Fundamentalism v. Doubt
April 29, 2005 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Conservatism of faith v. conservatism of doubt- Andrew Sullivan's take on how "fundamentalism is splitting the GOP." An interesting article that is, I think, worth reading for how it characterizes recent changes in the Republican party. He doesn't exaclty see a schism, but he isn't exactly sanguine about the future of the GOP either.
posted by OmieWise (38 comments total)

 
I'm not a fan of Sullivan, but I thought that the article was particularly useful for thinking about the difference between conservatives open to debate and those who aren't. I read it yesterday inbetween trips to MeTa #1 and MeTa #2.
posted by OmieWise at 8:44 AM on April 29, 2005


"the dismal failure of social democracy across Western Europe"

Do most Western Europeans consider themselves to be living in a dismal failure?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:51 AM on April 29, 2005


Do most Western Europeans consider themselves to be living in a dismal failure?

No, but pols want us to continue to think that, otherwise we'd be clamoring for universal health care, which would be bad for business.
posted by psmealey at 9:00 AM on April 29, 2005


Do most Western Europeans consider themselves to be living in a dismal failure?

no, but if you start pointing out obvious strawmen and shit like that Sullivan's arguments (and this post) will collapse in a second
posted by matteo at 9:02 AM on April 29, 2005


Sullivan has no integrity, whether I agree with what he tries to say or not.
Hell, I have more integrity as a writer than him!! :-)

[offtopic]
trips to MeTa #1 and MeTa #2.

I just have to say freebird was beautiful in one of those threads. Beautiful.
posted by nofundy at 9:18 AM on April 29, 2005


There's lots to disagree with in Sullivan's article but I think he's right in noting that the conservatives' recent contradictions and drastic changes in positions haven't been fatal to their side because "liberalism ceased being a vibrant force in the American public weal two decades ago." Liberals should have been out front on issues of liberty and opportunity but instead let the other side sieze the initiative on defining those terms for the American public.
posted by twsf at 9:23 AM on April 29, 2005


Interesting piece.

As Republicans found that it was hard to reduce the size of government, they decided to stop worrying and deploy it for their own goals.

Yup.
posted by gwint at 9:31 AM on April 29, 2005


There's nothing specifically "conservative" about these two positions. I'm not sure why he's insistent on creating new names for old ideas, other than to bolster his claim that "liberalism" is out of ideas. The appeal to religious authority and belief in absolute "truth" that he claims as characteristic of "conservatives of faith" is equally present in hardcore Marxists. And skeptics can be found of just about any political stripe.
posted by Slothrup at 9:37 AM on April 29, 2005


it's sad. Sullivan is still trying to rationalize about the Republicans--he's like an abused wife.
posted by amberglow at 9:42 AM on April 29, 2005


he's like an abused wife

Yes and no. They'll abuse him, but only as a domestic partner.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2005


Andrew is just a conservative who thinks that the GOP has gone insane with faith based ideas and he wants to get back to plain old sectarian conservatism. Good luck Andrew.
posted by caddis at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2005


One reason for conservatism's endurance in the face of such contradiction, of course, is the extreme weakness--intellectual and organizational--of the opposition

I tend to believe it is the weakness of mind of those voters hoodwinked by the religious intonations of politicians set out to rob them.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:13 AM on April 29, 2005


Does it really require over 6,000 words to communicate that today's Republican party has sold itself out to McJesus, Inc.? Did anyone actually learn a single new thing from that piece? Blah-blah-blahbbity-blah already...
posted by MaxVonCretin at 10:30 AM on April 29, 2005


Yeah, but they're the voters we're stuck with, so we'd better make our best efforts to persuade them. Or there's always Plan B: totalitarian coup, but that wouldn't be very liberal now, I suppose.
posted by twsf at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2005


Andrew is just a conservative who thinks that the GOP has gone insane with faith based ideas and he wants to get back to plain old sectarian conservatism.

Pretty much. And in one big respect, this is sectarian conservatives' own damned fault.

For decades now they've been talking the talk about "values," their opposition to abortion, etc. But then they get in office and are quite disinterested in these more populist concerns - its bidness as usual, with Bush as case in point (worried about gay marriage during the campaign, first big initiative back in office is Social Security privatization).

But now, after two decades of being the most dedicated footsoldiers in the conservative movement, cultural conservatives have come for their payment. And only now do the sectarian conservatives realize that they've been playing with fire all along.

Personally, I think this is the tipping point for old-style Republicanism, because here they've only got two choices: They can capitulate and give the fundagelicals everythin they want, thereby alienating moderates and everyone else; or they can fail to do so, and risk alienating the very interest group that permitted them to seize power.

