Republicanism Explained

For a long time I’ve been puzzled by how anybody could possibly vote for the Republicans, or take their party seriously. Yesterday, in one of those chit-chat sessions you get into on Facebook, the other shoe dropped. I now understand Republicanism.

It’s a religion.

To be sure, it lacks some of the trappings of what we think of as organized religion. There is no deity (though Saint Ronnie is often invoked). There are no chapels where the faithful may gather for quiet reflection — but the resemblance of Tea Party rallies to old-time tent revival meetings is not hard to see. The details of Rush Limbaugh’s commentary may differ from what a fire-and-brimstone radio preacher would spout, but make no mistake: Limbaugh is a preacher.

The significant point is this: The appeal of Republicanism, like the appeal of religion, rests entirely on the natural human tendency to believe unquestioningly what an authority figure tells you. “It must be right, because the Pope [or the Elders] said it,” is exactly the same response, at the level of brain function, as, “It must be right because [name your favorite Republican oracle] said it.”

Republicanism is based almost entirely on doctrine. The facts seldom matter.  To be sure, facts will be trotted out when they support a position dictated by doctrine, but when the facts become inconvenient, they are jettisoned without a moment’s hesitation. They are denied. They are shouted down. Those who mention facts are attacked, sometimes physically. The ironclad intolerance of Republicans should come as no surprise if we compare Republicanism to the long and bloody history of Catholicism and Islam.

The Republican belief in the doctrine of liberty is sacrosanct. Any idea, however twisted, that can be cloaked in an appeal to liberty will be swallowed whole by the faithful. This is precisely why tens of millions of people continue to follow unflinchingly a cabal of leaders whose real agenda is to funnel money upward to their grotesquely rich patrons.

The unmistakable congruence between Republicanism and organized religion helps explain the otherwise paradoxical appeal of Republicanism to millions of fervent Christians. Christians are trained to obey authority; if you get in the habit of questioning authority, you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up as an atheist before very long, so the faithful don’t dare drift in that direction. Thus the unholy alliance is forged.

The roaring success of Republicanism rests on two pillars. First, the faithful are tireless in their efforts. They’ve been promised Paradise, just as soon as they cleanse the world of the nasty heathen liberals. And second, what’s the alternative? The Republicans have the faith business sewed up. The Democratic Party is not a religion, it’s just a Godawful mess. Our charismatic leaders (Obama, for instance, and Clinton before him) turn out to be closet Republicans.

Besides, attempting to govern based on facts is messy. The facts are often in dispute — sometimes legitimately so. The world is a complicated place, and a political movement that attempts, in any realistic way, to come to grips with that complexity is sure to be all but incomprehensible to voters. No, becoming a True Believer is way easier and more comforting. And never mind how much suffering you cause. Hey, that business with the Albigensians didn’t bother the Pope, did it? Heck, he ordered the genocide. If butchering thousands of people is all right with the Pope, who are we to start asking difficult questions?

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24 Responses to Republicanism Explained

  1. estherlou says:

    A lot of what you said could apply to both sides. The one sentence that stuck out for me was…”If butchering thousands of people is all right with the Pope, who are we to start asking difficult questions?” Not talking about the Pope…but the US who has embraced the concept that women have the ‘right to choose’ over the responsibility for their actions which was given to them by the Democrats.They have been killing their own children for decades. And calling Obama and Clinton closet Republicans is an insult to Republicans everywhere.

    • midiguru says:

      I guess I would need specifics, if you’re going to assert that a lot of what I said could apply to both sides. With respect to the abortion debate, the only reason I’m not deleting your response is because I approve of free speech.

      Look: Abortion is a terrible thing. Nobody questions that. But the idea that the government has any right to exert control over women’s reproductive systems is preposterous on its face. The only people who believe that are fervent religionists, usually of the Christian persuasion. I invite you to stand up and take responsibility for the source of your opinions.

      In my book, Obama and Clinton are certainly moderate Republicans. I always chuckle when ignorant people call Obama a socialist. Dude, I’m a socialist. I can tell the difference between a socialist and a moderate Republican, even if you can’t.

  2. Null says:

    Congratulations, you came up with the idea to label an opposing political ideology a religion just four years after Ann Coulter wrote “Godless”.

    • midiguru says:

      This isn’t about labels, and it isn’t about having unique, innovative ideas. It’s about the Republicans’ inability to face facts. I invite you to address that issue.

      • Null says:

        Your assertion is nothing but a wild generalization of Republicans. There’s nothing for me to address until you come up with some concrete examples.

      • midiguru says:

        Well, for instance, there’s the fact that George Bush invaded Iraq based on what he certainly knew were lies. If you want something more recent, here’s a story from last year about how the Republicans, when they assumed the majority in the House, shut down the committee on global warming: Global warming is a fact. The Republicans are unwilling to admit it. There’s a concrete example. Pull out your teaspoon and dig in.

      • Null says:

        Your two examples are unproven assertions, not facts. You need to prove them in order to charge Republicans with inability to face facts.

      • midiguru says:

        More Republican tap-dancing, I’m afraid. Global warming is a scientifically established fact. I’m taking that news article as factual. Perhaps it’s in error — perhaps the Republicans didn’t actually shut down that committee. But assuming the article is accurate, there we are: You’re proving my point. I have cited two clear facts, and you (presumably a Republican) are simply shutting your eyes, stamping your little foot, and saying, “No, no, no!”

        This is getting boring. Don’t bother replying further. If you do reply further, I will simply delete your messages. There’s no point at all in engaging in a battle of wits with someone who is only half-equipped.

    • midiguru says:

      Also, as an afterthought … I haven’t read Coulter’s blather, and don’t intend to, but I’m perfectly happy to be called Godless. I’m an atheist, and quite accustomed to being Godless. How you could manage to equate Godlessness with religion, which is precisely what you did, is, I confess, rather beyond me. I would need further explication of that idea to judge its merits (if any).

      • Null says:

        If you want “further explication of that idea to judge its merits” then you need to read Coulter’s book…or at least its summary on an online bookstore or something.

        Also, I didn’t say Godlessness = religion. I merely pointed out that Ann Coulter came up with the idea to label an opposing political ideology a religion four years before you did.

      • midiguru says:

        I think you’re illustrating my original point rather precisely, Null. Rather than stand up and take responsibility for your own post, you’re referring to a higher authority. That’s a classic strategy employed by religious believers for millenia. Here’s an idea: Float your own damn boat. If you’re going to go to the trouble of replying to my little essay, try coming up with something of actual substance, rather than simply ducking and dodging.

      • Null says:

        I do take responsibility for my own post, which is that someone else (Ann Coulter) came up with the idea of comparing a political ideology to a religion before you did. Are you disputing that?

        It’s not my responsibility to explain Ann Coulter’s comparison to you, especially since I would have to condense a 300+ page book into a short post when you can easily read her own words (even if it’s just an excerpt or a summary). I did not say I agree with Coulter’s comparison so it is not my responsibility to defend it. If you want to attack it, then do your own work and read her book.

      • midiguru says:

        To be strictly accurate, you’re the one who said that Ann Coulter considers “Godlessness” a religion. Either you’re prepared to defend that assertion, or you’re relying on Coulter as an authority because you’re not equipped to explicate the idea yourself. Or possibly you’re engaged in childish provocation by referring to ideas that you don’t actually believe. In any event, I’ve given you an opportunity to defend your assertion, and you’ve failed.

        End of discussion.

      • midiguru says:

        Here’s an interesting blog hub that dissects Ann Coulter’s “Godless”: James Downard, in his long, detailed essays on Coulter’s scientific efforts, thoroughly mops up the floor with her.

        Care to read it, Mr. Null? Hmm? Too busy? Too cowardly? Too ignorant to understand how science works? If none of those applies, then please — go right ahead. Read the motherfucker.

  3. Ron Greenman says:

    If you put Rush, the Pauls, Lincoln & Ronnie in a box for six months they’d come out calling Lincoln a Commie, Ronnie a Leftist, and the other three would be arguing about who was the true Republican. That would happen on the other side as well and so you find Jim arguing that Obama and Clinton are moderately right of center. The Republican Party started out as a single plank party: Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. Hardly a conservative stance in the 1850s unless you want to argue that repeal of any new law is a conservative action (given), but we’re all educated enough (in spite of the TEA Party) to recognize that the Act itself was a law designed to prop up the status quo, ergo conservatism.

  4. Null says:

    The delicious irony of you linking to a blog that attacks Coulter is that “you’re referring to a higher authority” because you are apparently too lazy to read the book and attack it yourself.

    • midiguru says:

      I’m not an expert on paleontology. James Downard quite apparently is. I could spend two or three years doing basic research in paleontology in order to reach the same conclusions that he has graciously shared about Coulter’s book, which boil down to this: She’s an idiot. Is there a delicious irony in the fact that you’re defending an idiot? Perhaps.

      Look: I’ve never seen an electron either — but I believe they exist because reputable scientists assure me that the research has been done, and firm conclusions have been reached. Coulter’s “research” methods, as Downard and others have detailed, are worse than shoddy. She’s an outright fraud. I trust their conclusions for the same reasons I trust that there are such things as electrons.

      Have you read Downard’s deconstruction of Coulter’s preposterous attacks on evolution? Or are you content to accuse others of intellectual laziness that is in fact your own?

      Somehow I doubt you’re up to the task of defending Coulter. For one thing, her work is indefensible. Far more likely, you’re content to take potshots from the sidelines. I doubt you could even articulate one idea that is contained in “Godless,” much less support it in a reasoned debate.

      • Null says:

        I read pieces of the Downard articles as well as the rest of that blog (which is probably more than you actually did, and certainly more than you’ve read of Coulter’s book). I didn’t focus much on the Downard articles because the theory of evolution does not conflict with my religious beliefs and thus I have no reason to attack it as Coulter does.

        In any case, that’s beside the point — which is, that you are just as much as guilty of Republicans’ alleged “referring to a higher authority” that you look down upon since you are also referring to a “higher authority” (namely, Downard and the author of that blog). I agree with you that it is sometimes necessary to appeal to a better authority (though it is of course a logical fallacy to say that a statement is true because it is made an an authoritative source), but I am pointing out that you are wrong to condemn Republicans for allegedly doing it when you are doing it, too. To paraphrase you, “It must be right because Downard said it.”

        Given that you have already demonstrated your propensity for deleting my comments, it is obvious that you are not interested in a true “reasoned debate”. Consequently, I have no reason to and I will not attempt such a “reasoned debate” with you.

      • midiguru says:

        So in other words, Coulter can be just as much of an irresponsible ass as she likes in areas where you disagree with her, yet you’ll continue to tout her as an authority in other areas? Oh, okay.

        I have numerous reasons for condemning Republicans. The fact that they operate as a religion rather than in a rational manner is central, but it’s not the only problem by any means. Let’s be clear about this: Republican rhetoric appeals ONLY to people who do not know how to think — people who reject rational thought, who swallow slogans whole, and who are blind to their own best interests.

        A consensus of scientists from around the world is NOT the same “higher authority” as one or two crackpots. There’s a difference. You trot out a crackpot and then demand that I function as a scientist. But how much confidence can I have that if I spend days gathering proof, you’ll accept it? None. The fact that you trot out crackpots provides a very good indication of how capable you are of evaluating proofs. No, you’d rather just chant, “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” You’re done here. Move along.

  5. ken says:

    Jim: “Dude, I’m a socialist. I can tell the difference between a socialist and a moderate Republican, even if you can’t.”

    LOL, that’s awesome. (I disagree with both philosophies, but enjoy reading different points of view. “I never learned from a man who agreed with me.” – Robert Heinlein)

  6. Donna says:

    I don’t see the post as being about labels, either. It’s more a post about being lead, always following, and only accepting one answer for everything. Without change, there’s little growth. We become stagnant. Republicans seem to live in tight anal retentive boxes neatly wrapped in pretty cellophane.

    Michelle Bachmann is a flesh and blood mechanical robot. Asked to answer questions about her and her husbands ‘cure the gay’ therapy sessions, she warps into a manikin-like zombie and begins her talking points propaganda. Both sides are guilty of rhetoric, but republicans like Bachmann seem to thrive on rhetoric alone.

    • flowergirl89 says:

      Michelle is like Sarah they both ignore what they don’t know and memorize their rhetoric to avoid confrontation, So far conservatives could care less if they don’t answer, its crazy!

  7. flowergirl89 says:

    I think this is almost right on. If you look at the big picture the parties are playing good cop, bad cop. Meanwhile we are being lied to and propagandized to believe in the cutting back of all the help for the people. Our police forces are acting as if the people are the enemy. With military zealous. We are being poisoned by the deregulation of big corporations such as the oil industry. We have paid into social security all our life and now they want to take that away. Why did they build the nuclear stations on fault lines and the oil pipelines along the rivers? If we did have a big catastrophy here it would be hell with no clean water. Our rights are being taken from us, what little we have left.Money has been syphoned to the top 2%. Most of the people are left scrounging to have a place to live and education for their children and a decent job, while they take away any help in the worst recession in our lifetime. We the People are screwed.Really does any one believe they give a damn about us?

  8. richard says:

    Excellent commentary, Jim. I too have been in awe of the seemingly wrong-headed support that Repubs enjoy from their followers in spite of the fact that their positions are increasingly and clearly NOT in the best interest of the masses.
    Your religion metaphor is very insightful. It requires faith to look around and see our country in demise and yet, continue to support the same trickle-down policies that have gotten us here.
    When I hear people emotionally defending what appears to me to be a hatred of government, I feel saddened. It is pure propaganda, manufactured by powerful, influential special interests and the mega-rich who will not rest until they have destroyed our way of life to enrich themselves.

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