The Christian Right and Major Players’ Influence in the Values of Middle and Working Class America” Introduction! It’s February 2011. Barack Obama is the president of the United States. Despite sagging poll numbers, a slowly recovering economy is supporting the push of health care reform. The Democratic Party controls the Senate. The Republicans, led by midterm-elected John Bonder, control the House. Progress is tedious, but moving. Disdain for the President, spurred on by mass media and the murmurings of the Tea Party, is gripping hold of what seems to be a substantive chunk of voting Americans.
Wing for the Republican nomination, looking to feed off these energies, Georgia businessman Herman Cain stands in front of a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Cain is good at the rhetoric. He takes the underpinnings of conservative media and turns them on the crowd. ” “Stupid people are ruining America,” he says to applause. “It’s sad… I’m talking about the liberals. They don’t have tactics. They don’t have a strategy. They have an objective. The objective of the liberals is to destroy this country.
The objective of the liberals is to make America mediocre Just like everybody else who aspires to be like America. ” Cain takes in the applause and pauses for the audience to sit down. “They are trying to destroy this country at all costs! “” Fast forward to March 2014. Americans have seen the failings of the roll of Beam’s Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby has refused to offer birth control to its 2 employees under the plan, citing their religious beliefs. Arizona governor Jan Brewer has vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LIGHT people.
Seizing the opportunity, former congresswoman Michele Buchanan gets on the radio with a conservative talk show host. ” l think the thing that is getting a little tiresome, the gay community, they have so bullied the American people, and they’ve so intimidated politicians. ” She goes on to insinuate that the “liberals” have initiated an attack on religious Americans: “Just like we need to observe tolerance for the gay and lesbian community, we need to have tolerance for the community of people who hold sincerely held religious beliefs. ” ” This type of speech from right-wing populists isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s been surfacing for some time, since the mid-twentieth century, a stand against the moving regressive of women’s rights, civil rights, challenges to the traditional patriarchy, and fear of communism. Pushed for some time beginning with post-World War II and beyond, today, rabid defense of religious liberty and unapologetic perpetuation of deregulated capitalism as a divine force infiltrates the very fiber of American political, public, and religious discourse. This project will examine several angles, arguments, and accounts of the power of right wing populism, religiously motivated or otherwise, in the mainstay underbelly of middle and working class white America. Presupposing that this regiment of withdrawing American “conservatives” is modernly strong and the consideration of it is worthwhile, I will offer research and commentary. To accomplish this, I will consider several academic and media sources, authored by political scientists, religious studies scholars, sociologists, philosophers, and ethnographers. 3 The main concepts necessary for context on this project are two. First, I will take into account William E. Connelly “Christian-capitalist resonance machine,” an idea articulated in his 2008 book Capitalism and Christianity, American Style. Second, a good deal of this study will focus on analysis of Thomas Franks 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas? : How Conservatives Won the Heart of America and his notion of a “backlash culture. “” These two trends, as they may be called, are powerful and are ingrained into American political culture, embedded in a power structure of the Right Wing, both Christian and secular.
Now, the backlash drives the Right Wing, and the Wing itself is a volleying voice in the Christian-capitalist resonance machine. Importantly, however, these trends did not always exist and emerged over some time. ” ” So my thesis argument is this: the unconditional accepting of the Christian- capitalist resonance machine has been growing in the national discourse of government over time, beginning with anti-communist movements after the Second World War and a wave of Southern evangelicalism establishing an effective empire on the tails of earlier labor movements.
This coincidentally intersected with the changing face of populism to resent the progressivism of the second half of the Twentieth Century, namely desegregation, increased legality for abortion, and increased teaching of evolutionary science in public schools. This occurred as the Right learned from its failings during the Goldwater campaign and transformed itself into a force ready for alliance with the Christian Right, which itself had become more powerful on account of television and radio.
Now, nostalgic sentiments of a supposedly better America in the past permeate the psyche of a white middle and working class that dollies the Christian-capitalist 4 resonance machine and unleashes blame of what it perceives to be moral flaws at the feet of the “liberals,” effectively promulgating a backlash culture. ” ” I will supplement the study of those two trends with theoretical methods of interpretation, analysis, and study, heavily relying on Sarah Diamond’s 1995 book Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States.
