Transitioning The Fears

by digby

You have to hand it to the right. They are so varied in their crazy that when one faction wears itself out, there's always another ready to step up and shift the debate into new wingnut territory (or back again.)

Adele Stan went to the Values Voter Summit this week-end and reports on Alternet about the changing of the guard:
Gathering at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, 1,800 activists and their leaders seemed resigned to being subsumed by the broader Tea Party movement, or rendered irrelevant by it.

This year's conference, sponsored by the political affiliate of the Family Research Council, emphasized matters important to Tea Party leaders: freedom was linked with free enterprise; ominous were warnings offered about a march to socialism; global warming was said to be a good thing; and taxes were deemed to be too high and largely misappropriated.

But these messages did not receive nearly the degree of enthusiasm from attendees as the traditional religious right decrees against abortion and same-sex marriage. And despite efforts to tread carefully on issues of race, one of the biggest laugh lines of the conference was the racially charged parable told by Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., about the circumstances faced by Republicans in Congress, which he compared to having to play a ball thrown by a monkey.

Yet religious right leaders, who have long played to racial resentment, seem alarmed at how the overt racism of some of the Tea Partiers could harm their own movement -- decades in the making -- of politicized Christian evangelicals and conservative Catholics.

It would guess that at the very least it would interfere with their moderately successful outreach between the white evangelical community and the black churches. But never fear, the Religious Right didn't get to its place of prominence by not being politically adept:
"Unfortunately, the very fine people who are the leaders of the Christian right, are responding -- they're in a reactive mode ... instead of laying out a long-term vision of victory based on a restoration of constitutional government and adherence to constitutional principles," Howard Phillips, one of the founders of the religious right, said in an interview I conducted with him on the eve of the Values Voter Summit.

So, what's a religious right leader to do?

Step One: Get with the Tea Party program.

Step Two: Encourage followers to venerate the Constitution -- or the religious right interpretation of it -- as a document written by the hand of God, playing into the Tea Party movement's promotion of certain constitutional amendments and its appropriation of the symbols of the American Revolution.

Step Three: Damage-control the Tea Party movement by sending out a message to lay off the overt racism.

I wouldn't think that last part would have much impact because the people who are using those symbols and language don't think they are racist in the first place. But the other stuff is probably good advice.

Howard Phillips of the Constitution Party is finally having his day in the sun with the Beckian veneration of the wingnut cartoon constitution and he's heavily quoted in the piece. He insists that there is no violence in the tea party movement, but that's cracked. It is an angry movement with violent rhetoric that could break into real violence at any moment. He's protesting way too much.

Stan goes on to discuss the ways in which the two movements differ:
To the progressive eye, the Tea Party movement and the religious right look much the same. Both movements find their fervor in the anxiety and anger of middle-class, conservative white people who fear their own disempowerment by the changes under way in our culture.

The tipping points may vary between the various constituency groups within the two movements, but the operative force is fear of change. The religious right found its footing in opposition to feminism, civil rights and gay rights; the Tea Party movement builds on that list to include fear of the structural change taking place in the world (and there is much to fear): loss of American global hegemony, a struggling economy and the challenge to their idea of American identity as a nation epitomized by white men eager to light the torch of freedom throughout the world.

But these two movements are not the same.

At the the Washington Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill on the weekend of the Tea Party march, participants flooded the hotel bar, partying loudly and smoked with abandon on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

At the Omni Shoreham this weekend, by contrast, the bar was empty, and only occasionally would one find a lone smoker hovering outside the hotel doors. The Tea Party movement is largely secular: when its members invoke the name of God, it is the generalized, civic-religion God of the slogan on our coins. When religious right adherents invoke the name of God, they have someone much more specific in mind: the personal savior who is the crucified Christ, through whom they were "born again."

I would simplify that formula bu simply observing that the Religious Right operates out of fear of sex, while the Populist Right operates out of fear of race. And when it comes to race and sex there is a lot of overlap in the fevered imagination of the right winger, so I would expect that ultimately most of them will have little problem understanding each other.

Read the whole article. It's a fascinating look at the current state of the conservative movement's transition from sanctimony and psychological coercion to anger and violence, which is a rather predictable evolution when you realize that they are losing the argument. They are, after all, the abusive spouses of American society.