« Bush's Man Date | Main | Me Too »

Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure

Andrew Sullivan quotes Barry Goldwater on the religious right:

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'
He then goes on to "wonder if Goldwater could even exist within today's Republican establishment." Well, of course he could. In Maine or Rhode Island or New York or California. But as a national leader? No way. Indeed, probably most Democrats would hesitate to speak so disrespectfully of the people in question, though they might privately agree. The way in which the rhetorical center of gravity has shifted to dramatically to the right freaks a lot of people -- certainly Andrew Sullivan -- out a great deal. But what about the policy substance? Well, abortion has moved slightly to the right since '81, mostly as a result of things done during the Reagan years. School prayer has moved somewhat to the left, and the GOP platform has moved left on the subject as well. Gay rights have moved way to the left in the past 25 years. And there's every reason to think that the next Democratic administration will push the gays-in-the-military issue further left (note that Bush hasn't tried to roll Clinton's steps on this back), offer federal funding to stem cell research, and make Plan B contraception much more widely available. I don't really understand how it is that the rhetoric and policy have moved in such different directions, but that's the reality of the situation.

April 26, 2005 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d834230b6c53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure:

» THEOCRACY! from The Unalienable Right
Responding to Senator Frist's appearance on the "Justice Sunday" telecast yesterday, Senator Charles Schumer said, "Senator Frist's words today were less important than his giving the imprimatur to this conference, which clearly argues that people of... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 26, 2005 5:29:34 PM

» Matthew Yglesias: Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure from Poor Richard's Anorak
Link: Matthew Yglesias: Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure. In your heart you know he would consider the current crop of "conservatives" to be intruding in the lives of citizens. [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2005 6:08:53 PM

» Matthew Yglesias: Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure from Poor Richard's Anorak
Link: Matthew Yglesias: Theoconservatism's Paradoxical Failure. In your heart you know Barry Goldwater would consider the current crop of [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2005 6:11:46 PM

» Who Are the "Theocons"? from Eunomia
However, a second new saying is now whispered in the halls of America: Theocon (i.e., theologically-minded neo-conservatives), ironically the very same name given to an anti-asthma prescription -chemically composed of theofillina and guaiphenesina. Thi... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 3, 2006 6:42:27 PM

Comments

because the rhetoric is a febrile reaction to the policy shift?

Posted by: praktike | Apr 26, 2005 2:14:29 PM

I guess this post supports the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" thesis that Republicans mostly pay lip service to the social issues in order to win heartland voters, while focusing on economic issues (I believe tax revenues as a % of GDP are the lowest they've been since 1959, so we've certainly moved rightward there).

On the other hand, Bush's stem-cell decision seems like a substantive victory for the social conservatives. Also, I'm pretty sure back in the 70s religious organizations were often not allowed to even rent public school facilities after hours, so there's another place where the religious right has actually won (and rightly so, in that case, IMO).

Posted by: Foo Bar | Apr 26, 2005 2:22:38 PM

What??? No way -- a pro-choice, pro-environment, agnostic/atheist can be the presidential candidate for the Republicans.

Fuck Wells and what he did to the West Wing, and Sheen, for going along with it.

Posted by: MattB | Apr 26, 2005 2:34:29 PM

foo bar,

Our economy has grown faster and our people have improved their lifestyles more in the last 46 years than in any other 46 years in history.

Could their be a correlation with tax rates?

Posted by: noodles | Apr 26, 2005 2:59:01 PM

Not only do the Republicans only pay lip service to social issues, they have a significant incentive to make sure that the drift leftward continues unabated: how else can they keep whipping up the rubes into a frenzy?

Posted by: Matt_C | Apr 26, 2005 3:03:51 PM

Just let 'em wingnuts do whatever they want in the states where they live. They want to pray in schools, let them pray, what's your freakin' problem? Leave them dumbasses alone, will ya?

Posted by: abb1 | Apr 26, 2005 3:03:55 PM

Record surpluses to record deficits, with $1.3 million in new debt ever minute. Any correlation with the party in power?

Posted by: MattB | Apr 26, 2005 3:05:23 PM

Counterbalancing, it should be noted that the policy substance has moved greatly to the right on guns and criminal justice, moderately right on education and affirmative action, and enormously to the right on welfare. While not theoconservative issues, these are the prototypical "cultural conservative" issues. This makes sense as the theoconservative issues are vastly unpopular with the business and libertarian parts of the GOP coalition, but the culturally conservative issues are either popular or indifferent with that sector. But I guess "the theocons are taking over!" won't sell as many papers as "the theocons are a loud and moderately powerful but not controlling part of a broad center-right coalition! And they look to have peaked!"

Posted by: dave | Apr 26, 2005 3:13:51 PM

In Maine or Rhode Island or New York or California. But as a national leader? No way.

Last I checked John McCain was a relatively centrist Republican national leader from none of those states.

