When professor-cum-conservative martyr Michael Filozof, an adjunct professor of political science at the State University of New York at Brockport, sees a need for a “militant conservative movement,” you have to wonder what he thinks we’ve been seeing for the past few decades, ever since Christian fundamentalism inserted itself into Republican politics. Filozof makes the outrageous claim that “Leftists have a nearly religious, cult-like devotion to their cause that conservatives don’t.”
Since the 60s political conservatism (and the Republican Party) has increasingly identified itself with the social causes of fundamentalist Christianity, which is not “nearly religious” but zealously über-religious. We’ve gotten to the point where it’s not even accurate any more to speak of Republican politics – political theology would be a far more accurate term. What else can you call it when they’ve resurrected the idea of the “divine right” of kings?
The GOP doesn’t even have a political platform anymore outside the Bible – albeit a Bible most of them haven’t read or don’t understand. Demands to legislate the Ten Commandments have become as common-place as claims that the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments and that the Founding Fathers intended to establish a Christian theocracy on these shores (no explanation offered for why they didn’t express such intent or carry it out in the first place).
He advances the claim that “Gays, a tiny fraction of the population, have been organized and militant. This is true of the left in general.” (actually the percentage of gays and lesbians is far from tiny but more on that below). Has he slept through the past two years, as Tea Party-led groups have taken over state after state and imposed anti-democratic and anti-constitutional legislation on the people of those districts? The 2010 elections were manifestly a failure of the left to organize. Militancy did not appear on the scene until Tea Party regimes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere, began to attack the rights of working Americans in those states.
The United States has seen the most intense period of ultra-conservative politics in its history over the past decade, since George W. Bush became president, a conservatism mixed thickly with fundamentalist Christianity, both supported by big-moneyed interests. Look at the legislative record of just the past year, if you have any doubt.
Yet Filozof, apparently blinded by ideology, sees just the opposite:
“It’s time for conservatives to face the truth: there is no conservative party in the United States. There is a leftist party, and a slightly-less-leftist party.”
And no, this is not Stephen Colbert poking fun at conservatives. This is a bona fide conservative harboring these strange notions.
Filozof is the perfect example of this new type of religious conservative, who equates conservatism not with fiscal conservatism or foreign policy but Christian social conservatism. Republicanism has become not a species of politics but of religion. GOP does mean “God’s Own Party.” It can mean nothing else in this summer of 2011. It has meant nothing else for a long time before this.
Then we get to the lynchpin of Filozof’s bizarre reality matrix:
Forty percent of Americans self-identify as conservatives. Yet conservatives could not muster enough political support to defend traditional, heterosexual marriage against homosexuals, who comprise less than five percent of the population.
It’s true that a 2009 Gallup Poll says forty percent of Americans self-identify as conservatives:
Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative…
But Filozof forgets everyone else but the 5 percent whom he identifies as gay:
…35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.
It’s not 40 percent of the population vs. 5 percent of the population as he implies – it’s 40 percent vs. 56 percent. It’s not even 40 percent, since many who identify themselves as conservatives are socially moderate or liberal (27 percent according to Gallup).
And now we come to another Gallup Poll that Filizof judiciously ignores, an August 2002 poll that shows that fully”21% of men are gay and 22% of women are lesbians.” Twenty percent stacks up pretty well against 21 percent, wouldn’t you say? And that leaves out the rest of us who are not gay or lesbian but who support the Constitution’s demand for equal rights
Filozof is writing in 2011 using 2009 poll numbers. But another 2009 poll, a Washington Post/ABC News poll from April as compared to Gallup’s June release date, tells a vastly different story, one Filozof would not like publicized because it suggests that to be conservative does not mean the same thing as to be Republican:
Only 21 percent of people in the Post/ABC survey identified themselves as Republicans. This is down from 25 percent in a late March poll and at the lowest number since the fall of 1983. In that same poll, 35 percent self-identified as Democrats and 38 percent called them Independents.
But here is the key: the number of respondents who say their views are conservative is 35 percent, very close to the Gallup’s 40 percent. 23 percent say their views are liberal while 39 percent say theirs are moderate. This puts conservatives at a 35 vs. 61 percent disadvantage (compared to the Gallup’s 40 vs. 56 percent).
An NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll from September 2009 and a CBS poll from October 2009 put Republican numbers at just 18 percent and 22.5 percent, verifying the unpleasant facts revealed by the Washington Post/ABC News poll. Further verification comes from a 2008 Gallup Poll that Filozof is most certainly aware of but carefully does not mention showed that at that time only 27 percent were identifying themselves as Republicans – a much less imposing force than the legendary 40 percent vs. 5 percent.
It has been said that numbers can be made to say anything. All Filozof has proven is that this is true.
Conservatism is by definition a defense of the status quo. What else have we been seeing since 2001 if not a defense of the status quo? The defense of the wealthy, defense of America’s military industrial complex, defense of extremist degrees of nationalism manifesting itself as “American exceptionalism,”defense of “whiteness,” the traditional role of women as housewives, suppression of minorities, and “Christian” as a definition of “American”? Contrary to Filozof’s claims, the status quo has never had such staunch and militant defenders.
And then comes the obligatory “we are a persecuted minority” meme we are by now all so familiar with:
But the gays — whose campaign in New York was fronted by the circus freak Lady Gaga — have been everywhere, French-kissing on the steps of state capitols from Sacramento to Albany, marching through the streets of San Francisco in bondage leather, throwing condoms and hosts at priests celebrating Mass in New York City, running television ads advocating gay marriage, donating pro bono legal representation to their cause, and enacting vendettas, protests, and boycotts against anyone who disagrees with them.
Bigoted conservative Christian groups have been boycotting for far long than any LGBT group. And vendettas? A vendetta is defined as “an often prolonged series of retaliatory, vengeful, or hostile acts or exchange of such act.” I suppose Filozof means that by turning the tables on bigots such as himself by also engaging in boycotts that the LGBT community is not being sufficiently docile. It seems odd that Christians have a right to vote with their pocketbooks but no one else does.
I believe what Filozof is complaining about is the victim of persecution speaking up in his own defense rather than taking it like a good chap. The problem with the distorted worldview of fundamentalist Christianity is that opposing persecution is taken by those Christians to be persecution of them. Historically, even having to live side-by-side with a despised group has been construed as persecution, let alone the demand that they tolerate that group. In this respect, Filozi is being a typical fundamentalist Christian.
What Filozi doesn’t want to admit because he cannot admit it is that his conservative tent has gotten very small and as a consequence of lost privilege, very reactionary. The world is not as he thought or hoped it was, as his ideology insists it must be. He is the victim of cognitive dissonance, like so many of his fellow conservatives. Just as fundamentalists are a minority of the American population despite the majority of the population being Christian, only a minority of conservative voters are Republicans.
And as far as the need for a militant conservative movement, I guess Filozof doesn’t think well-armed right-wing militias are militant enough; he doesn’t believe Sharron Angle’s “second amendment remedies” are militant enough; he doesn’t think a crazed conservative trying to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords was militant enough; or the conservative who wanted to assassinate President Obama; I wonder if he thinks Arizona Republican Sen. Lori Klein pointing her .380 Ruger at Arizona Republican reporter Richard Ruelas is militant enough? Or will the only thing that satisfies him be the violent overthrow of the United States government and the imposition of a Christian theocracy?