- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Nation Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (July 13, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568584172
- ASIN: B004P5OPAM
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 145 customer reviews
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Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party Paperback – Bargain Price, July 13, 2010
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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.”
—Rick Perlstein, New York Times Book Review
“Max Blumenthal’s bold and brash reporting style should not overshadow his keen understanding of the extremist ideology that passes for “conservatism” in America today. A witty writer who thinks for himself, he shows the mainstream media where the story is, not vice versa. And his short videos have transformed the conservative crack-up into must-see TV.”
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Blumenthal’s book can be considered a period history of the Republican Party in late 20th Century, through roughly 2008, an expose into the sleazy lives of certain Republican party leaders, or as a case study of the authoritarian, fascist, mind.
This sorry tale centers on James Dobson and his organization Focus on the Family. At worst the book depicts James Dobson as an outright fraud and charitably as an opportunistic huckster. FOTF, his organization, is portrayed superficially as a nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote religious goals to the family, but in reality acts as a crypto-clearinghouse to vet anyone interested in a career in politics. It is important to pander to Dobson and FOTF, because their approval means tapping into the substantial votes from conservative Evangelistic voters.
A good example of FOTF’s function is seen in the career of Tom Delay. Known for years in Washington as “Hot Tub Tom” for his playboy and boozing lifestyle, Dobson approached Delay when it became politically expedient, Delay “saw the light,” repented, declared himself a Christian, and found political success. Delay’s career crashed and burned afterwards due to many other factors, but primarily from being implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The book describes an almost endless array of like-minded characters from the political past, some largely forgotten, some still with us. For example, David Vitter, Senator from Louisiana. Vitter got caught literally with his pants down by frequenting notorious brothels in New Orleans twice sometimes three times a week. He survived thereafter only because, with his tail between his legs, he crawled before Dobson and FOTF, pledged allegiance to them and behaved himself afterwards. Or Larry Craig, who was to plead guilty to a charge of soliciting in a men’s restroom, only to unsuccessfully withdraw his plea, but did not or could not pander to Dobson or FOTF and thereafter lived in obscurity. Or the well-known and once-powerful Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House. He married his High School sweetheart, and constantly philandered her throughout his marriage, only later to seek a divorce to marry a staffer with whom he had been having an affair, his present wife, by serving the divorce papers on his wife while she was in the hospital for cancer treatment. What a guy.
These and the other personages in the book have one common denominator — James Dobson, FOTF, and the several think tanks, councils and other splinter organizations under his control.
The word “hypocrisy” inadequately describes the mental processes here at work. What is also involved is sado-masochism, narcissism, submission, denial, and other characteristics of the authoritative personality. From time to time Blumenthal will interject commentary, not his own, but extracts from other psychological and sociological studies, to explain the authoritative mind and the mindset of this movement, notably from Eric Fromm.
The most bizarre facet of this dysfunctional mindset is its stance on sex. On the one hand this movement is staunchly, vociferously, anti-gay, pro-traditional marriage. On the other hand, however, there is a strong homoerotic articulation of the values in some of the fringe offshoots of the Dobson/FOTF branch, which served to inform a pervasive covert homosexual subculture in the political landscape of the conservative movement. The book documents the casualties from the numerous gay sex scandals which were uncovered in the 1990s and 2000s — Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, the Congressional Page scandal, to name the most prominent. Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House following Gingrich, is mentioned in this book, but his own gay sex scandal has only recently come to light and had not yet surfaced at the time this book was written.
Such is the self-delusion inherent in this mindset that one conservative leader was quoted in the book as saying that hypocrisy is a good thing!
To be fair, Blumenthal does not (nor does this reviewer) hide his political sympathies. Blumenthal appears however to overstate the precise nature of Dobson’s teachings. For example, Dobson does not recommend that parents should inflict hurtful, excessive, corporeal punishment on their children, contrary to the impression created in this book. Dobson recommends that the punishment should be just enough to “get their attention” and not cause psychological trauma.
But while Dobson’s teachings may be exaggerated, the extent of his influence and the internal rot in the conservative movement, engineered by those teachings, is not. Blumenthal’s book shines a light into a political landscape most of the electorate does not know or would care to notice.
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.
Mr. Blumenthal did a large amount of research in this journalistic endeavor and he added a section at the end of the book to cover the first year of the Obama administration.
One Eisenhower quote that seldom gets mentioned is found in the Introduction, it's a warning and it's not about the military-industrial complex.
"His admonition to beware the danger posed to democracy by those who seek 'freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex ands difficult questions.'"
That is a tool used quite effectively by the conservative media apparatus.
One of the intriguing subjects in "Republican Gomorrah" was the discovery of Sarah Palin, who discovered her, how and what they did to promote her.
Another is the general history of the religious right on homosexuality and hypocrisy.
Contrasting the downfall of Larry Craig and Ted Haggard with conservatives like David Vitter and Newt Gingrich.
Added to the mix is the "kingmaker" that believes his endorsement is essential for any potential Republican presidential candidate.
Look too deeply into the conservative religious right and you see double-standards and lots of activity that runs counter to Scripture.
On page 42 the author writes "Under Reconstructionist rules of engagement, lying, deception, and stealth are considered legitimate tactics and are even encouraged."
This book is thoroughly documented and is a fast read. More important is what it exposes in the Republican Party and how that element wormed it's way in.
This is a fairly current work and one that every American voter should read.