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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.

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Second, "compassionate" conservatives (a label that is the very definition of double-speak) are  against extending basic income supports and humanitarian assistance to the neediest Americans. As recent data suggests, poverty leads to  death and a diminished lifespan. When the Tea Party Republicans stand against food stamps, unemployment insurance,  Medicaid, and other programs for those displaced by the Great Recession, through actions both direct and indirect, they are in fact killing people.
The literal embrace of death by the Tea Party Republicans works as follows. When supporters of the Republican Party howl that they "want to take their America back" they are signaling to an America that is dead and gone. Their halcyon  Leave it to Beaver  dreams of a country where whiteness was unchallenged and central in all things, and where "those people" stayed out of the way (or were either invisible or fully subservient to the whims of white folks), is gone.


With immigration, the "browning of America," and a black president, the white racial frame is upset, the cognitive map of the Tea Party Republican faithful is forced to deal with the unthinkable, that in some impossible way they could be marginalized in "their own" country. Of course, this is untrue. But the fear is real and palpable.  The death of American Empire is a close cousin to the death of the Tea Party Republicans' memory of a country that never really was.


America is facing unprecedented challenges from China. We rank increasingly low on educational attainment, class mobility, health care, and other measures. Where we are exceptional, in our debt and military spending on a bloated imperial project, the United States looks more like the British at the turn of the 20th century, a country in decline and struggling to manage how to fall with grace as opposed to a hellish crash.

The Tea Party base is also quite literally dying. Although the fancy social science phrase is "generational replacement," the reality is that the Tea Party GOP is comprised of white Americans who are much older than the general public. As America changes, the political values and beliefs which are a product of a political moment long past will quite likely become less of a force in American politics. Death for the Tea Party Republicans is a fact that lives in the present.

Ultimately, the sum effect of death's role in the political ideology of the Tea Party Republicans is akin to that of the  five stages of grief. They are stuck in the anger stage of the process: the Tea Party has not yet moved on to the step that is "acceptance." Tea Party Republicans are brought to a frothing rage and madness by fictions such as Birtherism and a belief that whites are oppressed because a black man is president. They rage about "class warfare" but look at unions, the working class, and the poor as the causes of America's economic calamity as opposed to the kleptocrats and the rich who have benefited from one of the most maldistributive economies in the Western world. In their eyes, government is the problem and never the solution. The State is to be torn down by secession and revolt.

The Tea Party GOP is angry about everything, but they do not know how to transform that energy into productive behavior and good governance. There is an additional metaphor at work in my suggestion that the Tea Party GOP is a death cult. Despite claims to the contrary, the Tea Party is  not a grassroots movement. They are funded by corporate interests such as  the Koch brothers. These conservative corporate elites who drive the faux populism of the New Right are acting as the hand on the Ouija board, a group of necromancers who play with death as channeled through the Republican Tea Party. In their Thanatos game, the corporate Right has unleashed a force that  the mainstream of the Republican Party is not able to fully controlThe Tea Party is extremely unpopular and their lack of acceptance by the American people is damaging the future electoral fortunes of the Republican Party as a whole.

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