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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 22, 2014

 
A Tea Party for a Christian nation

by digby

I wrote a little bit about Ben Sasse the Ivy League, Tea Partying, Christian Crusader from Nebraska this morning. (Has anyone seen Sasse and Ted Cruz in the same room?)

[I]t is interesting that so far in these primaries the major victory claimed by the Tea Partyers doesn’t feature a standard libertarian-ish right-wing Republican railing against Big Government and babbling about Benghazi!™. It features a hardcore member of the Christian right, which is hardly the image of the Tea Party in the political press. That would be Ben Sasse of Nebraska, the Yale-educated history professor who had the backing of Tea Party groups like Freedomworks, the Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth, and Tea Party icons Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. He won the primary against establishment-backed State Treasurer Scott Osborne. Yes, he hates Big Government as much as any right-wing Republican, that goes without saying. But Sasse is motivated by his belief that the U.S. is a Christian nation under siege from that Big Government, not by his belief in free markets and low taxes.

Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches unearthed his doctoral thesis from 2004 and it’s a fascinating treatise on the origins of the modern religious right in America. Unlike most historians, he believes that the conservative movement grew up in the 1960s not out of rebellion against the civil rights stances of the Democratic Party but rather the “secularization” of the culture in the wake of the Supreme Court rulings banning school prayer and Bible reading. He even goes so far as to claim that rather than a cynical decision to stoke the flames of Southern racism with the Southern strategy, it was Richard Nixon’s deep understanding of the Christian culture that led him to persuade evangelicals and conservative Catholics to join the GOP and usher in the era of conservatism in the last decades of the 20th century. It’s a novel understanding of that history, to say the least. Most historians cite Nixon’s pursuit of blue-collar Catholics as part of the strategy to peel off working-class votes with racial resentment. But Sasse’s dissertation is evidently persuasive in at least some respects.
But regardless of his level of accomplishment as a scholar, Ben Sasse clearly sees the world through the lens of a conservative Christian crusader.
Read on to see just how extreme this guy is. He's also very smart. That dissertation does something quite clever: it lets the religious right off the racist hook entirely. According to him, the Christian Right wasn't catalyzed from the wreckage of Bob Jones University not being allowed to discriminate against blacks as is commonly understood, but rather a natural grassroots groundswell against the creeping "secularization" (also known as Godless atheism) imbuing our culture back in the 1950s. He admits that there might have been some racists among those Southern evangelicals and right wing Catholics in say, Boston and Chicago, but really it was all about their desire for school prayer.

And there may even be some truth in it. Social movements rarely spring up whole out of specific events and the right in America is a multi-faceted group that converges around their sense of being besieged by stronger forces, whether it be from foreign powers or our own Federal Government. Basically these are all people who are frightened by the pluralism of a free and democratic society. So, it's natural that there would be plenty of variety in motivation for the modern conservative movement. But to say that racism was a second degree motive is simply wrong. It was a prime mover. That's just obvious.

Anyway, read about Ben Sasse. He's Ted Cruz with a cross. Well, actually Ted Cruz has a cross. (And his name is Cruz ...)They're all singing from the same hymnal.

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