Conservative Cultists

Some conservatives are getting rich off impotent rage, according to Maddow

Some conservatives are getting rich off impotent rage, according to Maddow

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC said that many on the far right are getting rich on “impotent rage,” firing up their listeners to be angry about Obama’s re-election but unable to do anything about it.   Well, you might say, that’s Maddow, she always chastises conservatives.   Yet conservatives William Kristol and Joe Scarborough have also decried the way some on the right — talk radio, especially — are getting rich off a style that pushes for an uncompromising and unrealistic stand on absolutist “principles.”

The problem in the GOP is that the reasonable people of the party are having to deal with a large, media savvy group of conservatives who have fostered a cult like thinking.

That is not only un-American, it is also un-Conservative and irrational.

Conservatives such as Joe Scarborough are starting to speak out against the damage being down to the GOP

Conservatives such as Joe Scarborough are starting to speak out against the damage being down to the GOP

It is un-American because our system is based on the idea that no individual or group has an absolute claim on truth. Democracy is a way to get people to debate, learn from each other, and try to figure out the best compromise.    We learn as we go based on what works and what does not.   The idea that we should focus simply on ideology or principle would be foreign to the founders.  Their principles were broad based and open to diverse ideas.

It is un-Conservative because conservatives value tradition, social stability and a sense of community.    Conservatives have adopted a strong free market perspective but have always recognized that markets have limits and that the good of the country trumps any ideological stand point.   And, given that tradition involves compromise and deliberation, the extremism of Neil Boortz and Rush Limbaugh is distinctly anti-conservative.

It is irrational because it focuses on pushing a party line with the vehemence of a religious extremist.   The “true” conservative values are XY and Z.   Those who seek compromise and moderation are “RINOs”  (Republicans in name only).    This desire for conservative purity has cost them the Senate.    Ideology-based thinking leads them to embrace clearly false claims – that there is no human caused climate change, the earth is 9000 years old, women’s vaginas magically shut down the possibility of pregnancy when they are raped and other such non-sense.   Truth is not based on science and evidence, but on what would be true if their ideology was infallible.

Here are some questions.   Answer yes to any of them, and you just might be a conservative cultist:

1.  Do you believe Obama has a secret agenda to push the US towards socialism and away from a market economy?
2.  Do you believe that Obama hates America and wants to give our sovereignty to the UN?
3.  Do you know who Alinsky is, and do you think somehow Obama is following some kind of plot of his making?
4.  Are you convinced that the Democrats simply try to buy votes by giving people stuff?
5.  Do you secretly (or even openly) wish women couldn’t vote because they aren’t truly rational?
6.  Do you think votes should be weighted by wealth, since the poor have ‘no skin’ in the game?
7.  Do you believe that Obama is an incompetent narcissist who has no leadership capacity?
8.  Do you believe there is a nefarious “agenda” out there that gays, internationalists, liberals and other types are following, which would stab America in the back and move us away from our core values?
9.   Do you think the country is on the road to collapse, and figure the GOP should just let Obama have his way so the Republicans aren’t co-responsible – the “let it burn” argument?

If you said yes to more than one of these, you just might be a member of a cult!

Glenn Beck has started his own "news" website to give the conservative view, and before the election expressed certainty that God would make Romney win

Glenn Beck has started his own “news” website to give the conservative view, and before the election expressed certainty that God would make Romney win

I’ve even read blogs where someone seriously posts that people should keep any pledge they have made (meaning the Norquist pledge) no matter what, because you never break a pledge.   However, what if they decide that under current conditions the Norquist pledge would lead them to actions that do harm to the country?   Should our elected representatives really be more concerned about keeping a pledge than doing what’s right?    Or is Peter Parker aka Spiderman right – sometimes the best promises are those we are willing to break?   After all, many German soldiers didn’t turn on Hitler even when they saw what was happening  because they took an oath to Hitler.   I think its simple minded blindness to keep an oath just because you took it, no matter what.

