in Kulturkampf

On Last Stands and Lost Causes

Slowly but surely, the urgency of the moment is becoming clear. The “new” Republican Party is prepared to sink to any low necessary to enact as much of its agenda as possible. With nearly one thousand abortion bills in the states and more than a dozen in Congress, it’s clear that jobs and deficits are the least of their concerns. Instead, we have seen the invention of crises and legislative shock doctrine. Republicans have responded to voter discontent by doubling-down: in Wisconsin, the agenda is merely accelerated; in Washington, they’re playing chicken with debt limits.

Desperate people do desperate things.

Once upon a time in America, a defeated southern white society told itself a number of lies and incorporated them into its culture. Scholars call this the “lost cause.” It shows up in the language, literature, and politics of the South. The story is well-known and widely told now. When Reagan talked of “states’ rights” at the Neshoba County Fair, he was picking up the “southern strategy;” as we have seen, the GOP actually doubled-down again in the last cycle. But the conservative movement has swallowed its own Kool Aid in the process. Think of all the issues that keep coming up with the class of culture warriors installed last November: they want to revisit the battles over collective bargaining rights, gays in the military, abortion, health care reform, gay marriage, the Civil Rights Act, and the pre-Civil War issue of nullification. All of these are lost causes.

Furthermore, the language of the right has gotten more desperate. On top of eliminationism (“empty the clip” on illegal immigration, Sarah Palin’s crosshairs), there is a strong sense of finality. This is an ingrained part of human culture; apocalypse mythology appears in every human society. But such tales are actually about our experiences with civilizational collapse, and as we rush towards the bottom of the peak oil spike the “new” Republican Party uniformly rejects the doom we face and substitutes its own, imaginary doom. Furthermore, the time to face their imaginary doom is always now, and always in the extreme. The actual, real, not-imaginary doom is put off to…what? There is no what. There is only the next election, and as we are on the very verge of socialislamicommufascism we must stand and fight now or lose our freedom. See how that works?

The “new” GOP is more committed than ever before to tearing down the America we have built and replacing it with oligarchy. They see us getting wise to them, and so they go for broke. 2012 is more than Mayan calendar baloney, it’s the year they trust Citizens United and their culture warriors and idiots to save them. They figure that Democrats will have to spend at least four years undoing and repairing the damage, and that they’ll pay no price in the memory of voters. Sadly, they may not be wrong. The last stand of the culture warriors never actually ends, you see: culture wars are not meant to be won, they are meant to be continuous. This is so that we may all enjoy a more hierarchical society — you know, like in the Old Testament.

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  • Yes, I see your point in describing GOP efforts as “Last Stands and Lost Causes” as descriptive strategic categories.  I agree with the Lost Causes element – ultimately ALL of these positions will either fail altogether or  ultimately be reversed as demographics force their failure.  But Lost Causes can have very long lives.  It took 100 years (!) for the Civil War victory to be translated into the Civil Rights Act.  History inevitably contains ebbs and flows in such things and we can’t assume that a long and serious reversal is not upon us, nor should we underestimate the difficulty of overturning this once again at a later date (outside the long term demographic changes).

    In regard to Last Stands, it seems this has just been the way of the two party system since literally the First World War.  A lot of it has to do with externalizing the enemy – the Germans, then the Bolsheviks, then the Germans again, the Communists, and now the Muslims.  It’s a seamless transition of one enemy to the next and the amount of pain and suffering that has resulted, not just here, but worldwide, is staggering to contemplate.  The GOP, as befits the control freak element of the country has been there promoting this stuff for well over a lifetime.  It’s not going to change – and Muslims in the US are only starting to see this as well as Mexicans.  This is also (I think) part of the reason for the backlash against blacks.

  • “But Lost Causes can have very long lives.  It took 100 years (!) for
    the Civil War victory to be translated into the Civil Rights Act”

    Exactly. And we’re still fighting over both of them, apparently.

    “In regard to Last Stands, it seems this has just been the way of the two party system since literally the First World War”

    I would argue that post-Civil War Reconstruction was America’s first real experience with a difficult “imperial” occupation. Chris Hedges has found the origins of the “Death of the Liberal Class” in World War I; I think he’d agree there is a link. In fact, One might examine the history of American warfighting SINCE the Civil War in the narrative framework of its effects on political culture. Mechanized war requires huge numbers of men trained exactly the same way, having very similar experiences, and sharing a unique military culture. When they return to civilian life, the manners and habits of their speech stick with them — especially when they become politicians. That’s how the language of war has taken over politics.

  • Hadn’t really thought through the political implications of having hundreds of thousands of soldiers with the same experiences all hitting the civilian population at once – that’s great insight to consider how impactful that can be….not to mention the huge political bonus conferred on ex-military in their later lives, even for hugely unpopular wars like Vietnam.  Yikes.

  • Great post. Describes it very well. Newt is the king of “apocalypse mythology”, maybe just maybe, this primary will bring that concept out into the open where we can stomp on it for a while and the President can give a speech revealing it for what it is, demagoguery. Heres to hoping!