With Diamond as a starting point to understand the comprehensive formation of power to create a culture of backlash and Connelly Christian-capitalist resonance machine, pushed by an unlikely alliance of libertarians, evangelicals, conservatives, and moderates, I will add to her analysis with other scholars, most notably Michael Akin, Darrel Docks, and Lisa McGuire. ” Thomas Frank, Joe Pageant and the Backlash Culture! Patriotism has woven itself deeply into this generation’s personality.
The attacks on September 1 1, 2001 solidified a culture of burgeoning nationalism. The United States became an identity for many young people in a new, vibrant way. To disgrace the flag is to disgrace the people who were victims in terrorist attacks and to undermine the military, whose interest, after all, is rooted not in violence but in protection. The PATRIOT Act of 2001 called into question the importance of personal privacy in an era with the nation’s enemies are technologically as’. N. And that foe is n insurgency with no national ties, but who seemingly target the red, white, and blue hostilely. For a time, resulting from disgust for the French for seemingly not supporting the Just cause of the 5 United States, French fries were Jokingly renamed “freedom fries” and the French kiss dubbed the “All-American lip lock. “” Even discarding trivial pop culture phenomena like these, it is clear that the government denial that bubbled toward the end and in the aftermath of the War in Vietnam became questionable at best for the public in the early new millennium.
President Bush, to many, represented a strong, moral, religiously devout leader hose intentions in super sizing the United States military were only a vehicle through which to enact democratic change on behalf of oppressed people in the Middle East, specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq. For a time, intervention in the Middle East was patriotic and an offshoot of the De facto mission of the nation: that all people should be free and entitled to certain rights of privacy and prosperity in a venue of individualism and free exchange of ideas.
This obsession with capitalism with shades of manifest destiny eventually wavered when it was clear that there old be no “winning” the War on Terror, at least for the time being. It wasn’t until President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of Seal Team Six in 2011 that it looked like the insurgent al-Qaeda was on the run at A growing disparity of wealth in the United States resulting partially from offshore labor and the continuing success of Internet companies coupled with an unwavering patriotism in the new millennium.
What used to be a substantially sized white middle class in the United States was either being absorbed into the upper class or pushed downward into the working class. Combine this with a recession at the hands of the housing market collapse and you have an environment rich for what political scientist 6 Thomas Frank calls “backlash culture” Just at the time that Barack Obama took the oath in January 2009. ” In What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Frank discusses how a progressive hub like Kansas gradually turned into a prototypical example of the effects of the New Right on the middle of America and became symbolic of what he calls the “backlash culture. “” ” Backlash, by definition, is reaction to social change among a mass group of people toward what they feel is an outside, intervening power. For our purposes, the backlash of the second half of the twentieth century can be boiled down to a distrust of both big government and Wall Street powers, both of which are run by the elite and neglect the average, pious American.
However, according to Frank, an opportunist group of conservatives hijacked the distrust and malaise toward elite east-coast and west-coasters and morphed it into a political machine. We will examine this shift more, but it safe to say that Kansas was an exemplary microcosm of such radical change. ” Frank alleges that the backlash is a working-class movement hat has done incalculable, historic harm to working-class people and that confident liberals who led America in a previous wave of populism are a dying species.
Carefully cultivated derangement in places like Kansas have stirred these movements. The narrative has been perpetuated to paint liberals as out of touch and move Middle America from liberal to staunchly conservative. ” Frank is a Kansas insider, having grown up outside Kansas City on the KS side. 7 One of Franks big themes is the idea of “Two Americas. Fox News, Heartland, and others have espoused two entirely separate Americas where red-starters are down to earth and reverent and blue-starters are lazy and elitist.
Kansas used to be extremely progressive, but the red-states dynamic combined with huge telecommunications industries have pushed taxes low and labor cheaper. The huge industries play towns off against each other; it’s economic growth that makes an area less wealthy and less healthy as its population increases. Farm towns are in decay. Deregulated capitalism has allowed Walter to crash local businesses. Huge food reparations have used legislation to get richer while disenfranchising farmers. ” Kansas has found its most aggressively pious individuals and elevated them to public officer.
