March 11, 2009

Couple of things--with update

On the religious front, InternetMonk has suggested that evangelical Christianity is on the verge of a major collapse. I am not terribly convinced that this is so (primarily because of the next item), but this point is very interesting:
Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
This seems to be an accurate assessment (at least the first sentence) but whether that leads to people identifying badly with evangelicals remains to be seen. As I noted, consider the following item, on the number of self-professed non-believers in this country. They now constitute some 15% of the population, and as Uygur notes, much more than the 1.4% that Mormons comprise. It has always struck me that for all the whining about Christian persecution, no one ever runs for office as an atheist (well, mostly never, and certainly not for President). Let's just say that this is just one reason It is hard for me to believe that the American people will associate evangelicals with enough bad things to cause a major collapse. Hell, conservative evangelicals essentially supported a torture regime in the White House.


Update--Just saw a discussion on this poll on non-believers that noted that the number 15% was 8% in 1990. That seems like a pretty quick uptick. It also seems that many believe that "non-believer" in this context is no the same as atheist. At least it seems that way to me.


Chuck Norris' open call for revolution against Obama seems to be a trend among the wackjob right. A friend asked me yesterday if I was arguing that liberals are more moral than conservatives because I don't acknowledge the idiots on the left. I noted that we do have idiots on the left, but they just don't have the following that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (who also called for a resistance from conservatives) who have millions of listeners and followers. I have made this analogy before, but it is if the right's center, or mainstream, is now around the 10 yard line (football field metaphor, with mythic middle of the road American at the 50 yard line), while the left's equivalent 10 yard line wackjobs are firmly outside the liberal mainstream. In that setting, Chuck Norris may be a little extreme, but not so much that it really bothers the average conservative listener. But again, the average conservative listener was not bothered by torture, so why should an American celebrity calling for armed resistance to Obama?

Frank Schaeffer finds the modern right appalling, and as he notes in this angry letter to "the Republican Traitors (From a Former Republican), the Republican party wasn't always like this. I am not completely sure I buy his entire view of Reagan and Goldwater, but it does strike me that the party has shifted dramatically to the right, while so many Republicans seem to not have noticed. Their own allegiance is to the party (even if that allegiance is not very firm) and to a few code words about low taxes and less government (even if that second part has never been true) as well as a few nods to those worried about the gays and abortion-seeking flag burners. I have argued to my conservative friends for the last 8 years--that their party no longer represents their values. Mostly, this argument has fallen on deaf ears.

And finally, this item (can you tell I was reading through the Huffington Post this morning?) on the so-called Obama "class warfare". (After all, he is a socialist, right?) I have always been annoyed with the language of those critical of higher taxes, because it so often includes phrases like "punish the rich" or "it takes away incentive to make more money." I have never been convinced that our taxation policy turned rich people into not-rich people. And this piece very clearly notes that difference. He links to a Chait article on an unbelievable ABC piece on a dentist so upset by Obama's "war on the rich" that she will purposefully make $70,000 less to come in under the $250,000 cut off for the higher rate. Similar to the Ayn Rand people calling for some kind of "going Galt" response, I guess, but equally stupid. As Chait points out, those who make more than 250K don't all of a sudden pay that higher rate on their entire income, they just pay that higher rate on that those dollars they make over that threshold. And when you factor in deductions, that dentist would be foregoing an additional $70,000 to avoid paying $2,100.

I am clearly no financial wiz--I could never get a stock show on CNBC, for example--but even I see the problems with that kind of math. Perhaps the wealthy dentist needs to return to school for a little remedial math. Perhaps she can then take a class on basic civics and see if she can get Chuck Norris to join her. Perhaps either one of them might consider taking their head out of their ass.

Speaking of CNBC, here is Jon Stewart once again going after Jim Cramer--


steves said...

Chuck Norris may be a little extreme, but not so much that it really bothers the average conservative listener.

Are you actually suggesting that mainstream conservatism supports open, violent revolution? I hardly think Chuck is a major or even "kinda" major player in the conservative world. He has always be somewhat of a fringe player and the source of all those goofy lists, but I haven't heard anyone echoing his concerns or agreeing with him.

I actually find this kind of insulting that conservatives are being lumped in with this drivel. Most have consistently made of fun of this fringe.

Streak said...

No. I am saying that the mainstream of conservatism has moved so far to the right that many conservatives won't even notice this. You do, but you are not in the mainstream of conservatism--at least how its power base responds.

Making fun of this fringe is one thing, btw, but imagine how this would be treated on Fox and Limbaugh, if the person arguing for some kind of armed resistance was a liberal? And by extension, just how much discussion would we see on CNN, NBC, and even the Washington Post? I am guessing a whole lot. And it would not be mocking. It would be pitchfork time.

Streak said...

And btw, Steve, I can think of an actual example. Ward Churchill became the poster child for the left's lack of loyalty or unamerican intellectual leanings. Never mind that the left didn't like Churchill, and that many in the Indian community distrusted him and disliked him, the MSM went to town on him. I had a conversation with a conservative relative who was talking about defunding CU as long as Churchill taught there.

I am just guessing, but I doubt there is the same amount of outrage for Norris. Probably, you are right--it will be a mocking, dismissive tone. But not outrage. That is reserved for liberals who transgress.

leighton said...

I'm not current with the polling, but I am curious whether there has been a shift in how people respond to polls re: religious beliefs to emphasize the "religious" part more than the "beliefs." Are there a bunch of people who say "Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, but churches are full of jackasses, so don't you dare call me a Christian" who are now counting themselves among the nonreligious? Or is it that people who don't actively believe in God, but don't want to waste time arguing about the issue publicly, who aren't counting themselves as atheists or agnostics? Maybe a combination of the two?

steves said...