As for the rhetoric, you don't think it has turned up a notch precisely because the social conservatives aren't seeing things move their way at all? They've had 5 years of a Republican president and a Republican congress and no change in most policy. In 3 years some other guy is going to get in there and they will have to start all over. If a Democrat wins, which is likely, they will have gained no ground and so they have no ground they can afford to give up.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist | Apr 26, 2005 3:15:55 PM

Goldwater's abstract reference to a "supreme being" almost puts him in the deist camp, and listing "Allah" as one of the legitimate names for this being would probably disqualify him for large parts of the Christian right.

I'm sure that I would never vote for a present-day Goldwater, but his language in this excerpt is strangely refreshing.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Apr 26, 2005 3:16:25 PM

Noodles,

Interesting question. Let's assume you're right about our economic performance over the last 46 years.

Please refer to the first link on this page (from none other than the Cato Institute, a right wing institution):
http://www.cato.org/research/fiscal_policy/2003/factsfigs.html

Eyeballing it, it looks like revenues as a % of GDP have averaged around 18% in the last 46 years. Compare that to an average of 6% at most from 1900 to 1940.

Furthermore, note that from 1990 to 2000, tax receipts rose from 18% to 20.8%, and we had phenomenal job growth, decreasing deficits, and ultimately balanced budgets over that period.

John Kasich, Republican congressman, said that Clinton's fiscal plan in '93, which raised taxes on the top bracket, couldn't work- if it worked he'd "have to become a Democrat". The Democratic Pary awaits his re-registration.

Posted by: Foo Bar | Apr 26, 2005 3:16:30 PM

Could their be a correlation with tax rates?

You're off-topic, but in answer to you query, no. I have seen data, both from recent American history and international tax rates, compared to economic health. There is little to no correlation between the two. It would seem the point at which taxes stifle the economy to the point that we notice is not being reached in modern tax regimes. This simple fact is enough to send some conservatives into fits of rage and shouting (*ahem* Dad), but the facts I have seen support that statement. There is too much randomness and leeway in what taxes are used for and a myriad of other economic factors to draw a nice, simple correlation between taxes and economic health.

Back on topic, I think the games that Republicans are playing with religious dupes are very dangerous. Too easy to create paranoia and seething anger and a sense of persecution; not so easy to control what that unleashes in people. It's a stupid, venal policy of the Republican party. (Indeed, I think it's already biting them. The economic conservatives are, I imagine, a little worried about the theocratic rantings of DeLay and other idiot Republicans in office).

Posted by: tango | Apr 26, 2005 3:23:33 PM

to Jeff the Baptist:
If you look at McCain's voting record, he is a very very conservative senator. By some measures he ranks among the 10 most conservative senators. He is a pro-life, anti-gun control, mostly anti-environment, anti-union, Bush hugger. He went against his party on campaign finance reform but that's about all. He supports Social Security privatization and would vote for ALL of Bush's court appointees. Now just where is all that moderation????

Posted by: marvyt | Apr 26, 2005 3:27:06 PM

But what about the policy substance?

But, Matthew, because the Supreme Court has constitutionalized many of these subjects, it really is hard to tell. I mean, given that moving "to the right" on many of these subject is prohibited (absent a Constitutional amendment) it is often pretty damned impossible to move much to the right. If we were able to un-Constitutionalize many of these subjects, we would have a much better idea of which direction the country is moving.

Posted by: Al | Apr 26, 2005 3:35:13 PM

If we were able to un-Constitutionalize many of these subjects, we would have a much better idea of which direction the country is moving.

In other words, this is as far to the right as the founding fathers of our country want us to go. Thanks for playing!

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | Apr 26, 2005 3:50:20 PM

Re: He supports Social Security privatization and would vote for ALL of Bush's court appointees. Now just where is all that moderation????

He is against the FMA and has spoken favorable of gay rights in general, while severely “dissing” Jerry Falwell and company in the Y2K primaries. In today’s GOP that makes him a flaming liberal.

Re: If we were able to un-Constitutionalize many of these subjects, we would have a much better idea of which direction the country is moving.

Opinion polls may not be 100% trustworthy but they are not entirely useless either. There has been little or no movement in public opinion on abortion since Roe vs Wade was decided. On gay issues the public has become far more accepting of gays over the last generation, although gay marriage will probably remain a bridge too far for most of the country for at least another generation.
And anyone want to rehash the Terri Schiavo fiasco?
And the above is what has freaked out the Religious Right: they know they have failed to move the public in their direction. Their sole success has been with state laws banning gay marriage (but the FMA is going no where fast). Back in 1999 they were broke and and in disarray, in shock as well at the failure of Monica’s blue dress (and over the top accusations of presidential rape) to provoke prudistic outrage among the public. Had Gore or even McCain become president they would have folded up their tents and gone back to church to await the Lord’s judgment on the rest of us. Bush reenergized them for a while, but now they see that last hope slipping away too. Why else the craziness over Schiavo and “Justice Sunday”. They’re running out of time and they know it.

