Kathleen Parker and the Oogedy Boogedy Blues
In this, the interregnum between the end of one administration and the beginning of another, there's not much for Republicans to do except look for ways to entertain themselves while Democrats are occupied with the serious business of creating a government.
The problem -- and the GOP is just waking up to this -- is that there is absolutely nothing for them to do but wait. No one cares what they think of President-elect Obama's choice for attorney general or any other cabinet post. The Clinton drama has always been a Democratic farce and only involved the Republicans as onlookers, cheering on the inevitable car crash at the top of turn #3.
The agenda in Congress is being set with no input from the losers. The titanic struggle for control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee saw the really, really ancien régimeof Representative John Dingell, who began serving in Congress when Eisenhower was playing golf on the White House lawn, replaced by the Watergate Baby Henry Waxman. Republicans had absolutely no say in this changeover -- a product of being soundly and roundly beaten at the polls. "To the winner belongs the spoils" the saying goes. To the loser belongs spoiled milk, rotten tomatoes, and rancid meat.
Without anything constructive to do, Republicans have apparently decided that being destructive might not be the wisest course of action but is a far sight better than sitting around and twiddling their thumbs. And that brings us to Kathleen Parker, conservative columnist with the Washington Post Writer's Group and, lately, the bane of the GOP base.
Parker, who became the model for thousands of conservative voodoo dolls when she wrote a few weeks ago that Sarah Palin should resign from the GOP ticket, enjoyed the response she got to that suggestion so much that she decided to take her fight with the base several levels of magnitude higher by offering her opinion that conservative evangelicals are scary beasts who so frightened the electorate that they ran screaming into the polling booth and punched the card for the Democrats.
No doubt believing herself quite clever and amusing, Parker offered this "analysis" of why the GOP got shellacked at the polls:
As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.
Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.
I'm bathing in holy water as I type.
To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.
Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth-as long as we're setting ourselves free-is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.
So God lost the election for the Republicans? I mean, I know the old fellow has a soft spot in his heart for children, dogs, and totally clueless liberals, but really now. Parker is saying that belief in G-O-D is scary -- "Oogedy Boogedy" -- and that such belief is an affliction, or disease.
At least that's better than her reference to "armband religion." When you stop and think just who might be famous for wearing armbands, you might wonder how she could confuse devout Christians with Nazi stormtroopers.
Parker goes on to say all sorts of nasty, pejorative, exaggerated, and hurtful things about the GOP Christian right including how the party is "increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners." As a writer I can appreciate the imagery but I can't say much for Parker's powers of observation. Has she seen the suits worn by some of those preachers? They aren't made of sackcloth I can tell you that. And some of those churches could double as football stadiums -- hardly the image of street preachers spouting about the imminent demise of the planet in front of the Salvation Army mission.
All of this, as you might expect, has raised the hackles of almost everyone whose last name isn't Parker. Jonah Goldberg took such umbrage to what his National Review colleague wrote he fired off a searing blog post that took Parker to task not only for what she wrote but how she has portrayed herself as some kind of selfless martyr being picked on by meanies on the Internet:
I don't know what's more grating, the quasi-bigotry that has you calling religious Christians low brows, gorillas and oogedy-boogedy types or the bravery-on-the-cheap as you salute - in that winsome way - your own courage for saying what (according to you) needs to be said. Please stop bragging about how courageous you are for weathering a storm of nasty email you invite on yourself by dancing to a liberal tune. You aren't special for getting nasty email, from the right or the left. You aren't a martyr smoking your last cigarette. You're just another columnist, talented and charming to be sure, but just another columnist. You are not Joan of the Op-Ed Page. Perhaps the typical Washington Post reader (or editor) doesn't understand that. But you should, and most conservatives familiar with these issues can see through what you're doing.
Goldberg has his own issues with the religious right as do many of us. But Parker's assault is wrong on so many levels that it boggles the mind that she could be taken seriously by anyone except a few scatterbrained lefties.
