Over at Political Animal, in an explanation of his prediction that a Republican defeat in the upcoming election will not trigger a reconsideration of the rightward march of the party, Ed Kilgore makes an important and often overlooked point.
“In case folks haven’t noticed, the import of the advent of “constitutional conservatism” and its continued ascendency is that the Right and the GOP are in the process of chaining themselves to a permanent, immutable vision of governance that for many adherents is quite literally a divine gift to the Founders and the entire purpose of America. You don’t “rethink” this birthright, or debate it. And the usual search of political parties for “new ideas” is a bit irrelevant.”
This is a reference to a transfiguration that has been lost on most of us unreconstructed rationalists, but is evident to anyone who follows the fevered pronouncements of the Michelle Bachmann wing of the party, or the wildly ahistorical inventions of David Barton and his ilk.
We react with shock and bemusement when Republican members of Congress–including several members of the Science and Technology Committee–emphatically reject science, evolution, global warming and pretty much the entire intellectual structure of modern life, but we think of these as isolated instances. We don’t see those regressive opinions for what they are: part and parcel of a coherent, if frightening, worldview that has gradually become the worldview of the base of the Republican Party.
The “true believers” have always lurked on the fringes of the party, but gradually they have prevailed; they have entwined “biblical” Christianity and radically reactionary political positions in a new version of Constitutional Christianity. In this reading, the Constitution (as they read and interpret it) was a gift from God. it isn’t the product of a group of gifted men, a brilliant document that nevertheless requires inclusion of new populations and application to new realities; it is inspired by the God of fundamentalist Christianity, and must be approached with that understanding. Deviate from their literal beliefs–about the bible OR the Constitution–and it’s not a different point of view, it’s blasphemy.
The sane and moderate folks who used to make up the vast majority of the GOP have either left the party or failed to recognize how completely the crazies have assumed control. With the exception of a few people–David Frum, Bruce Bartlett and Norman Ornstein come to mind–they’ve kept quiet.
It has become a truism that demographics bode ill for the GOP’s future. It is increasingly, as many have noted, a party of old white men; furthermore, the party’s increasingly wild-eyed conspiracy theories and religious extremism are wearing very thin with the general public. Those trends bode well for Democrats, but not for the country, which needs two sane, responsible political parties.