They're screwed, and they know it. So they go for the grand but meaningless gestures like Terri Schiavo, and manage to piss off both sides. Truly, a beautiful thing to see...
posted by kgasmart at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2005


what kga said. They actively courted and used these people, and they've come to collect.
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2005


Sully is a sucker for a strong man.
posted by fleacircus at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2005


"because here they've only got two choices: They can capitulate and give the fundagelicals everythin they want..."

Many republican politicians are in office because of the religious/ cultural conservative vote. The moderates were labeled RINO's and tossed over the side. And now what do you see, Frist lining himself up as the Fundies go to guy...

Now I think that the religious vote has sometimes been credited with too much, (shifting elections etc) but the power they hold over the conservative party is not insignificant... Esepcially when even "moderates" Republicans use the word liberal as a pejorative....
posted by stratastar at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2005


Now I think that the religious vote has sometimes been credited with too much, (shifting elections etc) but the power they hold over the conservative party is not insignificant... Esepcially when even "moderates" Republicans use the word liberal as a pejorative....

But my point is that while fundagelicals believe they have been in control of the party for some time now, they haven't really been.

You're right, a helluva lot of Republican legislators get elected specifically because of the cultural conservative vote, but again, which of the fundies' pet issues have they actively taken up, introduced legislation in order to ban or regulate? What has been their top priority?

Their top priority has been, almost exclusively, whatever business wants. Same as it ever was.

Those running the Republican Party have consciously exploited this sentiment for their own ends. But the jig is up.
posted by kgasmart at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2005


Sully is a sucker for a strong man.
posted by fleacircus at 2:13 PM EST


And he freely admits it. Especially barebacking (not a good thing for a HIV dude.)

He got used the same way the fundies did. But the fundies are knocking down the door now, saying "we own your GOP asses."
posted by nofundy at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2005


Yes, I heard it described as a debt the Republican party couldn't really afford to pay (and remain conservative in the way they have been) and couldn't really afford not to pay (and keep getting support from this very vocal base).
posted by OmieWise at 11:35 AM on April 29, 2005


If the Republicans really do take up the culture war, waving the Christian banner, I suspect they'll find out how thin the general public's support for a militant version of Christianity really is. Most Christians like Christianity because it's nice, Jesus was a Good Guy and they want a quality place for being among other people. I doubt they really want to smash the heathens.
posted by argybarg at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2005


Their top priority has been, almost exclusively, whatever business wants. Same as it ever was.

Completely--this whole judge/filibuster thing, while being sold as a religious thing, is just more of the same--The Making of the Corporate Judiciary
posted by amberglow at 1:08 PM on April 29, 2005


But the fundies are knocking down the door now

indeedy. it's "Fatal Attraction" all over again, with the GOP playing Michael Douglas to the Christian Right's Glenn Close. and now the batshit insane lady has boiled George's bunny. pretty soon, she'll be thirsting for non-bunny blood, with a bigass knife in her hand.

the big, big mistake the GOP did was to think that the reality of a clear majority of Americans opposed to gay marriage meant that a majority of Americans wanted Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps to run their lives, bedroom activities included. not the case. now the fundies who think they got GWB elected (the liberal media made them think so after all) want Roe's head on a platter. for starters.


ps the GOP also thought that a majority of people scared shitless of terrahists meant that the GOP was free to gut FDR's Social Security like a fish. not the case, either. if anything, it'll be an interesting 3 years.
posted by matteo at 1:47 PM on April 29, 2005


What's with this "if the Repubs take up the culture war/get in bed with fundies/become the taliban/sleep with the corporations/etc"?

Don't you people see that it has already happened?

And it's not like the Democrats are a helluva lot better. They're socially conservative, too, by and large, and are just as interested in being corporate whores.

The root problem is with electing a professional political elite. These people make it their job to stay in power. Their interest is not in doing what is right, and it is not in doing what is best for their constituency: their interest is in doing what benefits their own selves.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:49 PM on April 29, 2005



No, but pols want us to continue to think that, otherwise we'd be clamoring for universal health care, which would be bad for business.


No, Universal Health care would be great for most bussness, who currently provide healthcare to their employees.

Just a nitpick.
posted by delmoi at 1:51 PM on April 29, 2005


And it's not like the Democrats are a helluva lot better. They're socially conservative, too, by and large, and are just as interested in being corporate whores.

