American Prospect: The FundamentaList

American Prospect

The FundamentaList

This week in the religious right: How the current Republican attacks on Democrats are straight out of the religious right’s play book and why the Florida gay marriage ban is failing.

Some elite Republicans are shocked, shocked, to discover the ugliness lurking in their party. Figures from Peggy Noonan to Colin Powell cannot believe it! The party of the shining city on the hill is turning vulgar!

The feigned surprise is laughable. After all, the only card left in the Republican deck is straight out of the religious right’s 30 year-old battle plan, which the GOP has warmly embraced since Reagan. Since the mid-1970s, the Republican Party has validated the religious right’s mythology of America’s Christian nationhood, cowed to its authoritarian litmus tests, and made demagoguery not only fashionable but heroic.

Michele Bachmann’s call for witch hunts and Sarah Palin’s accusations of socialism may be anachronistic, but if you are familiar with the ideological underpinnings of the religious right, you recognize them as carefully calibrated to appeal to loyalists who have been schooled in the evils of “statism” — the elevation of government over God. When Bachmann talks about Obama or other Democrats being “anti-American,” it’s a dog whistle to the base: It must be Satan trying to bring down America. When Palin calls Obama a socialist, she’s really calling him godless, and therefore a danger to God’s plan for America.

Elite Republicans’ sudden hostility to that kind of slime, however, shows just how much they have turned a blind eye to the animating principle of the religious right, which is not at its core opposition to abortion or gay rights, but support for instituting an authoritarian, supposedly “biblical” law. The Council for National Policy — the secretive brain trust of the conservative movement that meets quarterly to map out conservative movement (and GOP) strategy — was based on this very idea. Since its founding in 1981, the CNP vets Republican candidates each election cycle, and, although the group never much cared for McCain, it very much approved of Palin.

One of CNP’s founders, Conservative Caucus and Conservative Party founder Howard Phillips, is a protegé of R.J. Rushdoony, the architect of the Christian Reconstructionism that is the cornerstone of the religious right. Rushdoony summed up his view of “statism” when he said, “The historic Christian concept of government is the self-government of the Christian man under God and in terms of His law. This is set over against the top-heavy centralization of post-Enlightenment statism. The only cure for totalitarianism is the restoration of Christian government.”

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