Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Christian Right XVII Others On the Right 87

Let's say a few words about the rest of the conservative movement. The Christian Right doesn't quite have the monopoly it seeks.

Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, and Similar Tag-Alongs

A plurality of the modern Republican Party are now born-again Christians, dupes for Lewis's Elmer Gantry. Most of the rest are a lot like George Babbitt, even almost ninety years later. Sinclair Lewis hit a home run when his book Babbitt was published in 1922. Again, copies of George Babbitt have simply got to be the second largest group of conservatives.

Babbitt makes a good living in real estate. He is always getting along, going along, trying to be popular even with his subordinates, climbing the social ladder his wife wants him to climb and having lunch every day at the club. He muddies his own life with his own manufactured crisis and then repents. He lives a life of foggy, confused, self-serving hypocrisy, rather like most of the residents of Palomo Grove in Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show. The great secret of Babbitt, though, is that he'll sell anyone out at any time in order to advance his own material position. Babbitt's bible isn't the Good Book but Stendhal's masterpiece of the courtier, The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal.

The positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale types and the followers of Dale Carnegie's cookbook, How to Win Friends and Influence People, belong in the Babbitt camp. The treachery and double-dealing of this group is stupendous. They even sold themselves out when then bargained away the Republican Party and gave the rules committee and credentials committee to the Christian right, thus suffocating themselves as the rump group of their own crusade.

The way to fight these sycophants is simply to understand couriers better than they understand themselves. This is easy. In addition to The Charterhouse of Parma, La Rochefoucauld's Maxims will do the trick – I recommend the elegant, clever translation of Leonard Tancock. We'll get back to the Maxims later in this blog.

The Intellectual Conservatives

Austriocons, Buchanocons, Neocons, Aquinacons, Radiocons, Sociocons, Theocons, Republicons, Catocons, and Platocons as mentioned by John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience. Dean got this information from a 1996 article from Insight in the News of December 23, 1996, by David Wagner, still on line at;col1 . Theocons seem to be a smaller, tighter, more ideological group than the discussion in this blog on the Christian Right. My guess is that some of the Babbitt clones are Neocons or Radiocons or Republicons, but most such courtiers eschew a philosophical orientation altogether.

These intellectual conservatives seem to lack fire and any ability to organize effectively. Nor can they cooperate trustfully with independents and disaffected democrats (as the Tea Party can do rather easily). I think their ideological quibbles are a tar pit worth staying out of. Overall, my judgment is that only some of the Catocons are capable of making and defending a rational argument.

[Platocon Allan Bloom wrote an incisive book called The Closing of the American Mind which will come up later in this blog].

Goldwater Republicans

Often “Taft Republicans” and their offspring, these folks tend to be in their 70s or 80s by now. Some of their baby boomer children belong in this group. They believe in small, honest, limited government, a sound dollar, strong defense, a reluctance to go to war unless strategically necessary, the relentless prosecution of white collar crime, a sunsetting of nanny socialism and wealth transfers, an absence of influence peddling or lobbying, a free press and an absolute separation of church and state. During the Cold War, they favored relentless pursuit of victory in that conflict. The successor to Goldwater was a character actor with an impressive skill at communicating on television, Ronald Reagan. Reagan did not have the power in congress to implement the Goldwater vision, yet he brought down big game by winning the Cold War (with critical assistance from Margaret Thatcher). Reagan retired and died without a successor. The Christian Right has repeatedly tried and utterly failed to copy Reagan's communication skill. I think that failure has two causes – they should have copied the original, Goldwater; and they lack (to the point of distrusting) the common sense and wisdom of both Goldwater and Reagan.

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