That's the problem that vexes me. If the Democratic party offered some sort of viable alternative, this might be implosion time for the Republicans. But what, really, are people's alternatives?

This is where I think Ronald Brownstein's suggestion in the LA Times that there might be an opening for a viable third party has some merit.

But the question is: What would this new party, this new coalition, be founded upon?
posted by kgasmart at 1:55 PM on April 29, 2005


While we're at it, check this bit from the Bull Moose:

The GOP Illuminati exploit religion to lure middle class and downscale voters to their plutocratic banner. No one honestly believes that the Righteous Dr. Frist, faith-healer, is now or has ever been a true believer in the religious right's agenda - it's just his ticket to the Republican nomination.
posted by kgasmart at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2005


Sullivan is much like a little kid who tries to hang out with a gang of bullies. He says the things they want to hear, he taunts the people they want to smear. He takes part in their vandalism and thuggery. He likes being part of the cool, powerful clique. He wants to believe he belongs with them even though it's clear he's exactly the sort of kid that the gang loves to beat up. He tries to think that he can play some role in the group, get them to stop doing all the bad stuff if he just reasons with them in a respectful nice way. But the gang doesn't really listen to him.
posted by fleacircus at 2:46 PM on April 29, 2005


Just as a note: That should be "secular" above, not "sectarian." Sectarian would mean that they are divided into various sects, which I didn't take to be the meaning that you wanted...
("I do not think that word means what you think it means.")
posted by klangklangston at 3:40 PM on April 29, 2005


What would this new party, this new coalition, be founded upon?

How about Ain't Nobodies Business If You Do.

Alternatively, The Be Reasonable. Be Tolerant. party.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on April 29, 2005


Or even the E Pluribus Unum party.
posted by infowar at 5:49 PM on April 29, 2005


The eventual savior of the "secular" republican party will be the "centrist" democrats.

To explain, the democratic party is now in the situation that the republican party was with the FDR revolution, near to being shattered, as far as political power. However, they have not yet accept that they are in a minority status, and they won't until they are severely slapped down. From that point on, and only when they have been slapped down, can they begin to recover.

If it follows the previous model, the democratic party will be marginalized for a while, while the more centrist democrats evolve into positions of power, solely because they are willing to 'deal' in exchange for largesse. But in doing so, they will not only exclude the far left, but also the far right, from the coalition in the middle. The democrats won't have to bow to their extremists, and neither will the republicans.

From that point, the democrats will begin an evolution of ideas. Finding new guiding principals that will interest and attract mainstream Americans. These ideas will not be radical, but will instead address what Americans want. Ideas that the republicans have refused to actualize until there is a build-up of pressure for change.

The two arguments against this model is that first, the current state of the democratic party is just a temporary setback, and that soon they will be back in power. But that is wishful thinking. The imbalance is too great and it has already lasted too long to be a temporary setback.

The second argument against this model is that there must be a way, some way, any way, so that the radicals may still keep their power in the democratic party, and somehow force the republicans to deal, even though the democrats are in a position of weakness. The system, however, is designed for competition between near equals, be they the three branches of government, the two houses of congress, or the two major political parties. But the system has a down on severe weakness, and the process itself turns on those, weakening them further. Until some of the democrats are strengthened by the republicans, for their own pragmatic reasons, they will have to fight for legislative scraps.

In all humbleness, the democrats will eventually have to give the public what it wants, rather than what they think is good for the public.
posted by kablam at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2005


What kablam is saying, in my opinion, is that the Dem party must purge itself of the corporate whores and start representing the best interests of the people. Such a process is already underway.
posted by nofundy at 7:00 AM on April 30, 2005


And there are no radicals with any power in the Democratic party, as opposed to the Republican party. (If you bring up Dean as an example, i'll have a heart attack laughing so much.)
posted by amberglow at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2005


fwiw, here's a critique by daniel drezner :D

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:36 PM on April 30, 2005


the democratic party will be marginalized for a while, while the more centrist democrats evolve into positions of power ... exclude the far left, but also the far right, from the coalition in the middle.

The USA has no far left politicians of any note. The Democrat party isn't a left-wing party, not by global standards. It's just less far-right than the Republican party.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on May 5, 2005


Further, the terms "left" and "right" without qualifiers are meaningless when discussing American politics.

The Democrat party is a little more socially liberal and much more fiscally conservative than the Republican party.

The Republican party is much more socially conservative and less fiscally conservative than the Democrat party.

In other words, things are not what they seem, not with American politics, save that they all seem to be crooks and liars, but I suppose that should go without saying...
posted by five fresh fish at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2005


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