hanley says:

    Without those perverse influences [Republicans] could be free to address some actual republican principles like actual limited government and paying down the debt.

    And when in the last 30 years have they actually done this? Republican talk a lot about reducing government spending, but the only thing I’ve seen them go to the mat for is tax cuts, never ever paid for.

    I’m viewing this talk of violence and revolution with growing uneasiness, also. Sometimes it almost seems that the Right is daring each other to do the unimaginable, screwing up the nerve to actually send Christian stormtroopers into the street or start arresting people for crimethink. It still seems far-fetched, and our greatest safety may lie in the fact that the extreme Right is strongest among an aging and declining demographic rather than the young and energetic.

    But I’m with D.C. Sessions on this. These extreme, violent fantasies pass almost without comment nowadays – people take it as normal rhetoric, when they should be horrified. All this talk of death panels and FEMA camps makes the very notion of a US fascism seem less preposterous, more imaginable, and eventually more reasonable. Thinks that should be out of bounds are starting to sound in-bounds and it’s a dangerous trend.

  17. ppnl says:

    James Hanley,

    Would you describe Beirut as feudalistic or balkanized? Which is worse?

  18. ppnl says:

    Scott Hanley,

    Yes it is true that it is hard to see where republicans have stood by principles in the last 30 years if ever. But the reason is that the electoral system allows them to construct perverse incentives. In a sense the failure of our political system is very similar to the failure of the financial system in the housing bubble.

    James Hanley has posts on Arrow’s Theorem and the impossibility of democracy but I think it partly misses the point. The point is not to maximize democracy but to minimize the ability of the players to game the system and construct perverse incentives. If you see these as very different goals then maybe a way forward can be found. The solution may be less democracy.

  19. James Hanley says:

    ppnl–Unfortunately I don’t really know Beirut well enough to give a good answer to that question. But I was told by someone at a university there that segregation of Christians and Muslims is increasing, so more balkanized would be my off-the-cuff guess.

    I agree with you about minimizing the system’s gameability, and less democracy. Two things I’d like to see is a change in the candidate selection process, so the party leaders have more influence over the choice of candidates, and the hoi polloi less; and creating further constitutional restrictions on the type of legislation Congress can pass. I don’t have much hope, though.

    Heidegger–there’s a logical distinction between a pejorative and a misnomer.

    And where did I suggest the Israeli incursion wasn’t justified? All I said was that people were worried about it. Wouldn’t you be? Matty’s absolutely right, and I can’t see you saying, “Oh, they’re justified in bombing here, so I’m not scared of the falling bombs.” Might I suggest taking time to read carefully and then contemplate before beginning to type your response?

  20. Scott Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    So why do these structural incentives seem to influence one party a whole lot more than the other? When the Democrats got the government, they did try to push their agenda. They wilt under opposition rather easily, and many on this blog will be happy they did so, but they do make an effort. The Republicans, even with solid majorities and feeble opposition, make no effort at reducing deficits and Boehner, with his “The President sets the agenda” nonsense, has already announced that he has no intention of accepting any responsibility for the next two years. I don’t see how the electoral system can account for those differences.

  21. ppnl says:

    Scott Hanley,

    Because the republican party has a strongly authoritarian base. That makes republicans far more loyal as long as you belong to an in group. Guns, creationism, abortion, strong military, family values – these are all issues to attract authoritarian personalities. Gays, women, black people, liberals and elites in general tend to be identified as out groups.

    Over the years the republicans have been feeding this authoritarian monster in order to get power. In the end they have sold out all their supposed principles in order to feed it. In the end “limited government” just didn’t sell as well as abortion, school prayer and bans on flag burning.

  22. Pingback: On John Boehner and Agenda-Setting | The One Best Way

  23. Jennifer says:

    Great post, James. I know or know of a couple folks who are actively hoping/planning for some violent revolution, and they seem to think they’ll experience it the way I experienced 9/11: by watching it on television. Some of them take it further and imagine actually being the revolutionaries themselves, like a big exciting laser-tag game only with real guns, and all the fighting takes place in some gritty urban warzone far removed from their comfortable homes, to which they’ll return every night when they get tired playing revolution all day, and heat up din-din in the microwave while TiVoing the nightly newscast in case they appear on it.

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