Thursday, October 19, 2006

David Kuo's Tempting Faith

It's hard to believe, but Bush does disdain evangelicals: Kuo's book creates cognitive dissonance for liberals. Conspiracy theories about theocracy have haunted liberals for the last few years, and, if you believe that religious conservatives lead Bush around by the nose, evidence to the contrary is impossible to absorb. Everyone on the left 'knows' that the faith-based initiative is a slush-fund, a jackpot for religious conservatives. If it turns out instead to be a political sham that produced only 1 percent of the new funds it promised for faith-based organizations, liberals need rethink their theocracy-phobia...Evangelicals have become increasingly disillusioned with the Bush administration and the Republican Party in general over the last two years. While 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2004, only 57 percent approve of the job he's doing now, and only 52 percent say they are likely to support Republicans in the November elections...evangelical support has plummeted in large part because they, along with other religious conservatives, have begun to suspect they've been played by Republicans--used for their votes and then ignored.

Hard to believe??? Of course elite conservatives are as contemptuous of conservative Christians as elite liberals are. The American elite, whether conservative or liberal, is secular and most members have little sympathy with the socially conservative agenda that the current administration has pretended to promote. No surprise here.

The difference between liberal and conservative members of the elite is that conservatives have lied to lower class conservative Christians, played them for fools, taken their money and used their support to promote policies that are contrary to their interests. Somehow Dubya managed to persuade hoi polloi that he was just a regular dumbass, inarticulate guy with a bad accent who cut brush on his "ranch," and to persuade everyone that he really thought that "the jury was out" on evolution. Really? After Andover and Yale--even though his daddy had to buy him into both?

Nothing new. Renaissance Popes frolicked and made their "nephews" cardinal archbishops in their teens, while the pious Catholic peasantry worshipped holy bones. Henry opined that Paris was "worth a mass," while Protestant peasants were convinced that the Pope was the Anti-Christ. Everything changes, everything remains the same. The Republican elite giggled about Mark Foley's silly little flirtations with youths and covered it up lest their redneck supporters on the ground find out.

I don't know how the Democrats could play this one. What should they say to these lower class people who keep the Republicans in power--"look these guys despise you just as much as we do, and are exploiting you to boot"? What should these people do? Pull out of the Republican party and support genuine populists from amongst them--splitting the conservative alliance and guaranteeing a liberal win? Somehow the message has got to be put across: everyone with any money, education or power thinks you guys are stinking shit; anyone you could vote for--Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Green--anyone sufficiently educated and articulate to get on any ticket--detests you. So you may as well vote your economic interests--so that if not you, at least your children can become upper middle class latte-drinking liberals.


Boofykatz said...

Just an observation, but it seems to me that the US has never seen the phenomenon of working class pride. However bogus the concept might be, it energised the political activism of the UK working class from the 1920s until the 1970s. Even the toffs had to rub shoulders with trade unionists in the house of lords. Now Nu-labor want to reform the lords; presumably to keep trade unionists out!!

H. E. said...

There was populism and a labor union movement in the US beginning in the late 19th century, but it never really got hooked up with socialism international for the most part and was strongly associated with nativism, anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-semitism and plain racism. This all needs to be qualified but the strategy of mainstream of the trade union movement in the US 100 years ago to improve conditions for indigenous white males by locking out immigrants, blacks and women. Re women, which I know most about, unions pushed for the "family wage" and "protective legislation" to limit women's hours and keep women out of a variety of jobs. That's why we don't have a tradition of barmaids in the US: protective legislation prohibited women from bar-tending--though not from working as cocktail waitresses. I think part of what was going on here is that the period during which labor movements arose coincided with a period of mass immigration.

The next thing that happened in the US, different to the UK, was that unions were taken over by the Mafia. The Mob got big in the US not only or primarily because there was lots of immigration from southern Italy but because of Prohibition. American Puritanism and laws prohibiting drinking, gambling and various other vices gave the Mob a monopoly on these businesses. When I was growing up the Mob was the major player in the politics of most Eastern (i.e. older) cities, including the town where I grew up, and ran the unions. To be a pipefitter, you not only had to be Italian--your grandparents had to have come from the right part of Italy, and to know the right people. I know you don't like the Sopranos, but if you want to see what it was like, that is an accurate picture.

So I think one reason why "working class pride" and the union movement are in the toilet in the US is because populism has been, for over a century, inextricably linked with racism, nativism, and social conservatism at its worst, and because unions have traditionally been run by the Mafia. The third piece of the puzzle in the US is that until at least the 1960s blacks were a permanent underclass and so a safety net for all whites, including immigrants and their children. Until then, there was just a base line below which no white person could drop so that even the dumbest, least educated, least skilled, least together white person could regard himself as middle class simply because he was not black.

Big differences, I think.

Boofykatz said...

Thank you for the informative reply. I wish all blogs worked this way. My involvement has left me better informed and reflective about your comments - I will have to watch Supranos!