Wednesday, January 09, 2019

National Emergency: White Evangelicals-- They Only Feel Safe In Their Self-Satisfied Bigotry Behind Big Strong Walls


The video above is a brief talk almost a decade ago (2009) by one of America's most brilliant political theorists, Wendy Brown, a U.C., Berkeley professor, one of whose specialties is canonical political theory, and who, at the time of the video, was finishing top work on her 2010 book, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Obama, you'll recall, was still early in his first term when she made the video-- and was writing that book. Trump was still just a bankrupt TV clown scrambling for a few bucks wherever he could get it. "The wall," she said, "is very effective as a performance piece that designates an us over here and a them over there. It helps to build the idea that there is law and order inside and barbarism or lack of civilization outside and it has the effect of displacing all of our problems and all of our ills to an Outside that is invading and that is permeating and penetrating our interior, our "good interior." By the way, she wrote a new preface when the book was reprinted following the election of... you know.

The U.S. was largely spared the horrors of religionist wars that wracked our European ancestors for centuries. The Founding Fathers were smart that way. The very first line of the First Amendment to the Constitution was pretty clear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. But that doesn't mean there haven't been attempts at subversion from religionist power mongers who thought to benefit by throwing in their lot with powerful political forces. It has never really worked... until (perhaps) now, with a chief executive who has never been even remotely curious about the document he swore to uphold-- or about anything else that couldn't be a tool in his personal lust for wealth and power. A few days ago, Greg Sargent asked in the Washington Post why Trump continues to keep the government shut down over his demand for a border wall, when large majorities oppose it? The most obvious answer is that he senses his long term political survival depends on keeping his wall-adoring base behind him as his legal travails mount." And who the hell is that wall-adoring-- and Trump-adoring-- base for whom "the wall is an extraordinarily potent totem?"
Among white evangelical Christians, support for the wall has risen nearly 10 points since Trump campaigned on it. In the most recent PRRI poll, in September of 2018, a staggering 67 percent of them favor Trump’s wall.

White evangelical Christian support for Trump may perhaps prove his strongest bedrock, one important key to holding his base. Ron Brownstein recently analyzed the 2018 election results and found that key elements of his blue collar white base moved away from Republicans-- with the exception of white evangelicals, who instead showed a “hardening loyalty” to the Trump-era GOP. There appears to be a schism on the wall in particular, with some groups of non-evangelical whites opposing it while evangelical whites continue to overwhelmingly support it.

Why is the wall so important to this segment of Trump’s base in particular? Robert Jones, the head of PRRI, told me that the wall powerfully symbolizes the deeper reasons they supported Trump in the first place.

“For white evangelicals who see the sun setting on white Christian dominance in the country, the wall is a powerful metaphor,” said Jones, who has spent many years analyzing the attitudes of religious voters, and published a book about The End of White Christian America.

Jones added that this metaphor embodies a white evangelical view of the world “as a dangerous battleground” made up of “chosen insiders and threatening outsiders,” as well as an “embattled minority trope that is rooted deep within southern culture,” such as the “Lost Cause theology following the Civil War,” and in “evangelical culture generally.”

In recent weeks, there’s been renewed attention to the true nature of white evangelical Christian support for Trump, and its remarkable durability in the face of revelations of Trump’s sordid personal behavior and corruption. This has been prompted by the release of a new movie, The Trump Prophecy, which tells the tale of a former firefighter who experienced an epiphany in 2011 that Trump would be elected president.

Analyzing the film, Katherine Stewart, a journalist who covers the Christian right, notes that it positions Trump as a modern day “King Cyrus,” the 6th-century B.C. king of Persia who freed Jews from captivity in Babylon. As Stewart notes, Cyrus is the “model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the faithful,” and in the eyes of white evangelicals, Trump plays that role. In this telling, Trump is a savior figure for “Christian nationalism,” so his personal failings and misconduct are beside the point. Indeed, Stewart notes, his autocratic and anti-democratic conduct is a virtue, since it is being marshaled towards that end of rescuing evangelical culture from extermination.

