By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
To secularists, including those who believe in God and attend church or synagogue or mosque on a more or less regular basis, the revelation of a CIA operative’s identity by someone in the government as a form of political retribution seems beyond the pale, particularly in an era of terror. It’s a deliberate violation of national security for partisan purposes. But in the theocratic view of power, national security and political self-interest are inseparable when both are factors in a presidential power that’s in the service of Divine Will. From the vantage point of the theocratic psyche, a divinely interpreted national interest overwhelms narrow ideas of security as held by secularists whose insight lacks a divine scope. The theocratic rationale for the Iraq war and the United States’ subsequent presence in Iraq exists far above petty secular anxieties about justifying either. If the president could barely conceal his impatience on last Sunday’s Meet the Press with distinctions between Iraq actually having weapons or having the capacity to make weapons, between imminent threats or threats that might become imminent, it’s because such distinctions couldn’t be more beside the point. It was never a matter of reasons justifying the war. Rather, the war justifies the reasoning. Some might suggest that the president’s case for the war was made in bad faith, but there is no “bad” in the president’s perception of faith, there’s only true faith that sometimes is confronted with hard tests posed by divine destiny, the hardest of which is whether the president can work his will on God’s behalf, however it must be done. That Iraq had nothing to do with those who attacked America almost two and a half years ago is only a distracting detour in moral reasoning, fine print for those whom God hasn’t called.
One night last October, two days before the president announced his re-election bid, Peggy Noonan and conservative commentator David Horowitz appeared with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on the beaches of Venice where the Doors once wrote songs about American apocalypse. They were there to marvel at a new Republican governor’s ascendancy in the gomorrah of California. For months, Republicans had bemoaned how long it was since one of theirs held high office in the state, so now there was giddy talk about the national implications of such a watershed moment. When Republicans talk about how long it’s been since they held power in California, they mean the distant days of five years ago, when Pete Wilson left the governor’s mansion. Over the decades, California’s sun-addled sodomites have launched the careers of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as — with the passage in 1978 of the tax initiative Proposition 13 — the national conservative tidal wave that made Reagan president and gave Republicans control of the United States Senate. Before Clinton and Gore, whose administration, however much the right casts it in bolshevik terms, was the most conservative of any Democrat since Grover Cleveland, Californians went for Republicans in nine of 10 presidential elections, including the first George Bush, Reagan twice, Gerald Ford, Nixon three times and Dwight Eisenhower twice. Counting the term of the new incumbent, in 40 years Republicans will have held the governorship of California for 27.
The bastion of liberalism that supposedly is California isn’t the California in which real people have lived for half a century, but rather the California of a conservative siege mentality that loves to luxuriate in how beset it is. For so many years that it’s practically become part of genetic memory, conservative Republicans in the country consistently have spoken of their struggle in the face of the Liberal Monolith as manifested by all the established political and cultural organs. Conservatives continue to perish gorgeously in the Roman Coliseum of their fantasies, even though in 35 years Republicans have been president for 23, even though Republicans presently control both houses of Congress, even though they narrowly control the Supreme Court that delivered the White House to its current occupant, even though with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory they now hold the governorships of the nation’s four largest states. Perhaps it’s the still-lingering trauma of the ’60s when, for the better part of the decade, Republicans were a minority party that seemed to be on the wrong side of most major issues; perhaps it’s the more recent trauma of the last presidential campaign, when George W. Bush’s opponent was rude enough to get more votes. Perhaps it’s because over the last decade and a half, as the party is more driven by the evangelical right and becomes more the party of the theocratic psyche, there’s something too exquisite about martyrdom to let go of it. If traditionalists are the Christians and secularists the lions, devourment isn’t just validation but the Void, wherein the Saved finally transcend the Damned.
My first political hero was Barry Goldwater. I was 14 when he ran for president, and was crestfallen at his defeat. As time passed, there were things about his politics I found regrettable, none more so than his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act; given his relative progressiveness on racial matters back in his early rough-and-tumble Phoenix days, I like to suppose he himself came to regret that one, but this may be wishful thinking. Some later found startling Goldwater’s positions on gay rights and the legalization of marijuana, and his growing antipathy to the evangelicals who took over both his party and his conservative cause; among those on the right there was a whispering campaign suggesting senility. Before he died, Goldwater himself liked to joke that he had become one of the party’s liberals.
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