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HAS THE GOP BECOME A RELIGION?
November 27, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
I had never heard of Mike Lofgren until this morning when I read an Andrew Sullivan essay. Sullivan has long been one of my must read conservatives. He is a Brit on the way to becoming an American citizen and a staunch defender of conservative ideals who favors Republican politics, but he is not an ideologue. His book, The Conservative Soul, should be required reading for every liberal.
Andrew Sullivan draws attention to a Lofgren web essay because, he says, we need to understand how the GOP became unmoored from prudence, moderation and tradition and became captives of recklessness and extremism. In his essay, Mike Lofgren asserts that politicized religious fundamentalism may have been responsible for displacing a civilized Eisenhower Republicanism.
Both men have something to say and neither shies from putting their thoughts before us in pure, unvarnished fashion. Like Sullivan, Lofgren is a conservative and recently retired after working for nearly thirty years as a Republican Congressional staffer and he is disturbed by what the GOP has become.
The GOP, Sullivan agrees, has been overtaken by a segment of religious fundamentalists who are increasingly confronted by public reminders of modernity. The secularization of Christmas, the increasing acceptance of gay people, the browning of America and the emergence of China are threatening and especially to religious fundamentalists. But, despite the success of religious fundamentalists in capturing the GOP gay marriage is more widely accepted, the population is rapidly becoming a minority-majority, China continues to grow and women are still having abortions. Sullivan says this at once enrages and terrifies the fundamentalist even more.
Sullivan argues that religious fundamentalist are not interested in economics or debt and is quick to point out that they did not object when spending exploded under the Bush Administration. He insists that most theocratic political movements need an anti-Christ of sorts and “Obama - even though he is the most demonstrably Christian president since Carter - fills the role.”
“That’s how I explain the current GOP,” Sullivan posits, “it can only think in doctrines, because the alternative is living in a complicated, global, modern world they both do not understand and also despise. ….Islam is not a religion. Climate change is an elite conspiracy to impoverish America. When Americas torture, it is not torture. When Christians murder, they are not Christians. And if you change your mind on any of these issues you are a liberal, an apostate, and will be attacked.”
Lofgren is even more blunt: “To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.”
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