“The Moral Majority is Neither”
This succinct summary of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority movement was the message on one of the only bumper stickers I’ve ever displayed.
I’d like to paste another message on my bumper if I could find a sticker that read, “The Christian Right is Neither.”
These two slogans and the movements they slyly disparage are a pretty good representation of the last 50-60 years of American social and political history.
My adult lifetime has spanned two very broad and significant periods:
The eruption of social justice as realized in the civil rights movement, the first feminist wave and the gay rights movement.
The persistent, increasingly violent, backlash against civil rights, feminism/women’s rights and gay rights.
Both the Moral Majority and the Christian Right were and are nothing more than organized bigotry dressed up in its Sunday best, pushing back on social progress. And as the bumper sticker wisdom suggests, these regressive movements are neither “moral” nor “Christian,” neither “majority” nor “right.”
Political commentary has often expressed befuddlement that so many Americans, predominantly poor, white Republicans, seem to vote against their own interests. They reject Democrats who offer relief from devastating health care costs. They vote against Democrats who would raise the minimum wage and protect workers’ rights. They vote for Republicans who cut taxes for the wealthy and threaten to reduce Social Security and Medicare and shred other elements of the social safety net. It’s not complicated. Such voters are fearful or resentful of “the other” and they would rather “own the libs” than own a new car or have universal health care.
There was a time when Republicans were the party of genteel bigotry, more inclined toward white linen tablecloths than white robes. (It would be disingenuous to omit acknowledgement of a few moderate Republicans who stood tall for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights.) But those days are long gone, as leaders in the Republican Party have fully surrendered to the racists and hooligans who were always muttering racial, misogynist and homophobic slurs on the sidelines. Now the racists and hooligans are in the starting lineup.
Looks can be deceiving. The recent arrest of homophobic thugs – Patriot Front members – headed to a pride event in Utah was front page news. The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other white supremacist groups are prominent in the ongoing coverage of the January 6th insurrection and the current Congressional hearings. It creates the illusion that this far right idiocy is a new thing.
But it is not. The bit players swarming the Capitol and running for office in the hinterlands have always been there, bitching on barstools, reading the supermarket tabloids and muttering about “those people.” I suspect their numbers are not significantly more or less than decades ago.
What’s new is that they have been empowered by greedy, cynical men (and a few women) in fancy suits and bulging bank accounts who lie with bravado and would sell their mothers for a few moments on Fox News.
McCarthy, McConnell, Graham, Brooks, Cruz, Cotton, Thune, Blunt, Scott, Blackburn, Burr . . . you know the rest of the list.
There are a few really dumb ones – Gosar, Gaetz, Gohmert, Jordan, Greene, Boebert . . . you know the rest of that list too. But they would have no power if the others had a spine and a conscience.
If Republican “leaders” and power brokers hadn’t sold their souls all the others would be irritants, not explosives that threaten the republic. A small amount of courage and we would be back to the same sustainable level of disagreement and dysfunction that I’ve observed for a lifetime.
It is not an accident that all these folks, from the Proud Boys down to the Senate Minority Leader, wrap themselves in Christian sanctimony, pledging dual allegiance to the flag and the cross. Frankly, there is no meaningful distinction between the flags used to flog the Capitol Police on January 6th and the flags and crosses worn as signals of virtue by the Republican leaders who are complicit in the erosion of democracy.
As the late Christopher Hitchens once said about Jerry Falwell, “The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing: that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called ‘reverend’.”
The phrases “Moral Majority” and “Christian Right” are just semantic lipstick on bigoted pigs.