Enter Kevin Drum:
There will always be plenty of votes for a culturally conservative party. That's not the problem. The problem is the venomous, spittle-flecked, hardcore cultural conservatism that's become the public face of the evangelical wing of the GOP. It's the wing that doesn't just support more stringent immigration laws, but that turns the issue into a hate fest against La Raza, losing 3 million Latino votes in the process. It's the wing that isn't just a little skittish about gay marriage, but that turns homophobia into a virtual litmus test, losing 6 million young voters in the process. It's the wing that isn't just religious, but that treats belief as a precondition to righteousness, losing 2 million secular voters in the process. It's the wing that isn't just nostalgic for old traditions, but that fetishizes the heartland as the only real America, losing 7 million urban voters in the process.
Gee. Reading that, one might be tempted to look for Torquemada waiting in the wings, itching to start the Inquisition. So that's why all those millions and millions of voters snubbed the Republicans to vote for Obama? Seven million young people were turned off by the GOP position on gay marriage? I've got news for Kevin. The Republican position on gay marriage is exactly the same as Barack Obama's and the Democrats; the answer is no.
And while the Democrats successfully demonized John McCain in the most dishonest ad of the campaign -- a Spanish language spot that stated the bald faced lie that McCain's position on immigration was exactly the same as Rush Limbaugh's -- the opposition's use of the extremist, far right notion of closing the borders to all immigrants and rounding up the illegals already here may have been a clever political strategy but hardly reflects reality. It would be like the Republicans holding up Cindy Sheehan as a poster child for the Democrat's position on national security.
So Parker's defenders seem to have latched on to her idea that morality informed by religious belief has no place in the public square. Or if it does, it should be muzzled and told to keep the noise down because us secularists don't want to hear that abortion is murder and gay marriage is considered to be wrong somewhere in the Bible. It makes us uncomfortable and we don't like our beliefs challenged. I happen to think that abortion is not murder and that allowing gay marriage will probably not end western civilization as we know it. But to prevent people who believe strongly in these things from doing everything in their power to stop what they see as a moral abomination by taking direct, political action is scary wrong.
As Goldberg asks in another posting at The Corner, what is so "oogedy boogedy" about this?
What aspects of the Christian Right amount to oogedy-boogedyism? I take oogedy-boogedy to be a pejorative reference to absurd superstition and irrational nonsense. So where has the GOP embraced to its detriment oogedy-boogedyism? With the possible exception of some variants of creationism (which is hardly a major issue at the national level in the GOP, as much as some on the left and a few on the right try to make it one), I'm at a loss as to what Kathleen is referring to. Opposition to abortion? Opposition to gay marriage? Euthanasia? Support for prayer in school?
Drum's description of "venomous, spittle-flecked" churchgoers is exactly the point. The liberals have so demonized and misrepresented many of the Christian right's attitudes and actual positions while raising the specter of an Iranian-style theocracy -- a turn of events that is profoundly impossible -- that as a political strategy, it has succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
For all their vaunted power in the Republican Party, the Christian right couldn't get their man Mike Huckabee nominated. His primary victories were few and far between, his financial support a pittance compared to other candidates, and his organization almost entirely dependent on churchgoers. Their influence on the party platform notwithstanding, in the larger scheme of things, they are still a rather small, vocal, but important minority in the GOP. To make them into a looming, dangerous bogey man of the right is pure exaggeration.
Generally, people fear what they don't understand. And that goes for most of us whether we are religious or secular, Democrat or Republican. Many secularists find the passionate even overwhelming beliefs of evangelicals frightening because they could not imagine believing anything so strongly themselves. For many, it is the notion that people with deeply held beliefs are less tolerant than those with less passionate or no beliefs at all. This is poppycock as tolerance for opposing views by liberals left much to be desired during the campaign when anyone tried to speak out about Barack Obama's problematic associations. Several instances of what can only be termed thuggery directed toward those who spoke against the Democratic candidate gives the lie to the notion that the left is any more tolerant than the right.
Kathleen Parker and her little missives taking aim at conservative Christians as the number one cause of the Republican defeat might score her points with liberals and some libertarian conservatives. But kicking God out of the Republican party is a moronic notion. It isn't necessary for starters. And it won't bring the GOP back from the wilderness.