True conservatives won’t play that game.   They recognize that they have something to bring to the table and they can force Obama to compromise (and Obama has shown a willingness to compromise).   They don’t demand strict adherence to “principles.”  An uncompromising devotion to absolute principles is for the narrow minded.   Principles are simplified general ideals, but in the real world those simplification break down.   Blind adherence to principle is the mark of someone unwilling to embrace real world complexity – a cultist, in other words.

You see it on blogs and talk radio especially.   I’ve been in many debates, sometimes heated, with conservatives.   But usually we don’t take it personally, nor do we ridicule each other and say the other person is somehow evil or bad.  In fact in most cases we find we agree on core values — Americans are more united than divided.    Go to a cultist blog and try going against their party line and they respond with ridicule and personal abuse (and yes there are cultists on the left too).   That’s how cultists protect their message, they don’t allow it to be questioned, especially not by people who may have good arguments.

Republicans have tolerated the cultists because they brought energy and a solid voting block to the party.   As long as party leaders (whom cultists deride as the hated “Republican establishment”) could control the real policy actions of the party, the cultists were an asset.   But in 2010 they crossed that line.

The most recent example – rejection of the UN People with Disabilities treaty even as John McCain gave his support and Bob Dole was on hand to persuade skeptics to vote for it.   Senators who recently supported it voted no, fearful that the cultists would put up hard core conservative primary opposition.

"The world is a cage for your impotent rage, but don't let it get to you" - Rush (Neil Peart) , "Neurotica," from Roll the Bones (1991)

“The world is a cage for your impotent rage, but don’t let it get to you” – Rush (Neil Peart) , “Neurotica,” from Roll the Bones (1991)

Republicans need to purge the cultists from their ranks, or at least render them ineffective.  They inspire rage, but a rage that cannot win – you’ll never have a pure Demint style conservative government any more than you’ll ever have a pure Kucinich style liberal government.  Or if we do it’ll only be a gradual change reflecting the whole culture.   Our system is designed to avoid sudden lurches to such extremes.   It’s designed for compromise and loyal opposition.

  1. #1 by GiRRL_Earth on December 12, 2012 - 08:58

    As always, great post Scott. I wish I could write (and speak) as you do about these touchy matters. I generally avoid these conversations because I don’t feel strong enough in my knowledge base, nor am I able to pull down facts in the heat of the moment.

    -Your slightly-left of center Liberal follower.

  2. #2 by Norbrook on December 12, 2012 - 09:00

    One of the things I’ve said is that what many of these people want is a return to the 1890’s. Which was the last decade when the America they say they want really existed, for the most part.

  3. #3 by Sherry on December 12, 2012 - 14:02

    they must purge them and not try to convince them that they are wrong. There is no talking to the hard right. They have drank the kool-aid and are living in a universe quite apart from reality. Further they utterly project all their failings on their “enemies”. We are the close-minded, uneducated, tied to our dependencies sort of folk that cannot be reached. Truly they believe they are the “well-read, critical thinkers. It’s amazing and frankly a bit frightening.

    • #4 by SShiell on December 12, 2012 - 16:50

      I could take your quote and change one word – from “There is no talking to the hard right” to “There is no talking to the hard left” And all else would still hold true.

      It works BOTH WAYS!!! The right can scream and holler about nver increasing tax rates while the left screams and hollers about never cutting spending or entitlement reform.

      Until and when both sides stop talking past one another will anything get done.


      • #5 by Scott Erb on December 12, 2012 - 21:46

        Fair enough, though I think one difference is that the Democratic leadership is more likely to be able to control/limit the impact of the “hard left.” I really think Boehner and Obama could make a deal each would be happy with if it were only the two of them. The hard part is getting broad support within each party.

        In this case Obama can’t give in on rates for the top 2% because the law will give him that anyway and Democrats would love to see the GOP have to defend not approving a middle class tax cut just because the rich aren’t getting a cut (which would be the situation after January 1). Boehner seems to be punting a bit, wanting Obama to spell out cuts “he’s willing to make” without the GOP calling for specific cuts. I think he’s worried about a revolt if a deal is reached that isn’t to his party’s liking.

