A conference was held in Washington a couple of weeks ago by a conservative group calling itself the Faith and Freedom Coalition. I wasn’t there, so I didn’t have the opportunity to remind them that the name they have chosen may be regarded by the perspicacious as embarrassingly oxymoronic, but that’s the least of their problems really. In practice, faith and freedom may not always have to be mutually exclusive, unless of course they’re being practiced by this motley regiment of Republican Christian soldiers.
Temporarily and certainly conveniently forgetful of the “freedom” component of their self-identification, speakers at the conference lengthily extolled removing your freedom to choose an abortion, an assisted suicide, marriage to a gay partner or the services of Planned Parenthood. I’ll leave it to the lawyers to determine whether the group’s name is either criminally fraudulent or actionable in the civil jurisdiction, but in the court of inconsistency and cognitive dissonance it’s a capital offense.
For members of this organization committed only in name to freedom, the moral correctness, and in fact the legal right to those freedoms is a settled matter, meaning for you as well as for them. If they have their way, their disapproval is all that matters. I may be splitting hairs with such a suble distinction, but for the really crazy Republicans…and this brings me to Michelle Bachman…the country was a Christian conservative enterprise from the very beginning. Michelle Goldberg has a piece today in The Daily Beast which explores the Mad Hatter of Minnesota’s strange biography, which consists of her tutelage by a crackpot history professor by the name of John Eidsmoe, whose exceptionally warped and fantastical history teaching postulates that the United States was originally founded as a Christian theocracy. I imagine this would come as a surprise to Thomas Jefferson, who wrote an alternate version of the Bible in which he removed every reference to the miraculous or the supernatural, as it would be to the other Deists among the Founding Fathers, in other words, most.
These freedom-lovers on the right were not at all shy about endorsing the initiative by Republican Messiah Ronald Reagan, who sent forth his consigliere Edward Meese and his infamous Meese Commission, whose goal was to culturally stigmatize and increasingly criminalize the pornographic. The American libido for all intents and purposes killed this one before it made it out of the crib. Yet, the “freedom and faith” crowd not only was serenely untroubled by this additional assault on Americans’ freedom, it vociferously promoted it.
Unfortunately, one can extend Republicans’ anti-freedom agenda beyond their theocratic tendencies to their ideologically authoritarian ones. Republican promotion of and support for warrantless wiretapping never seemed to rub with any agitation against their selective conceptualization of freedom. Likewise, empowering police by availing them of questionable methods at the expense of the rights of defendants or suspects never troubled Republicans’ dubiously asserted love of “freedom.” The Miranda Law long has been a favorite whipping boy of Republican politics, as has the exclusionary rule, limiting or prohibiting the presentation to a jury of evidence obtained in any illegal manner by law enforcement.
The selectiveness of this conservative conceptualization of freedom can take some strange turns. Not so curiously perhaps, in the Republican mind the factory owner who has been chastened by the federal government for subjecting his workers to an unsafe work environment has suffered an egregious infringement upon his freedom. Naturally, in this interpretation there is no freedom on the worker’s part to earn a living in a reasonably safe workplace. This odd Republican view that it is an assault on the freedom of the chemical company when its ability to render the air you breathe toxic is curtailed by government regulation, happens to disregard your freedom to breathe air that will not sicken you to death.
When Republicans begin hollering that a freedom of theirs has been victimized, it tends to strike an analogy to the American colonists, who accused the British government of a violation of the colonists’ freedom to own slaves when it offered the slaves their freedom in exchange for loyalty to the British Crown. There is an eerie familiarity to today’s Republican hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance when, after proclaiming the natural right to freedom in the Declaration of Independence, the colonists listed among the King’s offenses this offer by the British to free the slaves, proclaiming, “He has excited domestic insurrections among us.” Indeed, to them, offering the slaves their freedom was insurrectionary. And yes, requiring the coal company to supply respiratory masks to miners in order to prevent their death from Black Lung is a dastardly attack upon the precious freedoms of the coal company.
Republican certitude extends to economics, where, despite three decades of failed supply-side economics, the data from three successive Republican administrations demonstrating beyond any shadow of a reasonable doubt that supply side economics is an economic and budgetary fraud and failure, Republicans insist to this day, even after ruination of the country’s economy a mere three or so years ago, that it retains the sanctity of Biblically decreed dogma. And that is the point, that is the missionary position of today’s Republican Party: it is in sole possession of holy truth and the word of god, in religious as well as secular terms.
In Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida, where Republican governors and legislatures are imposing a radical agenda on populations who have dramatically expressed both rejection of, and revulsion for these agendas, democratic disapproval is simply irrelevant. In the view of the Republican missionaries, they have brought the Word, the one and true ideology. It’s effectiveness, productiveness, fairness or sustainability are beside the point: it is the Word, and it shall be.
Absolutist ideology and religious dogma cannot cohabitate for long with real democracy, and today’s radicalized Republicans have been pulling so long at the opposite ends of this thread, it has just about reached a breaking point. The purism and fundamentalism of this current ideology are virtually incompatible with the democratic process itself. In the Tea Bag era, Republican impatience with the inconvenience of democracy has come to a boil.
And by the way, the right doesn’t do terribly well on the “faith” segment of this equation either. They are equally culpable to charges of fraudulence in matters of Christianity and values. It’s a peculiar form of Christianity that proclaims the waste of monies spent for the neediest while lauding the glory of military expenditure. It is surely a bizarre interpretation of Biblical admonishments against the overvaluing of worldly things that translates such admonishing into the moral elevation of the CEO, and the moral denigration of the “welfare queen.” Extolling the integration into government policy of grace or compassion or generosity will get you laughed out of the house of Republicanism. God, the market, and the military: The Republican Holy Trinity.