Sorry, this just rubs me the wrong way. I am perfectly willing to admit that people like Limbaugh and Hannity have a some influence and a voice among a fair number of conservatives. They may not speak for all, but a reasonable argument can be made that they speak for some.

I don't think the same can be said of Chuck Norris, though time will tell. Most of his voice come from the fact that he is a celebrity, not because he is some kind of conservative thinker. I haven't seen much support for Chuck's Rebellion....have you?

If some liberal called for armed revolution, I am sure Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and Malkin would be apoplectic, just as the lefty blogosphere is outraged by Norris. I don't think it is reasonable to equate indifference or selective outrage with approval. Just because the "right" isn't pissed at Chuck doesn't mean that they approve of his message.

The same holds true for Ward Churchill (who I was thinking of before you even mentioned in your reply). I don't recall much liberal outrage over his comments, but I also don't think it is fair to say that most liberals approve of his actions. One of the lefty legal blogs I follow unabashedly supports Churchill and has defended him on numerous occasions.

But not outrage. That is reserved for liberals who transgress.

Is this really all that unusual? Your blog reserves most of it's ire for conservatives and Republicans that do bad things. I would never assume that means you approve of liberals that do bad things. I figure that most people have a limited amount of time to blog, so they will stick to things that annoy them or interest them the most.

Streak said...

Steve, I think you are misreading me here. Or I am not being clear. In my analogy, Chuck is off at the 5 yard line or so--along with Glen Beck who appears to be leading the right wing complete crazy part--and is a bit of a loose cannon. Of course, he is not completely off the grid, as he is a big fan and supporter (and vice versa) of Mike Huckabee, so we should not treat him as if he is really like Ward Churchill in that way. No politician I know would be caught in the same room with Churchill.

Perhaps Churchill is a bad example. His scholarship and activities earned him great disrespect among those in that community. His statements about 9-11 were actually at least worth listening to. It was not popular to discuss the role that American business played in other people's suffering, and I personally think that Churchill himself articulated himself badly (and if history is any guide, plagiarized someone along the way).

But he articulated an opinion, and he became persona non grata, and a cause celeb among the right wing. Chuck Norris can call for armed insurrection (and Beck along with him) and the right shrugs. I don't even think that the left is that outraged. I think they find Norris to be an idiot and wondered why Huckabee spent anytime around him. But they are wondering where the outrage is.

And I disagree with you, btw. If a liberal said stuff like this, just as if a liberal compared their opposition to the Taliban--the right wing and the MSM would go nuts. Resolutions would be offered in Congress, and death threats would be issued by the more fringy of the right. Hell, the Dixie Chicks got some of that, and all they did was say they were embarrassed by Bush.

I don't think Republicans agree with Norris. I think Republicans don't recognize how much the center of their political leadership has moved to the right without them. Until they wrest control back from that wingnut right, then I am not sure the Republicans have a lot to complain when Rush or Hannity, or Beck makes them look bad.

steves said...

I think we are misreading each other. Conversing in a blog seems to do this fairly often.

Your analysis of Churchill and Norris is good and I tend to agree. Churchill was already unpopular among conservatives. His 9-11 comments made him a more mainstream bad guy. I actually feel kind of sorry for him. The University seemed ok with all of his antics up until the 9-11 comments surfaced. He was then fired for all the stuff that they had previously ignored and the University says it has nothing to do with the 9-11 essay. That just doesn't seem fair.

I think the Republicans don't really know what to do with entertainers like Rush, Beck and Hannity. As much as I would like the party to tell them to popund sand, that just isn't politically wise.

ubub said...

Did conservatives generally know who Churchill was prior to the dust up over his Little Eichmann's essay? I am not sure he was generally well known outside fairly esoteric academic circles.

People in Native Studies specifically and ethnic studies generally knew of him, but his work has always been controversial in those circles as well because of the documentation issues that would later emerge and the overall polemical nature of his work.

I found his media criticism in Fantasies of the Master Race to be compelling, and his work on AIM, the Black Panthers, and COINTELPRO to be good stuff. Little Eichmann's is representative of his even more highly charged turn later in his career.

Yes, I recognize this wasn't the main point . . .

Streak said...

Steve, that is my point as well. The wingnuts on the right are allowed, if not invited, into the mainstream of the Republican party. They are the talk shows that Republicans use to speak to the base (remember that Cheney often went on Limbaugh's radio show), and they are the pool of experts that Bush and Cheney relied on to plan their foreign and domestic policy (Perle, Wolfowitz, and yes, Cheney). When you say that Republicans don't know what to do with them, that seems partially true, but also partially incomplete.

I think that the moderate Republicans, or grownup Republicans fit that description, but many of them were quite willing to at least look the other way when Republicans were winning elections and deregulating the market and cutting their taxes.

I think what amazes me (and I am still rather stunned by the Jon Stewart interview with Cramer right now, btw) is how much of a voice the right wing crazies have in America as compared to their representation in the country at large.

As I keep saying, it is time for the grownups to take charge. It won't happen as long as Limbaugh enjoys this role, and it won't happen with Newt Gingrich.

Streak said...

Good example of this madness is here. Glen Beck sympathizing with people going on shooting sprees because conservatives are called racists.

How do grownup repubs not vomit when they see this guy?

steves said...

ubub, I had read about Churchill and his antics over the years in conservative blogs and message boards. I doubt that ditto heads and joe plumbers had heard of him prior to the 9-11 comments, but he was known outside of academia.

I think what amazes me (and I am still rather stunned by the Jon Stewart interview with Cramer right now, btw) is how much of a voice the right wing crazies have in America as compared to their representation in the country at large.

Me too. I wish I had an answer.

How do grownup repubs not vomit when they see this guy?

I avoid him. I doubt I have ever listened to him for more than a few minutes and I don't bother with his show.