04/07/2011 06:10 pm ET Updated Jun 07, 2011

The Roots of Republican Actions Today

The other day my two-year-old granddaughter vomited on me. I love her, didn't mind and cleaned up. I don't love the Tea Party and the Republicans who are presently puking on America. I won't forgive them. But I will help clean up: in 2012.

As a former Republican disgusted with the modern day version of a once actual political party now devolved into a far right religious right/loony right rabble all I can say is the Republicans have crossed a historical line from which there is no return. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin are not a cause but just another symptom of the political equivalent of Mad Cow disease.

The ideologues of the right who are willing to shut down the government, risk the fragile economy -- in a time of war no less ("patriots?") -- and who have hidden behind their racist "birther" code for the fact that they won't accept a black president... et al are puking on the rest of us.


How did we get here?

Get it through your heads: unless you understand the influence of nut-case religion on a nut-case "party" you can't make sense of what the Republicans are doing to America.

Following the election of our first black president, the "politics" of the Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Mormon Far Right was not the politics of a loyal opposition, but rather the instigation of revolution, which was first and best expressed by Rush Limbaugh when even before President Obama took office he said, "I hope Obama fails."

To the old-fashioned conservative mantra "Big government doesn't work," the (often racist) radicalized Evangelicals (and their Roman Catholic and Mormon co-belligerents) have added "The U.S. government is evil!"

And the very same community -- Protestant American Evangelicals -- who had once been the bedrock supporters of public education, and voted for such moderate and reasonable men as President Dwight Eisenhower, became the enemies of not only the public schools but also of anything in the (nonmilitary) public sphere "run by the government."

In the 1980s as they opened new institutions (proudly outside the mainstream), the Jesus Victims doing this "reclaiming" cast themselves in the role of persecuted exiles. What they never admitted was that they were self-banished from mainstream institutions, not only because the Evangelicals' political views on social issues conflicted with most people's views, but also because Evangelicals (and other conservative religionists) found themselves holding the short end of the intellectual stick.

Science marched forth, demolishing fundamentalist "facts" with dispassionate argument. Rather than rethink their beliefs, conservative religionists decided to renounce secular higher education and denounce it as "elitist." Thus, to be uninformed, even willfully and proudly stupid, came to be considered a Godly virtue. And since misery loves company, the Evangelicals' quest, for instance when Evangelicals dominated the Texas textbook committees, was to strive to "balance" the teaching of evolution with creationism and damn the facts.

Evangelical "Puritans"

In the minds of Evangelicals, they were recreating the Puritan's self-exile from England by looking for a purer and better place, this time not a geographical "place" but a sanctuary within their minds (and in inward-looking schools and churches) undisturbed by facts. Like the Puritans, the Evangelicals (and many other conservative Christians) withdrew from the mainstream not because they were forced to but because the society around them was, in their view, fatally sinful and, worse, addicted to facts rather than to faith.

And yet having "dropped out" (to use a 1960s phrase), the Evangelicals nevertheless kept on demanding that regarding "moral" and "family" matters the society they'd renounced nonetheless had to conform to their beliefs.

Palin Poster Child for Victimhood

In the first decade of the twenty-first century the Evangelical and conservative Roman Catholic (and Mormon) outsider victim "approach" to public policy was perfected on a heretofore undreamed of scale by Sarah Palin.

She was the ultimate holier-than-thou Evangelical queen bee to millions of alienated angry white lower-middle-class men and women convinced that an educated "elite" was out to get them.

Palin was first inflicted on the American public by Senator John McCain, who chose her as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election for only one reason: He needed to shore up flagging support from the Evangelical Republican antiabortion base. McCain wanted to prove that he was fully in line with the "social issues" agenda.

Palin presented herself as called by God and thus cast in the Old Testament mold of Queen Esther, one chosen by God to save her people. Palin perfected the Jesus Victim "art" of Evangelical self banishment and then took victimhood to new levels of success by cashing in on white lower-middle-class resentment of America's elites. She might as well have run under the slogan "I'm as dumb as you are!"

Tea Party Vomit

What's so curious is that in this religion-inflicted country of ours, the same Evangelicals, conservative Roman Catholics, and others who had been running around post-Roe v Wade insisting that America had a "Christian foundation" and demanding a "return to our heritage" (and/or more recently trashing health care reform as "communist") ignored the fact that one historic contribution of Christianity was a commitment to strong central government.

For instance, this included church support for state-funded, or state-church-funded, charities, including hospitals, as early as the fourth century. Government was seen as part of God's Plan for creating social justice and defending the common good. Christians were once culture-forming and culture-embracing people.

Evangelicals like Palin and Bachmann and their Tea Party followers seem to believe that
Jesus commanded that all hospitals (and everything else) should be run by corporations for profit, just because corporations weren't the evil government. The right even decided that it was "normal" for the state to hand over its age-old public and patriotic duties to private companies -- even for military operations ("contractors"), prisons, health care, public transport, and all the rest.

The religious right/far right Tea Party et al. favor private "facts," too. They claimed that global warming wasn't real. They asserted this because scientists (those same agents of Satan who insisted that evolution was real) were the ones who said human actions were changing the climate. Worse, the government said so, too!

"Global warming is a left-wing plot to take away our freedom!"

"Amtrak must make a profit!"

Even the word "infrastructure" lost its respectability when government had a hand in maintaining roads, bridges, and trains.

In denial of the West's civic-minded, government-supporting heritage, Evangelicals (and the rest of the right) wound up defending private oil companies but not God's creation, private cars instead of public transport, private insurance conglomerates rather than government care of individuals.

The price for the Religious Right's wholesale idolatry of private everything was that Christ's reputation is tied to a cynical union-busting political party owned by billionaires.

It only remained for a far right Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to rule in 2010 that unlimited corporate money could pour into political campaigns -- anonymously -- in a way that clearly favored corporate America and the super wealthy, who were now the only entities served by the Republican Party.

And now it is these extremists that have shown that they are willing to destroy our economy even risking a government shut down.

These are the people who also say president Obama isn't a real American, code for "not like us" -- in other words a black man.

Let's call it as it is: ignorant, race-based religious-infused know-nothing politics and reaction are what the Republican Party is about these days. My granddaughter had an excuse for vomiting: She was two, ill and doing her best. And she soon got better. The Republicans won't get well. Their illness is terminal.

The only question now is: will they take us all with them?

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway