Debt Ceiling Holy War: Why Do Conservatives Have Unshakable Faith in Ideas That Are Totally, Demonstrably False?
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Yes, there is a class war in the United States. But it is being waged against the middle and working classes, where for the last 40 years the minimum wage has effectively decreased when controlled for inflation, and earnings have gone down when controlled for inflation—all in an era when highly favorable tax policies have encouraged unprecedented economic growth for the richest Americans. In a post-Citizens United era when corporations can donate unlimited monies to influence elections, these radical levels of economic inequality will only worsen.
The debt ceiling crisis has revealed the noxious hold that a politics of faith--one that is immune from reason and fact--has on the contemporary Republican Party. In practice, politics ought to be based on compromise. Because faith supersedes reason for conservatives in the Age of Obama, compromise is made difficult…if not impossible. As revealed by the debt ceiling crisis, the Tea Party GOP’s need for ideological purity is the fuel for a dangerous holy war where the target is the economy of the United States, and the American people are collateral damage.
This is a systemic challenge to the common good because the Republican Party’s steely resistance to compromise in the debt ceiling negotiations is a function of other trends. First, eliminationist rhetoric that vilifies liberals and progressives as un-American, traitors, evil, degenerates, a disease, a mental illness, or a group of people who should be destroyed through violence, is a type of lingua franca in the right-wing media echo chamber. From this point of view, why would conservatives ever compromise with those who disagree with them?
Second, the racially tinged right-wing populist rhetoric of Sarah Palin’s brigades, and the Tea Party with their yearnings to “take back America,” suggests a deep antipathy to an increasingly diverse and multicultural United States and its first black president. Here, the Right appears willing to see this version of America destroyed in order to advance their political agenda. The United States of the 21st century is at the apotheosis of empire. It is also a nation where white folks will soon “only” be a plurality of the population. Ultimately, it is no longer the “real America” anyway, so why would racially reactionary white conservatives want to save it?
In sum, as David Brooks sharply suggested several weeks ago, the contemporary Republican Party is not practicing “normal politics.” Rather, it is behaving like a cult, drunk on the cheap whiskey of political orthodoxy and deaf to the world of facts. To the present, the Tea Party GOP has painted itself into a corner in the debt ceiling fight. Frighteningly, they may see no other option but to salt the earth and bring the temple down on the heads of the American people in order to prove the righteousness of their cause.