As Stewart points out, some leading evangelical figures have even talked about this in wall metaphors. One such figure, who appears in the film, has declared that “America has become a nation without walls,” and that Trump will “restore the crumbling walls that separate us from cultural collapse.”

On this score, historian John Fea has noted a longtime strain in white evangelical culture of “racial and religious fear” built on anxiety over immigrants, secularization, modernization, and demographic change. While white evangelicals are not a monolith, Fea argues, many believe Trump is God’s vessel for “delivering them from the ‘captivity’ of the Obama administration,” so there’s little Trump could do that would “lead white conservative evangelicals to abandon him.”

All this taps into a broader global trend documented in Wendy Brown’s remarkable book, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. In multiple countries, walls are becoming political totems and theater pieces that reassure those anxious about waning national sovereignty. Walls appear deeply ahistorical in the face of the actual challenges to sovereignty mounted by the facts of 21st-century globalization, Brown writes, but their overtones of long-vanished historical times are key to what makes them reassuring.

And so, it may seem unhinged when Trump tweets that...

Throughout the ages some things NEVER get better and NEVER change. You have Walls and you have Wheels.

... but he may well be tapping into deeper impulses on the part of his most fervent supporters, which could be helping to keep that bond so tight.

All of which makes it more likely that, if special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation and probes by the incoming Democratic House close in around Trump, these voters may end up being his most loyal backers.

“Even if Trump loses support among other parts of his 2016 base, the data suggests white evangelicals may be the last loyalists standing by his side,” Jones told me. “As Democrats take control of the House and as the Mueller investigation advances, white evangelicals look to be building their own wall of defense around Trump.”

Trump may end up needing their wall as much as they think they need his.

Frank Schaeffer probably has more first-hand experience of the evils of political American white evangelicism than anyone in the country who would be willing to talk about it openly. After all, he was once part of it, and at the uppermost reaches-- though no longer. Last night he told me that "Even in the depths of the Depression most Americans were never beguiled by the appeal of authoritarianism. Not so today, when Republicans-- enabled by white evangelical voters-- are empowering Trump’s undermining of American democracy in favor of this thug’s corrupting personality cult. The Republican Party (now firmly in the grip of white nationalist evangelicals) have even doubled down and supported Putin’s failed Russian autocracy, which these idiot evangelicals led by fools like Franklin Graham believe, mistakenly, is 'Christian.' White evangelicals and their Trump cult are okay with Russian oligarchs bearing bribes and Russian hackers probing vulnerabilities in our political system as well as our electrical grid. Face it: Trump’s followers are America-haters and traitors. And you ask: 'How can they?' Answer: Because they believe Trump was ordained by God. So we're talking theology here. Forget reason!"

Schaeffer warns that "There will be no quick fix now that Trump has destroyed the Christian witness in America and replaced it with an authoritarian personality cult of lies. It took more than a generation for left wing Americans to reject the temptations of communist authoritarianism. It will take more than a generation before we have defeated Trump’s style of kleptocratic authoritarianism now cheered by evangelicals too-- if we still can."

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At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your belief that it will take more than a generation..., is nonsense.

this is America in the 21st century. white evangelicals have rejected all reason and education in favor of their delusions and fantasies. They have promoted this nefarious stupid bigoted fat fuck to the level of Christ and worship him. They believe all he says is the word of god.

when trump dies, they'll find another savior... and pence is just waiting.

These white limbic shitstains will NEVER outgrow their delusions of their saviors, hatreds, fears, ignorance, stupidity and persecution complexes. Only when they all die will this perhaps wane. But they will impart this nonsense delusions upon their children.
Given the sad state of education and the genetic preponderance of stupidity among whites, I'd say that this will never end.

And, for a change, this is not a democrap thing. It's a deep flaw in humans that may have provided a survival advantage 500K years ago. But we couldn't evolve to eliminate that flaw... so it will probably be a big factor in the extinction of our species. The denial of science is part of this flaw.

For the planet's sake, this cannot happen soon enough.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism established by scientists.

This article says all you need to know. No wonder such "religious" people are so fond of corporal punishment! It's a recruiting tool!

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if that is true, 12:51, hominids have been born brain-damaged for a million years.

based on what we do... makes sense.


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