Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fascist friends

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Update: For more on the Giuliani-Robertson copulation, go see Creature over at State of the Day.)

Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani -- on which Edward posted here and which everyone is talking about here (and see also here) -- seems to be, oh, rather odd, given the former's theocratic absolutism and the latter's less-than-stellar theocratic credentials (to put it mildly). Robertson's evident craziness may have something to do with it -- this is the man who said in response to 9/11 that the U.S. "deserved" to be attacked, this among many other such comments over the years -- but, upon reflection, it actually makes sense.

And for a couple of reasons:

1) Steve Benen:

Giuliani has been trying to circumvent religious-right leaders all year, but Robertson has been the exception. Giuliani has been to Regent University, he's been a regular on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and he's sat down a few times with CBN's David Brody. For those of us who've been watching these two, Giuliani and Robertson have been like two peas in a pod for quite some time.

Some of the media reports this morning have suggested this undermines the for Giuliani's campaign among leading evangelicals. These reporters don't appreciate the fact that the religious-right movement has serious schisms — and Robertson hasn't been in the mainstream for years. His principles are malleable, his ideas are embarrassing, and his goal is to have a seat at the table. Robertson goes where the political winds take him.

Dobson, Wildmon, Weyrich, Land, and others are ideologues, not partisans. Robertson is the opposite.

Robertson, like many Republicans, and like many conservatives generally, wants to win. It's that simple. Dobson and his ilk want to win, too, and will in all likelihood support the Republican nominee no matter what, Giuliani or not, but they are also influential as a movement outside the political arena. They may think they're more powerful than they really are, but they are prepared, it seems, to back away from the Republican Party if it refuses to follow their lead and adopt their agenda. They may end up throwing their weight behind Giuliani in the end, if only because Giuliani, to them, is preferable to Clinton or any other Democrat, but, barring a late conversion to fundamentalism from Giuliani, that would be a matter of narrow political calculation and a reluctant move, not the sort of warm embrace Robertson threw around Giuliani yesterday.

Robertson may be crazy, but he is also a partisan -- like Giuliani now, he was a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination -- perhaps more of a partisan than some of the ideologues on the theocratic right. Dobson's fight, in a way, is better than this one election. But what does Robertson have left? Not much, which may explain why he is backing the frontrunner. He wants to win, or at least to be on the winning side, and Giuliani is his preferred horse. In this, he is much more like mainstream conservatives, as well as the neocons, than the theocrats. The former often put power before principle. They are willing to compromise, to risk the taint of hypocrisy, to sell out -- or, to put it more positively, they are political pragmatists who understand that picking the lesser of two or more evils is often what electoral politics comes down to. The latter usually put principle before power, that is, before the short-term acquisition of power (the long-term acquisition of power is another matter -- their goal is the combination of principle and power, or theocracy).

I do not mean to suggest that Robertson is as clear-sighted as the "political pragmatists" I've set up in contrast to theocrats. Nor do I mean to suggest that all mainstream conservatives think this way. But I do think that the desire for power is extremely powerful on the right, more powerful than it is on the left, and this explains in part the success of the Republican Party in recent election cycles, not to mention the wildly disproportionate influence of the conservative movement, serious schisms notwithstanding, over the past generation or so.

2) Andrew Sullivan:

[Robertson] is a charlatan and a religious phony. He has enriched himself at the expense of millions of gullible Christians who did not understand that this man's sole principle is his own power and wealth. It doesn't surprise me that he sees eye to eye with Giuliani. They are very similar characters. But he does represent what may be becoming the consensus among Christianists: that the war on Islamic terrorism is the prime issue; and that the way to tackle it is by increasing military aggression, bombing or occupying Muslim countries, preserving Israel solely to hasten the Apocalypse, and entrenching torture as a pillar of American national security policy. The fusion of Giuliani's authoritarianism with Robertson's Christianism is indeed one future path for the GOP. It is enlightening to me to witness two very similar politicians sink their differences to forge that new, fascistic direction.

This is what now unites conservatives and Republicans across the spectrum even more than the desire for power: the war on terror, anti-Islamism, and authoritarianism. Giuliani may not be the liking of many social conservatives, and he may not be much of one himself, but his positions on the Iraq War and Occupation, Iran, torture, domestic surveillance, and national security generally, as well as on the economy (extreme neoliberalism), are very much in line with those of all conservatives today, from the laissez-faire free-marketers to the neocons to the theocrats, from Wall Street to The Weekly Standard to Colorado Springs. The libertarians may not care for Giuliani, but the Ron Pauls of the world are hardly central to the conservative movement these days.

Giuliani is, in a sense, Singapore -- if Singapore were a superpower with a huge military and political, economic, and cultural influence around the world. I'll put it another way: Giuliani would turn the U.S. into Singapore: an authoritarian free-market state waging a war on terror alongside a war on individual rights both at home and abroad. He would cut taxes and block universal health care. He would warmonger in the Middle East and torture detainees. He would deregulate the economy and spy on American citizens.

Are there contradictions there? Sure. Every ideology, and certainly every political platform, is riddled with contradiction.

But this is what Giuliani stands for, and, more and more, it is evident that what he stands for is fascism, a fascist America that would surpass both in authoritarianism and neoliberalism anything and everything Bush and Cheney have done.

And this, along with the desire for power, is why Robertson, crazy Pat Robertson, put his stamp of approval on him yesterday.

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