Posted by: JonF | Apr 26, 2005 3:52:07 PM

My understanding is that Barry Goldwater was an Episcopalian of Jewish ancestry, who once commented that if he had been Morris Barry instead of Barry Morris he would never have gotten the Republican nomination. Incidentally, his grandfather Morris Goldwater was a leading figure in territorial Arizona. Rather as San Francisco had Jewish mayors up to the 1890's but after 1900 it was understood that Jews couldn't be elected (before the 60's, of course).

If anyone knows how devout or observant Goldwater was I'd be curious to hear.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady | Apr 26, 2005 3:53:29 PM

(Crossposted from an E Klein thread about high-office blacks)

Having been around in those days, it is a great achievement. Which raises the question, what did Democrats lose, as in LBJ saying he had sacrificed the South for a generation.

Well, the South was by far in 1965 the most anti-union economically backward part of the country. If the story of the last forty years is the trading of economic justice for social progress, there we might have the cause.

As someone politically aware since 1960, the cultural liberalism compared to then is simply astonishing. But the change in economic conservatism is equally astonishing. Just awesome.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Apr 26, 2005 4:03:48 PM

In other words, this is as far to the right as the founding fathers of our country want us to go.

Gee, Justices Brennan and Marshall and Blackmun et al were founding fathers? Who knew?

Posted by: Al | Apr 26, 2005 4:10:44 PM

Goldwater was a westerner. "Just who do they think they are?" being the summation of the whole thing. MYOB. In modern lingo, fuck off. Most people don't get this because they have never met the breed. The breed comes in all denominations, is suspicious of all who tell others what to do, or who think they are better, and is not found in the South. The democratic version were Pinto democrats who can talk muzzle velocity of the .243 with the best of them.

I am struggling to move from dismayed astonishment to amusement at the triumphalism being displayed at a time Republicans - the evil confederate Republicans - control the three branches of the Federal government, and the cause of triumph is that there is a glimmer of a chance of a hope that the Republicans will be held accountable a little bit for their crazy actions. It's Kerry like.

From this post the reasonable conclusion is there is no need for liberal blogs, think tanks, magazines. Some force protects America from its own elections. Another sign we are in deep shit.

Posted by: razor | Apr 26, 2005 4:17:25 PM

Last I checked John McCain was a relatively centrist Republican national leader from none of those states.

Last I checked John McCain was a far right conservative and extreme partisan with a carefully cultivated and almost entirely substance-free maverick image, not anything close to a "centrist".

Posted by: cmdicely | Apr 26, 2005 4:28:30 PM

Well, razor, I think you see triumphalism because a lot of people find the theocons to be the only threatening part of the Republican coalition. So if they've already lost, that's a victory.

For instance, I know a fair number of "Democrats" who don't really think there's a plausible Democratic program on economics, beyond revoking Bush's irresponsible tax cuts. They're really only in it for the social issues. Arnold Vinick voters, so to speak.

Posted by: AlanC9 | Apr 26, 2005 4:36:48 PM

"offer federal funding to stem cell research"

You of course mean "offer further funding to embryonic stem cell research".

Wouldn't want to mislead people now, would we?

Posted by: am | Apr 26, 2005 4:40:12 PM

foo bar,

Your implication was that a shift to the right has kept taxes as a percentage of GDP the same as 1959. My only point is that keeping it level has paid off handsomely for our economy. I think many would have preferred that it be a higher percentage as time passes, and I propose this would have hindered the growth we've seen.

Comparing tax data from pre-WWII is not too meaningful in my mind due to changes in our economy and society. And looking at tax receipts in the 1990's is really looking at a unique decade with a unique bubble - not a brilliantly thought out plan to raise tax rates.

tango,

Unless you believe that taxes passing through government entities are as efficient as monies spent directly into the economy - and I find this difficult to believe - the studies you reference need to be taken with a grain of salt.

I used the term "tax rates" and this was probably a mistake. I actually meant "tax revenues." The studies you reference may be comparing "tax rates" and I could believe what you saw due to the complexities. But if "tax revenues" increase it is an inefficient way to invest that incremental money. (In some cases necessary, but terribly inefficient!)

Posted by: noodles | Apr 26, 2005 4:45:34 PM

Noodles,

I said


I believe tax revenues as a % of GDP are the lowest they've been since 1959

The point was that recent GOP domination (in the last 4 years) has brought tax revenues to the lowest they've been in 46 years, not that general GOP domination over the last 4 1/2 decades has held the line on taxes.

Democrats have held the White House 20 out of the past 46 years, the House 35 out of the past 46 years, and the Senate I believe 29 out of the past 46 years, so I think you have to give them at least half the credit for our economic performance over that period.

You said:


Our economy has grown faster and our people have improved their lifestyles more in the last 46 years than in any other 46 years in history


and then


Comparing tax data from pre-WWII is not too meaningful in my mind due to changes in our economy and society


So what other, more relevant period were you comparing it to? The post WWII boom in the late 40s and 50s? Are you sure the aggregate performance in the past 46 years compares favorably to that period?

Posted by: Foo Bar | Apr 26, 2005 5:07:11 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.