By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Drunk with success, religious conservatives have even begun mau-mauing their fellow Republicans. When Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter stated that the Senate would be unlikely to confirm anti-choice Supreme Court justices, his words violated the taboos of right-wing political correctness. Truth was no defense. Dobson promptly declared a political fatwa, demanding the senator’s ouster as head of the Judiciary Committee. And Specter was a guy who’d slurred Anita Hill on behalf of Clarence Thomas.
Southern Baptist hotshot Dr. Richard Land was no less peremptory with Kelly Ferguson, executive director of the Republican Majority for Choice. Talking to Warren Olney on To the Point, the good doctor calmly suggested that, like Specter, Ferguson was an anomaly in the Republican Party, a dodo bird whose time had come. Just as the Bush White House has turned into a closed system — with kissable Condi replacing standoffish Colin there’s no noise in Dubya’s echo chamber — so Land’s GOP allows for no dissenting voices.
Nor is there room, it appears, for anything our cultural guardians may find disturbing. Last week, they orchestrated an e-mail campaign filing formal complaints against ABC for showing a movie that contained dirty words. And what was this piece of filth? Saving Private Ryan, playing in honor of Veterans Day. If anyone ever was entitled to cry "Fuck!" it was surely the men on Omaha Beach. This week, the right-wing police have turned their sights on Bill Condon’s new biopic, Kinsey, in the same hysterical terms that greeted Alfred Kinsey himself more than half a century ago: Such immoral subjects shouldn’t be made public. Robert Knight, the (predictably male) head of the Concerned Women of America’s Culture and Family Institute, compares Kinsey to the notorious Nazi Dr. Mengele; meanwhile Dobson’s Focus on the Family Web site savages Condon’s movie and claims Kinsey should have been imprisoned. Now, that’s one big thumbs down.
It is tempting to think that such right-wing extremism will collapse under the weight of its own sometimes comical sanctimony (Land actually wrote a book called Real Homeland Security: The America God Will Bless). After all, most Americans resist any form of radicalism and get pissed when someone messes with the crazy, sexy, violent pop culture that the majority of us adore — Kinsey is safely in the theaters. Watching Dobson and Land compete for the role of our own born-again Torquemada, I recall other examples of Radical Right overreach: Newt Gingrich shutting down the government, the Oklahoma City bombing, Pat Buchanan flinging down lightning bolts from atop Bald Mountain and fulminating about the "struggle for the soul of America." Such flamboyant acts delighted hardliners, but they boomeranged, letting liberals reclaim the center.
But only temporarily. Bush is more reactionary than Reagan. Tom DeLay is more reactionary than Gingrich. Backed by government authority, corporate wealth and evangelical zeal, the right has slowly gained more control over our national life than it’s enjoyed in more than a century. While the Bush administration is corporate in spirit ("I earned capital in the campaign, political capital") and more likely to exploit the Christian right rather than obey it, the current marriage of money and moralizing is a volatile one. Playing on ordinary people’s fear — of terrorism, of changing values, of being ill-prepared for the globalizing economy — Bush shares with the power-hungry Dr. Dobson a desire to radically remake this country in ways that most Americans, including most evangelical Christians, don’t want.
But they can’t do it if we don’t let them.