MISUNDERSTANDING THE RIGHT, AS USUAL
I just got around to reading Michael Sokolove's New York Times Magazine profile of Dick Armey, and I see that, not surprisingly, Sokolove accepts the conventional wisdom that there's a fissure on the right that actually isn't there:
FreedomWorks also advocates a so-called flat income tax, free trade and personal Social Security retirement accounts whose investments would be controlled by workers. But more telling is what is not on its list of concerns -- abortion, gay marriage and other social issues. To some degree, Armey's new prominence signals the rise of economic conservatives in the Republican Party -- and a decline in influence of the religious right.
And yes, it's true that Armey himself seems to have problems with social conservatives.
A churchgoer and born-again Christian, Armey has nonetheless clashed with the religious right. He disagreed with Republicans' attempts to inject themselves into the Terri Schiavo case and said that Tom DeLay and other important Republicans who remained after he left "got too wrapped up in social issues" and turned off voters. At one point, he referred to them as "those nitwits who took over after we left."
"They jumped from the defensive side to the offensive side in the whole homosexual-marriage issue," Armey told me, explaining that, in his view, Republicans overreached by putting ballot measures forward to define marriage. "When Republicans are fighting against the power of the state, we win. When we are trying to advance it, we lose."
But, um, I'm looking at the vote on the anti-choice Stupak amendment to the House health care bill, and I'm not seeing a whole of libertarian, leave-us-alone opposition to it among Republicans -- in fact there wasn't any opposition to it among Republicans. So where are all these Armey-esque, post-social-conservative Republicans seeking to fight against the power of the state?
What's really going on is that you still have to be a social conservative to be a Republican, except in a few isolated pockets, like Maine; all that's changed is the emphasis -- or, to be more precise, it's now become clear that the emphasis can shift.
You see, for years the Republican Party drew strength from the fact that rank-and-file right-leaning voters thought it would stand for social-conservative "values" and foreign-policy jingoism -- and this belief was a delivery system the fat cats used to get the extremely pro-business Republicans (as opposed to the very pro-business Democrats) elected.
What's new about tea-partyism/Beckism/Armeyism is that it's apparently no longer necessary to conceal the real point of the GOP. It's clear that teabaggers are actively rooting for "freedom," which they're willing to allow lobbyists like Dick Armey to define for them. They want what Big Medicine wants; they want to fight the cap-and-trade legislation Big Energy opposes. They'd rather not have health care than have it guaranteed by the government; they'd rather have no stimulus money even it saves their own jobs.
I don't know how many of them are actually reading Rand and Hayek, but they've certainly learned how to work "GALT" and "SERFDOM" into placard slogans. They're now cheerleaders for the Chamber of Commerce -- who needs Judas-goat issues like abortion and gay marriage to dupe them into voting against their class interests when they're demanding to vote against their class interests?
Over in the Times Book Review, I see that there's a relevant anecdote from Barbara Ehrenreich's new anti-positive-thinking book, Bright-Sided:
Ehrenreich pays a visit to Joel and Victoria Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, now the nation's largest church. She arrives a week after a court has dismissed charges against Victoria, accused of assaulting a flight attendant who failed to deal promptly with a stain on her first-class airplane seat on the way to Vail. One would think, Ehrenreich suggests, that the largely working-class, multiracial crowd might sympathize with the working stiff on the plane who happened to be African-American. But no, Joel is shown dabbing his eyes on the video screen, and Victoria crows about the "banner of victory over my head" as the crowd cheers.
There it is. There's your pro-Jesus crowd, cheering for the haves to have more. If that's what going on in church on Sunday, why even bother with the Jesus part once church lets out, if you're Dick Armey?