Monday, October 17, 2016

Beleaguered, Battered, and Bewildered

Update: Welcome back MBRU readers, thanks as always Batocchio!

Eggs Benedict, via Wikipedia.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, rises "In Defense of the Religious Right"—that's the "beleaguered, battered, all-but-broken religious right" to you, but he's not defending them against the forces that broke them, the indifference to theological niceties of their own voters, who turn out to be more invested in xenophobia than in the man who hung out comfortably with the Samaritan woman at the well in spite of her foreign culture and her colorful sexual history (John 4:4-26); what he's defending them against is words, from those mean old liberals mocking the theocrats in their moment of grief and weakness:

They sought a remoralized politics, a less licentious culture, and now they’re making lesser-of-two-evil arguments to protect a pagan demagogue from the consequences of his own unbridled lust.
This is a grim endgame for a movement that just a little over a decade ago had liberals fearing its electoral strength and allegedly-theocratic ambitions. And for those liberals today, the religious right’s crisis tastes like victory and vindication both: Those theocrats are finally cracking up, and Trump has proved that all their talk about virtue and character was just partisanship, with no real moral substance underneath.
That's a bit of a straw man, I think, or a Douthatian conflation of unrelated arguments stuffed into a single scarecrow shirt: for instance, the moral character of the individual candidate and the moral substance of the movement (failings of the individual have always been forgiven for those who toe the line, think Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, Ronald Reagan, Rudolf Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich, etc.). I've long taken the hypocrisy for granted; my Schadenfreude comes from discovering that their movement doesn't have any political depth, so that they've mostly ended up crawling back into the Trumpian tent, just to maintain a sense of their own existence, and we can stop being afraid of them now.

So the four points he marshals to disprove the imaginary contention don't do for me exactly what he's hoping to do:

First, serious religious conservatives didn’t want Trump. Yes, he had hacks and heretics on his side from early on: Jerry Falwell Jr., Mike Huckabee, various prosperity preachers. But most churchgoing Republican preferred other candidates; only 15 percent of weekly churchgoers were steady Trump supporters from the start.
Well, yeah. And they turned out to be wholly unable to win a Republican primary. The voters didn't give a fuck. If the theocrats hadn't been so deluded about their own importance, though, they could have ganged up in favor of J.E.B.! or Kasich.

Second, religious conservatives have stronger reasons than other right-wing constituencies to fear a Clinton presidency. Tax rates go up and down, regulations come and go, but every abortion is a unique human life snuffed out forever.
Oh, right. Christopher Christie and Newt Gingrich are contemptible for giving in to the Trumpery because they're only doing it for the tax rates. But Ted Cruz is doing it for the babies. "Vote your conscience!" I don't know where I'd start here. As far as I'm concerned the market fundamentalists are every bit as religious about their obsession as the abortion fanatics are. The latter are different in that they'd have "stronger reasons" for voting for Adolf Hitler, whose respect for unborn life was absolute as long as it was Aryan (true, the Nazi regime permitted Jewish women to have abortions on demand, since their fetuses' lives weren't quite human ones).

To paraphrase the Monsignor, "If you can’t see why some people in that situation might persuade themselves that Trump Hitler would be the lesser evil, you need to work harder to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes." No, I don't. It just shows how philosophically wrong, and basically crazed, that abortion argument is, in the knowledge that millions of perfectly morally adequate people in our society just don't believe abortion is worse than Hitler.

Third, religious conservatives are as divided as any other conservative faction over Trump. Yes, evangelical voters have (up till now) supported Trump at the rate you would expect for a normal Republican nominee. But the religious right is an ecumenical movement: It includes Latter-day Saints rebelling against the Republican nominee, Catholic voters drifting toward Clinton, and conservative Catholic bishops advising the faithful that they need not vote for either Hillary or Trump.
#NotAllTheocrats! There's always the Eggs Benedict Option. Why don't you withdraw yourself, Ross? Don't you think the Times is an awfully worldly kind of place for you to be hanging out in? Rubbing shoulders with people who don't think abortion is a mortal sin?

America needs a religious right.
Needs it for what, Monsignor? Because other kinds of right, he claims, won't send money to Africa for AIDS treatment, or work for criminal sentencing reform. We can do that stuff without any right at all, and we generally do, trust me.

some kind of religious conservatism must be rebuilt, because without the pull of transcendence, the future of the right promises to be tribal, cruel, and very dark indeed.
Or maybe just very short. I don't see any reason to prolong it with another round of hypocritically brutal and criminally neglectful "compassionate conservatism"—which, again, you guys could have tried for one more time if your non-Trump candidates hadn't been pretty much every bit as selfish and monomaniacal as Trump himself. Is Kasich or Rubio any less violently anti-abortion than Cruz? No. The reason for Trump is your political failure, Ross, yours and your tribal friends'. I'd be happy to see your right wing squeezed back in the think tank once the Trump has finished exploding, powerless and looking for some new way of gulling the public.

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