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How the Modern GOP Is Like a Death Cult

Contemporary conservatism has surrendered to a virulent, dystopian, and pathologically hyper-individualist state of nature.

They cheer at the thought of  an uninsured person dying. They cheer at the thought of  state-sponsored murder. In all, the 2012 Tea Party Republican debates have revealed that they are a death cult.

Some observers were shocked and surprised by the behavior of the Tea Party Republicans and their supporters during the primary debates. Others  have complained that CNN's surrender of air-time to the Tea Party is a compromise of journalistic ethics. I would suggest to the latter that CNN  performed a public service by providing a window into the Tea Party Republican soul. And to the former, there should be no surprise here: in the age of Obama, contemporary conservatism has surrendered to a virulent, dystopian and pathologically hyper-individualist state of nature, "all against many," type of populist right-wing ideology.

From the  proclamations of Republican officials that the unemployed are poor because they lack spirit and  drive, an Orwellian political vocabulary of "job creators" and " non-productive citizens," opines that  poor people in America have it relatively easy (thus austerity politics ought not to be that painful), and a belief that the social safety net (basic programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance) has  destroyed the United States and made people  "lazy,"contemporary conservatism has fully embraced a politics that are utterly and totally bereft of human empathy.

My claim that the Republican Party is a death cult is a strong one that demands explication and transparency. "Cult" is a signal to the narrow thinking and state of  epistemic closure that has come to dominate conservative, right-wing political thought. As I have  suggested elsewhere, populist conservatism is also colored by an unflappable instinct that faith should be  the guiding principle  in political decision making--what is a belief in the unprovable--that fuels a theocratic vision of public policy under the umbrella of Christian Nationalism and Dominionism. Because the Tea Party GOP's foot soldiers, as well as the Bachmanns, Palins, Perrys, and Cains believe a thing to be true--often in the face of all available evidence and data on the subject--it must in turn be as they imagine. Reality must always bend to their will: the anti-intellectualism of populist conservatism demands that the facts are to be damned; empirical reality is to be discounted as some type of plot by the mainstream media, "liberals," or "elites."

The cultish behavior of the Republican Party is manifest by a rigid orthodoxy of ideology. Those who do not pray at the mantle (and in the approved position)  are labeled heretics. Any conservative who challenges the far-right agenda or believes in pragmatism and normal politics, i.e. working with President Obama and the Democrats in the interest of the common good, is labeled a traitor or a heretic.

Likewise, those who dare to suggest that taxes should be increased on the wealthiest Americans to increase revenue, or that the government has a role to play in providing some relief during the worst economy since the Great Depression, are cast out of the tribe for daring to utter words and hold ideas that are verboten to the high acolyte "true believers" in the Republican Party.
The "death" in my use of the phrase "death cult" is both literal and symbolic. The symbolic aspect works in a number of ways. First, it is present in the Right's support for rampant militarism abroad and how the Right has skillfully used the "national security" narrative, the mass public's fear of terrorism, and an almost pornographic appeal to the tragedy of 9/11 to seduce low-information conservative voters and Independents into supporting their political agenda.


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