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In American politics, patriotism, race-baiting, and faith-based pandering are the last refuge of a scoundrel. And this political season militant GOP appeals to white Christian evangelicals have veered into neo-Cold War hysteria. One of the most powerful scenes in Orwell’s 1984 was when Party member O’Brien succeeds in brainwashing protagonist Winston Smith into believing that 2+2 equals 5. Smith and O’Brien have a master-slave relationship of the most excruciating emotional intimacy. Smith comes to love, depend on and care for O’Brien, and, ultimately, Big Brother, even as they beat him into mental submission.
Similarly, the Religious Right has been seductively virtuosic in its 2+2=5 mass doublespeak; convincing mainstream America that Christians are the new minority and that commie pinko “secular progressives” (Bill O’Reilly’s preferred “smear”) are at the helm of a socialist conspiracy. The latest salvo in right wing doublespeak comes from Rick Perry, playing the Christian victim card in a desperate bid to remain relevant in the hinterlands. Primed for the Iowa caucus, Perry’s new campaign ad opens with an alpha male declaration that he is not “ashamed” to say he is a Christian. The ad then blasts the very Christian-identified Obama’s “war” on religion, the indecency of allowing gays to serve openly in the military and the prohibition on prayer in schools.
When Newt Gingrich coined the term “secular socialist” machine to promote a new book slamming the Obama administration he was just another overpaid neo-con on the rubber chicken circuit. In the years since he was forced out of Congress in disgrace, he has sleazed up to evangelicals with a Ted Bundy-esque conversion/redemption line—“humbly” laying his sins as a serial philanderer and ethics violator at the feet of God. Now his rise as frontrunner in the GOP race ensures that Glock force culture war rhetoric, diverting attention from the GOP’s war on the working class, will continue to command center stage. Good Christians know that poor children, who, according to Gingrich, never see anyone working in their crack-ridden, pimp-patrolled, drive-by riddled urban jungles, should rightfully be shoveling the shit of the bootstrapped middle class. This is what God intended. Poverty doesn’t speak the language of hard work, thrift and enterprise and poor children mean lazy Blacks and Latinos, shuffling from classrooms to prison cells. In a rigidly segregated downwardly mobile society the GOP’s moral assault on workers’ human rights and protections for poor children is the perfect template for a fascist Christian nationalism.
Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars.