20 July 2018

The Christian Right and the last bastion

As I anticipated here, Trump's kowtowing to Putin in Helsinki hasn't dented his base's support for him at all (it's blowback from the tariff wars that is starting to undermine that support).  Superficially this seems surprising.  Don't Republicans venerate Reagan largely because of his toughness against the USSR?  Aren't they supposed to be super-patriots, outraged at the thought of foreign meddling in the US or any hint of subservience by a US leader to a foreign one?

Part of the explanation is the standard Trumpanzee insistence on justifying absolutely anything Trump does, rather than face the humiliation and cognitive dissonance of accepting that they made a mistake in voting for him.  But in the case of Russia, there's a more specific issue.

Since long before Trump, the core of the Republican base has been the Christian Right.  Evangelicals are Trump's most loyal supporters.  They're willing to overlook the obviously non-Christian character of his personal life so long as he does all he can to attack gays, abortion, and separation of church and state.  In that sense, they're pragmatists.  They care about winning battles, not about who's delivering the victories.

But they're very aware that, over a longer time frame, they're losing.  They've been losing the culture wars for over fifty years (actually for about four hundred years, but I'm talking about what's most prominent in the minds of people alive today).  With every passing year, the conservative Christian percentage of the US population shrinks, the number of non-religious people grows, gay marriage becomes more widely accepted, Christian sexual taboos are more ignored, non-Christian religions become more a normal part of the American landscape.  They've been reduced to fighting to carve out a few special rights to discriminate within a larger culture they consider essentially hostile.  They're becoming just one of many minorities making up a pluralistic society, which is the same position all other groups have long held -- but the Christian Right doesn't believe in a pluralistic society.  They believe their religion's taboo system should rule over the lives of everybody, Christian or not.

Putin is probably not much of a believer personally any more than Trump is, but he's transforming Russia into a Christian authoritarian state and is enforcing the taboo system -- gays are viciously persecuted, and there have been moves to restrict abortion, despite overwhelming popular acceptance of abortion rights.  To many right-wing US Christians, Putin's Russia is the last bastion of Christian supremacy.  So their support for Trump and for his alliance/subservience to Putin makes a kind of sense.

To the extent that the US and Russia are in conflict, don't expect the American Christian Right to put country before religion -- at least, not reliably.  Ironically, their position is somewhat like that of American communists during the cold war.

UpdateHere's some more on the connections between the US Christian Right and the Russian regime.


Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

The news channels have been crazy with all these Trump/Putin stories and speculation. You know I had to turn the news off for a day or so because I just don't want to see it anymore. Hopefully this next presidential election will turn out better but of course no matter who is elected, not everyone will be happy about it. Hopefully we'll be happy about it though.

20 July, 2018 08:14  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

Authoritarian followers gotta follow authoritarians I suppose, whether it's Trump, Putin or some religious leaders. I'm looking forward to the Mariia Butina story unfolding. She had "connections" to NRA biggies, Congresscritters and Christian poohbahs. She was reportedly very friendly.

Josh Marshall at TPM has been spelling her name with the extra'i' so I'm relying on his accuracy in that.

20 July, 2018 08:37  
Blogger Ami said...

Fascinating. Seriously.
I admit to mostly screaming in frustration when I consider the antics of our "representatives", whether D or R or I or some other label. Mostly I label them all M for mercenary.

I hadn't considered things from a religious angle, though.

20 July, 2018 11:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: I get tired of politics too, but sometimes it's impossible to avoid posting about it, particularly if I have something to say that no one else seems to be saying.

Kevin: I don't know whether the Butina story will have much impact on trump unless it can be proven that he knew the NRA money ultimately came from Russia. It could get the NRA into a lot of trouble, though.

On the spelling of the name, see my comment here.

Ami: Thanks. Pretty much everything about the Republican party since 1980 or so has to be viewed from a religious angle to make sense.

On your blog you have several gay-friendly and non-religious images permanently displayed. Surely you're aware that the Republicans, and not the Democrats, are implacably hostile to those causes. If you care about the future of any of those kids you work with who might turn out to be gay when they grow up, opposing the Republicans is imperative. Our present situation really rules out any "both parties are alike" stance.

20 July, 2018 12:34  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

Thanks for the information on the spelling, Infidel. I believe I'll just go with flow and make it Maria. I've been informed that the usual pronunciation of Vladimir is incorrect and the diminutive version is not Vlad, but when in the US do as US do.

20 July, 2018 12:46  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: "Ironically, their position is somewhat like that of American communists during the cold war."

More than one commentator, including some within the GOP, have noted this irony. I've seen it expressed something along the lines of, Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave right now. Of course, Reagan actually laid some of the groundwork which led to the creation of a Right-wing electorate which ultimately the Groper-in-Chief was able to abscond.

Also, re: the spelling issue, "Mariia" is kind of a hypercorrection for what should be "Maria." Although, I have to admit, I used that spelling in my own blog post on the subject (largely because it was spelled that way in a quotation I used). When I posted it, it seemed to be the "accepted" spelling.

20 July, 2018 14:28  
Blogger Scottie said...

Your post makes a lot of sense and explains what I couldn't figure out, which is why republicans ( and their supporters ) went so fast from being anti-Russia to not caring at all that tRump is connected to Putin. Hugs

20 July, 2018 15:46  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kevin: Such problems often arise with names from languages that don't use the Roman alphabet. There were half-a-dozen ways of spelling "Qaddhâfî" in English writing, but of course there was only ever one spelling in the Arabic alphabet.

PsiCop: It's an analogy that should be broadcast as widely as possible. People need to be aware that the Christian Right is a potential fifth column, willing in some circumstances to support the interests of a foreign power.

Scottie: Thanks: It was partly commenting on your own video post that prompted me to write this.

20 July, 2018 15:56  
Blogger Ami said...

I understand what you mean.
And I agree.
I look at what's currently happening and seriously wonder if we all woke up in a dystopian novel.

But I'm not sure that people understand what I'm saying when I say that I hate all politicians equally.

Summer's Eve or Massengill... it's still a douche. :)

I may agree with the stated principles of one party more than the other (of course I do) but I still will never believe that either of them gives a shit for you or for me.

Advancing the party is the only goal of them both as far as I can see, they're just pandering to different groups. Do you think that's incorrect?

20 July, 2018 16:14  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ami: Actually I do think that's incorrect. Many people go into politics for venal or malevolent reasons, but many do it because they genuinely want to help people.

No, to me it doesn't make any sense to hate Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez equally. It's a dismissive abdication of the necessary hard work of understanding reality and recognizing vast differences which actually exist.

My real point, though, is that what matters isn't a party's intentions but its practical effects. When Republicans gain power, that means attacks on gay rights, on workers, on minorities, on women's right to abortion, and on separation of church and state. When Democrats gain power, it means those things will generally be defended. The reasons why each party behaves as it does don't matter much to me -- what matters is the practical results. If you want to defend gay rights, a secular society, and so on, the pragmatic thing to do is to vote for Democrats, because they will more often do the right thing, regardless of why you think they do it.

If you choose to define both cases as "pandering", fine -- it's better to vote for those who "pander" to the innocent than for those who pander to their persecutors. Again, whether you'll be there to vote the right way when the time comes is what matters -- not the reasons why. What I care about is results.

20 July, 2018 16:49  
Blogger Ten Bears said...

Dude, I fear I am one of those who over-uses commas. But ... emphasis.

20 July, 2018 20:24  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

Rational self interest is my measurement of whom to vote for. For this reason Infidel I find myself in agreement with you.

There are some philosophically fiscal positions of conservatism that I agree with, but, the practical results of the application of their (Republican) total governing agenda runs contrary to my rational self interests and those of the majority of the country.

Therefore, the greater good at this time is realized if the opposition Democrat party is seated in power. Voting for the lesser of two evils generally makes for good common sense.

20 July, 2018 23:13  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

Infidel, I completely get that. That's the great thing about blogs. This is our chance to say things that we want or need to say.

21 July, 2018 08:58  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Nice work, Infidel. You are right on the mark with this essay.

What I find frustrating is that many in the media seem to have overlooked this. I would like to be proven wrong, that there are people in the press who have talked about this.

Putin is probably not much of a believer personally any more than Trump is, but he's transforming Russia into a Christian authoritarian state and is enforcing the taboo system -- gays are viciously persecuted, and there have been moves to restrict abortion, despite overwhelming popular acceptance of abortion rights.

And yet the irony is that people on the Left who claim to stand for these rights are standing with or defending Putin--see Stephen Cohen and Glenn Greenwald.

21 July, 2018 14:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: yes, every blog is different -- that's what makes them interesting.

Marc: The wingnuts seem to be getting more and more obvious about it.

I suppose one of these days I should look up who Glenn Greenwald is. I can't say I feel very motivated, though.

22 July, 2018 08:38  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

White supremacists seem to gravitate to Putin also for one reason or another.

23 July, 2018 14:17  
Blogger Professor Chaos said...

Speaking of:


23 July, 2018 15:02  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Professor: For me, at least, that link doesn't work.....

24 July, 2018 02:47  

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