He gives an example: the leader of the Wyandotte County Republican Party reportedly once told a reporter, “Primarily my goal is to build the Kingdom of God” (69), a statement that any secularist might find alarming. Another prominent example of this trend is Sam Brownian, who as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, may have been responsible for running the state’s small farmers into the grips of large agriculture corporations (73). Ironically, even though he once denounced the presence of PACK money in politics, corporate telecommunications front groups soon funded him and he and eventually voted against McCain-Feinting (74). Some of Franks conclusions to the change of culture in Kansas may be representative of much of middle America. The “rebels” (as they are called) of Kansas Imagine Georgia, Texas, or much of the Southeast and Midwest. Imagine ideally Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Washington, and Oregon. When you are looking for a change in dialogue, why not find the person who cares hyperbolically the most? Want to tear down federal farm programs and privative utilities because big business has told them to.
Towns that are dependent on the government want the “liberals” to pack up and leave them alone because the Cat Institute and others have created this mindset, and corporations dangle money over their heads because they are mobile and cities are not. ” The most consequential shift has been within the Republican Party, which has been pushed more and more to the right. Through the sass, the legislature was dominated by traditional moderate Republicans. This changed in 1991 when a pro- fife group pushed conservatives and rendered Democrats helpless.
Strangely, this populist movement was at the heeding of a policy that is is difficult to defeat in legalized abortion. Even so, anti-abortion protesters who were looking to build a “kingdom of God”, worked harder than the moderates to achieve their success. ” ” Only the conservatives’ complete opposition to taxes has any sort of tangible use anyway, but they stir the pot and push what would seem to be a class war, except that the war is from the top down, not the bottom up. The working class heroes are even more Republican than their bosses. This echoes Joe Pageant, whom I will mention in a moment. The conservative social critique always boils down to the message that liberals are rich and lazy, and Frank alleges all claims on the right advance from victimized. The backlash suspends material needs for grave social grievances. Frank writes that the backlash movement says that nothing can protect humble Americans from the alien forces of liberalism. For backlasher, business is natural and good, and the liberals want to destroy business. Frank alleges that Republicans have to lie about being the 9 party of the common man by concealing that huge business is actually their main interest.
Then, the backlasher label universities as places of evil “liberal” elitism, attempting to articulate that the future for them is doomed as well. Thus, conservatives pretend to be “persecuted, powerless, and blind. “” The backlash is about individual identity, and those who perpetuate it have used gun control, abortion, and evolution to manipulate voters. Ann-intellectualism is one of their unifying themes. Backlasher blame intellectuals for calling the shots in the political sphere. This anti-intellectualism can be dated back to the sass against New Deal regulations.
Then more came in the sass with McCarthy, as we have already seen. Republicans have hijacked several anti-intellectual traditions including Protestant evangelicalism (194) and in every social issue Republicans perceive the same pattern of a conflict of the “authentic” with the liberal and arrogant. Anti- intellectualism makes pro-life movements central to contemporary conservatism (198). ” ” The idea that the liberals are calling “all the shots” in America in a time of a worsening economy and the perceived debilitation of traditional morals affects these average Americans directly.
Social movements in LIGHT progress allegedly threaten heir families and religious freedom. The advancement of gun control legislation threatens their sacred constitutional rights. In all, I argue that the election of an Africanizing president contributes to a white fear that the average white American is somehow being made to pay for the inherent advantages in opportunity that they did not choose. ” The resonance was that the liberal elite were meddling in the definition of human life with their cliquey liberalism.
The backlash movement is becoming permanent in the 10 resonance machine, like the liberals against which they dissent (242). But what it has in common with mainstream culture is the refusal to think about capitalism critically. Because liberals have dropped the class language that distinguished them from Republicans, they have left themselves vulnerable to the cultural wedges. In short, the backlash works. ” It is no secret that Frank is writing from a left-leaning perspective, lamenting the ways large businesses like Boeing have taken over legislative imperatives in his hometown.
Even so, I think his argument is pessimistic and is one of more description than action, as we will see in Connelly. ” In summary, the government backlash has been emerging over time, a product of the response to progressive social movements. Because those social movements were often pushed by those called “liberals,” the other side of the coin blames the liberals for irrevocable progressivism that has negatively changed the values of the nation. ” ” Franks commentary connects well with Joe Pageant’s 2007 book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.
In a return trip to his home town of rural Virginia, Pageant, a Journalist, condenses interviews and relationships into this book, articulating what he calls the “American hologram. This hologram is the belief that white people must be middle class, even if they are living paycheck to paycheck. Starkly, Pageant writes,” “If middle-class Americans do not feel threatened by the slow encroachment of the police state of the PATRIOT Act, it is because they live comfortably enough to exercise 11 their liberties very lightly, never testing the boundaries.
You never know you are in prison unless you try the door” (263). ” Though Pageant’s people are less the backlasher than Franks people, they are a group of working class white people who have come to ascribe to the political levels of their bosses so as not to hurt their Job status. Pageant tells of a world where “liberals” are dubbed weak-willed people, and social questions aren’t about complexity, but about good guys versus bad guys (67). A good example of the cause of the malaise that Pageant describes is the actions of Rubberier, who, at the time of publishing, employed a good many of people in his hometown. Walter, in an attempt to lower the prices that Rubberier cost them, began replacing Rubberier with other products. After seeing a sales drop, Rubberier caved, shutting down sixty-nine of its 400 facilities and firing 1 ,OHO workers (76), some of whom Pageant knew. ” But for the people Pageant knows, this is the fault of the liberals, partially because they never reached these people with any message at away.
As Republicans became uneasy in the sass with change, they trapped into the uneasiness among middle Americans by lamenting the “loss of community and values and attributing it to the ‘cultural left’s feminism and Antarctica,” etc (82). Guns are American, and liberals are against them. Cultural freedom is American, and liberals are against it. He sums it all up “That’s what they [the people he knows, whites living paycheck to check] voted for – an armed and moral republic. And that’s what we get when we stand by and At least the Republicans had a message, even if it was only about values. 2 watch the humanity get hammered out of our fellow citizens, letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit” (91). ” Finally, the Christian element about which Pageant writes cannot be neglected. He writes, “you don’t need a degree in sociology to see that the most obvious class indicator in America is religious belief and that religious zeal is concentrated in lowercases and working-class whites” (182). ” ” Franks culture of backlash is a common one through the history of the United States. There has always been contempt for those in power on the part of a certain sect.
In sum, after the Second World War, ideas of anti-communism turned any type of progressivism into a wary opponent to “true” Americanism. Social Justice between desegregation and increased women’s rights, including eventual rulings on Roe v. Wade, added to a middle class restlessness about changing times, threatening the class’ prosperity. That middle class fed on alleged threats of progressivism to promulgate a backlash culture against the amoral and progressive government, effectively ensuring a discourse of the “two Americas” in Franks book that were at war for the heart of a real America. Even though there have always been backlash movements, times changed in the twentieth century when mass media became available to the backlogging populists who used a rhetoric of fear to convince others to Join them. This backlash culture culminated at the right time with the Christian Right and the New Right to form a pervasive Christian-capitalist resonance machine. ” William E. Connelly and the Christian-capitalist Resonance Machine” 13 In his book Capitalism and Christianity, American Style, William E.
Connelly explores how an ethos of existential revenge permeates a culture, including those of “work, investment, church assemblies, educational practices, modes of consumption, avowing habits, electoral campaigns, and economic theory’ (4). With an ethos a “shared spirituality,” this theme of revenge has been incorporated into an evangelical wing of Christianity and resonates with “exclusionary drives and claims to special entitlement running through the cowboy sector of American capitalism” (7). To me, it seems clear that the ethos of existential revenge is another facet of the backlash ultra introduced in the previous section. This ethos of existential revenge exists in a vacuum of what Connelly calls the “Christian-capitalist resonance machine. ” The confluence of backlash culture with the resonance machine creates a powerful motive for political activism in the Right. In his book, Connelly articulates this resonance machine and proposes a way to combat it. I will summarize his articulations and, at the end of the project, offer analysis and a new thesis of how to combat the resonance machine from the Left. ” ” Connelly posits as early as page 7 that he would like to explore what it would
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