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Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party
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From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Blumenthal documents the movement of conservative evangelicals from the political wings to center stage, delving into the psyches of those who now lead a Republican Party "fixated on abortion, homosexuality and abstinence education; resentful and angry." Guided by Eric Hoffer's 1951 cult classic The True Believer ("Faith in a holy cause, is to some extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves,") and Eric Fromm's 1941 psychoanalytical study of the Nazi movement (Escape from Freedom), Blumnthal suggests that childhood abuse has shaped the personalities of key leaders, including Focus on the Family guru James Dobson. Blumenthal is at his best examining these characters up close, including presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and his born-again conversion; John Hagee, a Pentecostal pastor who lauded Hitler for "forcing the Jews to Israel"; Sarah Palin, whose political aspirations first came to her as part of a religious conversion; and evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, a self-proclaimed spiritual warrior caught in a relationship with a male prostitute. For those who enjoyed Jeff Sharlet's Capitol Hill exposé The Family, this makes a spicy follow-up.
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"With scarcely more than a pith helmet, a notebook, and a tattered copy of Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm’s great study of authoritarian psychology, the dauntless Max Blumenthal set forth years ago to explore the dank forests of American Christianism. Now he has returned to civilization, bringing back a fine collection of shrunken heads and a riveting account of a religio-political subculture that’s even weirder than you thought it was. Republican Gomorrah is an irresistable combination of anthropology and psychopathology that exerts the queasy fascination of (let’s face it) something very like pornography."
“A brave and resourceful reporter adept at turning over rocks that public-relations-savvy Christian conservative leaders would prefer remain undisturbed.”
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G. W. Bush won the Republican nomination in 2000, despite a sorry life history : "With his willingness to trumpet the personal crises that led him to Jesus, Bush was able to connect to the new Republican base in a way few politicians before him had done." (252) "... the 25 percent of the public that still approved of Bush's leadership by the end of his second term represented the backbone of the Republican Party. Indeed, by 2006 the Republican Party had been so thoroughly subsumed by the Christian right, and so well purged of most of its moderate elements, that the insufficiently religious primary frontrunners entered the race [in 2008] with severe handicaps." (253)
[After eight years of President Obama, which raised the fever of the political white conservative evangelicals, this handicap remained true of the crowd of candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016, who were defeated by the most vulgar candidate, neither notably religious or Republican, who understood that the base was motivated by cultural resentment and anger at both parties and at the secular liberal trend of the nation. The rise of Trump is further evidence of the collapse of a once great principled party. ~~ my comment]
This deeply researched and engrossing book explains how it happened. All the big movers in the political white conservative evangelical movement, and their feuds with each other, and their shocking sexual and financial scandals, and their cynical bargains with political operators loaded with plutocrat money, are reported here, and though I followed these developments fairly closely at the time, I learned a lot of startling and informative details from this bold book, and from Blumenthal's use of Erich Fromm's book "Escape From Freedom" as a source of understanding.
It wasn't always so, though. Remember the "Religious Right?"
Barely two years ago a young, award-winning journalist and blogger named Max Blumenthal -- son of Sidney Blumenthal, late of the Clinton White House -- published an examination of this earlier incarnation of Republican extremism. His book, Republican Gomorra, was a New York Times bestseller and was warmly welcomed by readers who had scratched their heads in consternation over the peculiar beliefs and irrational antics of this seemingly all-powerful movement as it moved to gain dominance in the Republican Party. Blumenthal's psychosocial analysis, grounded in the work of Erich Fromm, delves deeply into the psyches of many of the movement's leaders, most notably James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Rick Warren (yes, the Rick Warren who gave the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration). .
Now, don't make the mistake of confusing the Religious Right with the Tea Party, which are uncomfortable bedfellows and mutually inconsistent in many key ways. For example, it was Dobson and his allies who were behind the ouster of Dick Armey from his leadership post on Capitol Hill, finding that the Congressman, whose priorities revolve around federal spending, was not sufficiently supportive of the social agenda of the Religious Right.
Blumenthal, bowing to Erich Fromm, likens the Religious Right to the authoritarian movements that seized control in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Dissecting the ideology and public practices of this allegedly "Christian" movement (which is hardly Christian in any meaningful way, so far as I can see), Blumenthal finds that its beliefs boil down to beating children into submission when young so that they will be obedient followers of the movement's father figures as they get older. Not surprisingly, as Fromm so convincingly showed, this practice leads to numerous pathologies. It helps to explain why the Republican Party has been upended by so many lurid sex scandals in recent years. And if you think for one minute that this analysis is exaggerated, check out Dobson's books (Dare to Discipline, The Strong-Willed Child).
This is a lively and fascinating book based on five years of interviews with the luminaries of the Religious Right, and it's worth reading today despite the fact that its narrative ends with the election of Barack Obama. The Religious Right may no longer hog the headlines, but there's no mistaking its continuing hold on so many of the levers of power.
With the myriad right-wing, religious associations coalescing to propel dominionist adherents to broader and higher positions in our government I feel a need to know more about these politicians, their staffers and their consultants. Most of all I would like to know more about their sponsors.
The most zealous of the religious supremacists would like to crush my constitutional right to liberty in the United States of America and tell me what to do. I'm even sure that many of the persons mentioned in this book have working plans for someone like me, either to force me to believe the biblical translations their leaders subscribe to or to purge me from every inch of American soil they control and dominate.
Thank you Max for letting me know what you know. The book may be trashed by people who feel their leaders' designs threatened when Americans hear these stories but if their goal is to gain power and then persecute me I want to know all I can before deciding who to vote for.