Sunday Morning Coffee

A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:

Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”

There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.

When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.

Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”

This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate.  Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns.  Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues.  This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.

Guyton goes on to reframe salvation.  Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”

Read the whole thing.  Excellent essay.

This may or may not be an example of Guyton’s Christian nihilism, but Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars writes about Georgia State Senator Tommy Benton, who wants to protect Confederate monuments at Stone Mountain from destruction.  After comparing statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to ancient religious monuments, Benton went on to claim that the Ku Klux Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order. It made a lot of people straighten up,” he said.  Georgia voters elected a KKK supporter and a racist.  What a shocker.

Looks like big corporations can abuse the H1-B visa system to import immigrant workers to cut costs by replacing American workers.  They pour salt in the wound by forcing people to train their replacements.  And it looks like even anti-immigration conservatives who would happily break up families to enforce the letter of immigration law have no problem with this gaming of the system.  I”m talking to you Ted Cruz.

Donald Trump seems to have won his bet on skipping the GOP debate the other night.  But as a veteran I must say that his politicization of veteran’s issues irks me a bit.  I don’t like people who exploit sympathy for the brave men and women who sacrificed their bodies and mental health to protect us from foreign enemies.  So I can only hope that Trump’s event didn’t raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which apparently uses donations meant to provide care for veterans and their families to pay high salaries and fund lavish conferences instead.

Finally, Erik Loomis writes about his Bernie Sanders skepticism at Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

I still completely believe that Sanders’ core supporters (and I am probably overstating the power of internet leftists as some suggested in the original comment on this) will turn on him with a fury as the next sellout once he takes power and has to compromise. But on top of this, I don’t believe that Sanders can create a political revolution. In fact, I think there is essentially no chance of it. It seems that Sanders supporters think there is going to be a wave of left-populist candidates swept into office with him. But where are those candidates in current House races? Where are the open Bernie acolytes either challenging moderate Democrats in primaries or running in conservative House districts that are heavily gerrymandered? Because while there are probably a few, I sure don’t see some broader platform of leftist candidates here, nor has anyone told me how they are going to win a 60-40 Romney seat.

Loomis makes a lot of good points and you should read the whole thing.  I’ll write more about this in terms of Sanders as a norm entrepreneur who has a chance to shift the normative understandings we have about the American economy soon.  For now, I’ll just point out a couple of things to think about.  First, I’d very much like to see what Sanders would do with executive power, especially in terms of the FBI and Justice Department.  Whether or not his electoral constituency loses faith, the man will wield real power to investigate and prosecute previously overlooked violations of the law that favor banks, financial firms, and other corporations over what matters to Main Street America.  That this will publicize and expose these violations in ways they’ve never been is no small thing.

Let me also say that a Sanders general election campaign will motivate progressive voters in a way that will help elect a more liberal Congress if he has the support I think he does.  While this will have only a marginal effect in the House, it could help produce a much more liberal Senate since the GOP has to defend 24 seats to the Democrat’s ten.  And it looks like Republicans hold 8 of the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip.  Democrats win when liberals turn out to vote – so if Sanders can get progressives to show up at the polls he’ll likely help down ballot.  And a 60-seat Senate majority – very doable – matters a great deal for his appointment power.

No, Bernie Sanders won’t get single payer health insurance, stricter banking regulations, and stronger antitrust laws passed in his first hundred days.  But electing him would really matter for progressive policies, and far more than electing Obama did or electing Clinton would.  I’ll lay out more about why I think this is true soon.

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