Growing up in a conservative evangelical environment meant being very aware of the fact that liberal groups were out to destroy America. Environmentalists? Closet communist pagans, one-world government their primary goal. Gays? Profligate sex-fiends intent on destroying traditional families and recruiting children to their deprived lifestyle. Feminists were emasculating abortion-pushers who aimed to indoctrinate every child in Big Government daycare. Really. Every group pushing a progressive agenda was a threat to the American way, if not America itself. Conservatives, evangelicals, and the GOP positioned themselves as protectors of the American Dream and the very moral fabric of our society.
20+ years later this message continues, made pretty clear in the sources I link to above. I’m actually a little surprised at how easy it was to find current articles and blogs to support that first paragraph. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Ok, I shouldn’t be. But as progressive social values become more firmly embedded in American law and culture, the obvious fact is that our country hasn’t gone up in an apocalyptic blaze. Not even figuratively. Businesses and corporations continue to succeed even while adhering to supposed communist-level environmental standards, and the average American benefits from cleaner air. Straight marriage lives on, and divorce rates have dropped significantly since the rise of the gay rights movement in the 90s. And believe it or not, a vast majority of children still grow up attracted to the opposite sex despite the gays! Women in the workforce boost our economy while continuing to fight for the right to take care of the children they were supposed to neglect. Fewer women than ever are having abortions. Yet, despite all of this, the judgment of liberal progress as a threat to our great nation endures.
And oddly enough, it now seems that the champions of “traditional American values” and socially conservative principles are the ones threatening to destroy America as we know it. Literally. This isn’t some abstract danger conjured up by the Democrats to scare voters into throwing votes their way; this is a concrete menace manifesting itself in discourse and action.
Conservative media cheerily slanders our sitting president with labels like “tyrant.” They openly disparage “the gay agenda,” feminism, and what Bill O’Reilly cruelly refers to as “The Grievance Industry” (minorities who demand equality). All the while celebrating the potential these issues have to stir a violent revolution on the right. It’s almost like they want it to happen.
Republican politicians further stoke the flames by loudly calling Obama a socialist and dictator. Their presidential hopefuls (and sitting state governors) give speeches arguing that “the federal government should give up much of its policy-making power, letting states chart their own courses on issues ranging from business subsidies to abortion.” Those flames are rising: Since Obama’s overwhelming 2008 electoral victory on a platform of “hope,” “change,” and social justice for all, “patriot movement” groups who “see the federal government as their primary enemy” have increased tenfold. Over the same period, the number of active hate groups–as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center–has grown 66% and now tops 1000. Almost half of all Republicans believe that an armed revolution may soon “be necessary to protect liberties,” and an almost identical number support their state seceding from the Union.
This last weekend two horrifying events took place that have direct ties to the political right: In Georgia a member of the “sovereign citizens movement“–a group that sees the federal government as illegitimate–assaulted his local courthouse with smoke bombs and a gun, injuring a cop and dying himself in the resulting firefight. He was found to have more homemade explosives and ammunition in his possession and apparently intended to take hostages and occupy the building. In Nevada, a couple associated with right wing militias went on a shooting rampage, killing two cops and a civilian before taking their own lives in an apparent murder-suicide pact.
And that’s just recent history. Since 2000, violent attacks by far-right groups have increased over 400%.
Meanwhile, GOP obstruction in Congress has cost the American people billions in tax dollars. The 2011 Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States’ credit rating–the first ever–was a direct result of a debt ceiling standoff in which Republicans, in order to gain political points with the Tea Party, refused to do what every Congress had done since 1962 in raising the debt ceiling. In 2013 they allowed the federal government to shut down in their fanatical opposition to providing health insurance to more Americans.
And a quick defense of my connection between Christianity and right-wing conservatives: Let’s remember that, in 2012, 8 out of 10 self-described evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a man who pandered shamelessly to the far right and Tea Party movement. Thanks mostly to GOP stances on social issues like gay rights, abortion, and the environment, 70% of evangelicals favor the GOP and their ranks represent 30% of the total Republican voting base. If evangelicals withdrew their support from Republican candidates, the party would simply crumble. And I’m not even touching on national church leaders accusing Obama of being the Antichrist.
It turns out that conservatives aren’t concerned with America and its future so much as they are with preserving a specific agenda. Many of them are in fact just fine with the idea of violent government overthrow and Trojan Horse politics. They aren’t patriots; they’re opportunists. The fears they instigate through talk of liberal and secular conspiracies are nothing more than tactics meant to scare votes out of a gullible populace. They talked a good pro-American game, but the moment a perceived liberal became president and progressive policies a permanent feature of the American landscape, the message shifted from nationalism to secession, revolution, and federal illegitimacy. There is no interest in saving an America that doesn’t meet their specific criteria.
It was all a ruse.