A few minutes ago, Ohio was placed in the Obama column, and Republican political rule was ended for the time being. The real question now, for a party divided (see columns by David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Peggy Noonan, et al regarding the “Palin problem” in Republican politics), is what next? Similarly, it will be interesting to see what the Christofascists–who exercised veto power in the Republican party these past years–do in response to their formal (if not effective) exclusion from the halls of political power.
In 1923, when the Christofascists’ ancestors were publicly humiliated at the Scopes monkey trial (phrase coined by H.L. Mencken), they went “into the wilderness”–retreating from public life generally–only to return well-organized and with a frightening vengeance in the late 1970’s under the banner of groups like the “Moral Majority” and “Christian Coalition” led by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The 2008 presidential election would appear to be the capstone of a decisive shift in the American electorate away from the Christofascist camp (some Christofascists, notably Paul Weyrich, insist that Christofascists lost the political cultural war decades ago–a position that does not appear to reflect the religiosity of the most recent decade…in fairness to Weyrich, he made the statement at the height of the Clinton administration–prior to the reign of Bush and DeLay)
But, more specifically, it is important to note the causal story of that public shaming. Covering the trial was the late, great H.L. Mencken (longtime journalist for the Baltimore Sun). It was Mencken’s skillful employment of deliciously dripping sarcasm and delightfully vehement scorn for the prosecution that–according to some causal histories–played an important role in turning public opinion against the creationists. This explanation finds theoretical support in Max Weber’s concept of the “charismatic” individual who incites change and Nietzsche’s famous admonition in Book I, Section 39 of The Gay Science that:
“The change in general taste is more powerful than that of opinions…What changes the general taste? The fact that some individuals who are powerful and influential announce without any shame, hoc est ridiculum, hoc est absurdum (this is ridiculous, this is absurd)”
The problem, as Weber noted, is that the evolutionary tendency of modernity is to reduce the influence and effect of the charismatic individual. Thus, even if there were a Mencken today, it would seem to be unlikely that he could have the same global effect on the public taste and sensibility. Further, in a rather ironic historical development, it appears that even the most potentially effective “charismatic” individuals today all play for the Christofascist team–see, e.g. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter. Thus, the only possible rejection of the “friendly” fascism of modernity (roughly represented by the Democratic Party) would appear to be the even less palatable (so far as I can tell) choice of the viscerally ugly and loutish pre-modern fascism.
The Republican Party, on the other hand, succeeded for decades based on a marriage of the “social” conservatism (i.e. christofascism) of its newly-embraced culturally immature southern constituents and the classic “fiscal” conservatism of its business base. While some found this union perplexing, it appears to be a fundamentally solid union that is mutually reinforced by resting on the fulcrum of the repression of sexuality (see Wilhelm Reich’s study on the relationship between fascism and sexuality). Fiscal conservatism, in an age of post-scarcity, only makes sense if one desires work and economic success as an end in itself, i.e. at some point of economic satisfaction, a level far lower than the upper middle class (and beyond) generally enjoys, further economic gain becomes unsatisfying of the basic needs of survival and comfort. Thus, the only way to maintain the hierarchical structure is through a sexual puritanism (see the dialogue between Winston and Julia in Orwell’s 1984 as a paradigm of this logic–all the marching, singing etc. was “simply sex gone sour”).
What will the Republican Party look like in four years? What will the Christofascists do if they don’t swallow the party whole (which they probably will but who knows)? Weyrich hints at a total disengagement with national politics and the building of a “shadow” set of institutions. Only time will tell how this plays out.
In any case, tonight, drinks are on me…..