Today I’ve written brief discussions of what the Religious Right and the so-called Objectivist movement look like when taken to extremes. The majority of people in either movement aren’t trying to achieve those extremes, but it’s worthwhile to realize what those extremes would look like. The contrast between the two shows just how strange it is that they are currently quasi-allies.
The Tea Party works under the guise of fiscal conservatism, but those who support it include a strange mixture of evangelical social conservatives and libertarian-Objectivists. Church ladies end up demonstrating next to guys who are on the verge of “going Galt,” just as soon as they perfect that perpetual-motion machine, along with the dude who wants to keep the government out of his Medicare. The ultimate goals of these factions couldn’t be further apart.
Brief history tangent – warning, oversimplification ahead:
In recent history, the Republican Party has generally been a compromise between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. Time and again, with the support of big business funding, Republicans would appeal to socially conservative voters, especially by demonizing their enemies (Pinko! ERA! Abortion! Teh gay!!! (sic)), but once in office they would focus on the fiscally conservative agenda which generally benefited their big business sponsors, with the occasional sop to social conservatism when it was safe. Some overlap occurred, as in the NRA (gun companies and social conservatives unite), and sometimes the social conservatives noticed that their agenda wasn’t the one being pushed. But it was generally a solid strategy.
Libertarians, of course, felt left out in the cold. Generally socially liberal, they could occasionally get behind social conservative causes that looked to them like liberty but were actually pandering to the socially conservative base. (Remember Rand Paul criticizing the Civil Rights Act?) And they usually were all for the no-government position being pushed by big business. So they sort of voted Republican, and if they paid attention, they knew that the Republican talk about social conservatism was mostly talk.
Return from history tangent:
But the Tea Party is another story altogether. Supposedly grass-roots, it’s largely funded by the Koch brothers, who are more than willing to use the guise of populism to push through more pro-business changes. But the Tea Party’s feelings (I can’t bring myself to say that it has ideas.) are mostly dissociated from the business wing of the Republican party. In that sense, they truly are populist; the Koch brothers et al. have done a masterful job of convincing a segment of the population to agitate for government to do things that will harm the people agitating. Since the election and at CPAC (Republican Woodstock), we’re starting to see how the folks in power are going to try to harness this energy to pull their faction’s hobbyhorse.
This explains some of the weirdness after the recent election: the conservative coalition desperately wants less government and a balanced budget, except where it concerns women’s bodies, the traditional battleground of social mores. As far as women’s bodies are concerned, we need more laws, more regulations, and more oversight, and especially more government intruding into the relationship between doctor and patient. No word on how denying funding for women’s healthcare will solve the budget crisis, but it’s apparently just as important if not more so.
The strange combination of Teavangelicals and Teajectivists (along with other kinds of fiscal conservatives) also explains some of the cracks appearing in the conservative facade, as shown in the recent dustup over who gets to come to CPAC: social conservatives got mad because some gay Republicans were going to be allowed.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we can depend on this infighting to stop or even seriously slow down the weirdly mixed conservative agenda. The differences between the factions will only arise when they’ve implemented their major ideas (see previous two graphics) and are arguing over the details, while the rest of us have already been screwed. Neither the Religious Right nor the so-called Objectivists have any reason to compromise built into their ideas or policies.