At breakfast the other day, my husband asked me what I thought today’s Republicans really believe.
I should mention that he and I met when we were members of Mayor Bill Hudnut’s very Republican Indianapolis city administration, so our dismay with and disapproval of what the GOP has become has built over a period of years. After giving his question some thought, I said today’s Republicans think the world should be run by White Christian men.
In a recent column, Jennifer Rubin made a similar point: The GOP, she wrote, is no longer a party. It’s a movement to impose White Christian nationalism.
People might be confused about how a Republican Party that once worried about government overreach now seeks to control medical care for transgender children and retaliate against a corporation for objecting to a bill targeting LGBTQ students. And why is it that the most ambitious Republicans are spending more time battling nonexistent critical race theory in schools than on health care or inflation?
To explain this, one must acknowledge that the GOP is not a political party anymore. It is a movement dedicated to imposing White Christian nationalism.
The media blandly describes the GOP’s obsessions as “culture wars,” but that suggests there is another side seeking to impose its views on others. In reality, only one side is repudiating pluralistic democracy — White, Christian and mainly rural Americans who are becoming a minority group and want to maintain their political power.
Rubin says that the MAGA movement is essentially an effort to “conserve power and to counteract the sense of a shared fate with Americans who historically have been marginalized.”
The hysteria on the right has led to the virtual abandonment of policy positions, or for that matter, anything remotely resembling adult argumentation. Rather than focusing on governance, the cult that was once a political party has substituted what Rubin accurately calls “malicious labeling and insults (e.g., “groomer,” “woke”), and the targeting of LGBTQ youths and dehumanization of immigrants.” Today’s Republican candidates characterize their opponents in terms that in our time would have made them outcasts in the party–they label Democrats (and rational Republicans, to the extent those still exist) “as sick, dangerous and — above all — not real Americans.”
No one should be surprised that the “big lie” has become gospel in White evangelical churches. The New York Times reports: “In the 17 months since the presidential election, pastors at these churches have preached about fraudulent votes and vague claims of election meddling. … For these church leaders, Mr. Trump’s narrative of the 2020 election has become a prominent strain in an apocalyptic vision of the left running amok.”
If anti-critical-race-theory crusades are the response to racial empathy, then laws designed to make voting harder or to subvert elections are the answer to the GOP’s defeat in 2020, which the right still refuses to concede. The election has been transformed into a plot against right-wingers that must be rectified by further marginalizing those outside their movement.
Rubin is correct when she says that America’s very real political problems are minor when compared with what she calls “the moral confusion” exhibited by millions of White Christian Americans. My only quibble with that observation is that White Supremacy isn’t really “moral confusion.” It is immorality.
What I find depressingly ironic is the fact that the “morality” preached in so many Christian churches is focused exclusively on individual (primarily sexual) behavior–as though “morality” is exclusively a matter of what happens below the waist and in the uterus, and has little or nothing to do with how we treat our fellow humans.
A morality that avoids grappling with people’s social behaviors–a theology that ignores questions of basic social justice–is no morality at all.
America may avoid a replay of our “hot” civil war, but make no mistake: we are in the middle of an existential battle for the soul of this country–and those fighting to retain their dominance are unrestrained by morality, by fidelity to the rule of law, or by allegiance to the (yet-to-be-achieved) principles of the Declaration, Constitution or Bill of Rights.
I firmly believe that a majority of Americans support pluralism, democracy and fundamental fairness. But I also know that people fight harder–and dirtier– when they feel cornered.
We live in a very scary time.