Apocalyptic Politics And The Republican Party

Our good friend down in DC, Joe McLean, has shared yet another of his insightful Daily Beast columns – this time addressing what he identifies as a uniquely “apocalyptic” strain of thinking he believes has come to dominate the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Seeing as I’m personally a moderate pro-business Republican, when it comes to this particular subject, Joe and I are largely in complete agreement — although I perhaps hold out a bit more hope that common sense principles may yet win the day.

Several things worth pondering while reading this column:

(1) When Joe uses the word “apocalyptic,” he isn’t exaggerating. As his article explains, some on the VERY far right are now even PUBLICLY beginning to embrace a specific form of evangelical Christianity known as “Dominionism” – the belief that America should be transformed into an actual theocracy (ruled by an ayatollah-like “king”) that exists solely for the benefit of “true believers.” Not only is this type of religious movement obviously and profoundly undemocratic (not to mention, un-American), but, as Joe deftly points out, it also lacks any grounding in traditional Judeo-Christian theology. Moreover, even if a majority of the far right doesn’t take its apocalyptic thinking quite that far, enough have moved sufficiently close to the line that their governmental actions (or should I say LACK of actions?) ought not seem so surprising — If the “End Times” are indeed upon us, suddenly issues like defaulting on the national debt don’t seem quite so earth-shattering… (Interestingly, of course, there’s apparently a special place in Hell reserved for ObamaCare)

(2) This strain of American politics has always existed and has (almost) always ended up going down in defeat: “Much of the prophets’ message is couched in populist language. It sounds familiar to us because we’ve heard it all before. Historically whenever our country has experienced economic stress an angry, reactionary vein of populism surfaces. Sometimes called “Jacksonian,” this common thread actually reaches back to the American Revolution, then to Shay’s Rebellion, through Jackson’s “Augean Stables” to William Jennings Bryan’s rants against science in the Scopes “Monkey Trial.”  It includes “Know-Nothings,” Anti-Masons and Huey Long’s “Every Man a King.” George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and Ross Perot sabotaged George Bush the Elder’s re-election. Except for Andrew Jackson, each burst of populist fervor ended badly.” Clearly, Joe is right on the money historically – and it’s cause for concern. A lot of these Tea Partiers might claim to love Ayn Rand (nutty for different reasons) yet they aren’t even real capitalists insofar as they’re reflexively anti-trade and often anti Wall Street. I’m certainly not a dogmatic guy and still 100% believe in Reagan’s big tent, but I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that if you’re not a believer in free market capitalism, there’s just possibly the tiniest chance the GOP isn’t really who you are. Trust me: The Gipper would not be amused.

(3) For Republicans like me who aren’t expecting to be raptured anytime soon and who consequently spend more of our time focusing on the Dow and supporting our brave men and women in uniform than obsessing about dubious ancient prophecies, there is increasing trepidation that – at least in the short term – the extremist branch of the Party could do serious damage to our economy while simultaneously hurting the Republican “brand” – maybe even the American “brand” – in ways that will be extremely challenging – if not impossible – to repair. The big question is whether there is enough organization and motivation among moderate Republicans to overcome their Tea Party opponents on primary day (Christie and an Alabama Congressional race gave me some hope last week…)

As a guy who proudly worked for a genuinely great Republican, New York’s own former Governor George Pataki, I’m profoundly hoping that there remain enough of “us” out there – still willing and ready to fight the good, honorable and MODERATE fight that most Americans actually support anyway (btw – Joe offers lots of polling data to back that up). If not, there’s little question in my mind that a combination of changing demographics and the growing perception of “do nothing-ism” will eventually make general elections virtually unwinnable outside of the South and parts of the rural Midwest.

Now that’s a fate I’d find tragically apocalyptic. 

Please check out Joe’s eloquent article in its entirety: [“How the Tea Party’s Apocalyptic Politics Are Destroying the Republican Party,” Joe McLean, The Daily Beast, 11/11/2014]


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