        That gets me to think we’ll go over the cliff but then get a deal within a week or two by mid-January after Boehner’s secured the Speaker’s position and the increase on the top 2% has been done automatically (nobody breaks the ‘pledge.’). I really believe Obama wants as part of his legacy a more fiscally responsible budget and the idea he’s shored up entitlements by making reforms. Still, I’m sure Boehner wishes he’d made a deal back in 2011 when he held the stronger hand.

      • #6 by Sherry on December 13, 2012 - 10:29

        I don’t agree with your assessment. The left does not scream about never cutting spending. We are for a ton of spending cuts, we just don’t start with earned benefits. Those are the only means many people have of existence. They did not cause these problems. They should not be the ones looked to
        for solving these problems. Surely earned benefits can be cut but it is essential that they be done most carefully so that people who are totally dependent on their social security or medicare aren’t left without the means to care for their basic needs. Frankly the President has more than met the GOP half way, but the GOP is cowed by a small band of teabaggers who have no clue about economics and the rest are apparently afraid of Norquist. Who in this world thinks it right that people who are elected to serve a constituency then turn around and swear their allegience to a silly man whose agenda is to dismantle all government?

      • #7 by Norbrook on December 13, 2012 - 11:11

        One of the problems with your statement is that the hard left doesn’t control the Democratic Party as the hard right does the Republican Party.

      • #8 by SShiell on December 13, 2012 - 17:49

        “Frankly the President has more than met the GOP half way . . ”

        Half way? OK, I’ll bite – Show me the spending cuts. Show me the entitlement reforms.

        ” . .the hard left doesn’t control the Democratic Party as the hard right does the Republican Party.”

        The “hard right” as you put it totals some 70 votes. Those votes are far easier to bypass than anything getting through the Democratic controlled Senate. Not even Obama’s proposal will pass that hurdle, regardless of the Republicans in the House or Senate.

  4. #9 by pino on December 12, 2012 - 23:19

    the extremism of Neil Boortz and Rush Limbaugh is distinctly anti-conservative.

    Rush I get, Boortz I like. Riddle me this, pick a big L liberal and name the conservative principle they break with the democrats on.

    Where does Maddow, for example, break with the liberals and support the GOP plank?

    Here are some questions.

    1. Obama thinks the rich have received their wealth unfairly by manipulating “things” and wants to make the game more fair. So do you though.

    2. No.

    3. Yes but no.

    4. Not in entirety. I do think that they gain significant advantage by providing stuff to groups of people however.

    5. What the hell are you talking about?

    6. I think it’s dangerous when people realize that they can vote themselves money.

    7. Without a doubt yes. President Obama doesn’t have two days of leadership experience.

    8. No.

    9. No.

    and Obama has shown a willingness to compromise


    • #10 by Scott Erb on December 13, 2012 - 00:21

      1. Obama has never said that. Obama just says that given how well the rich have done and how the cuts hurt the poor and middle class, they can pay a little more. His tax rate proposal is below Reagan’s, and the same as the Clinton years. One of the lowest rates on the wealthy in US history, and lower than any other industrialized state.

      5. I’ve read blogs that say women are voting irrationally and even some have said they shouldn’t vote. That’s the most extreme!

      6. Yeah, but the very wealthy have connections to get Congress people to directly vote them money! That’s even more dangerous!

      7. President Obama has lots of leadership experience, and four successful years as a leader, making very tough decisions. I mean, compare him to Bush! I seriously think Obama is going to go down as one of our great Presidents. Part of it will be striking a grand compromise that gets our fiscal house in order, which his own party will have trouble supporting.

      The biggest complaint against Obama among Democrats is that he is so focused on compromising and working with Republicans (the debt ceiling debate is the biggest case in point, but Obamacare was truly a compromise – his leadership got a deal that eluded Nixon, Carter, and Clinton!)

  5. #11 by Jeff Fordham on December 12, 2012 - 23:34

    Thank you again for the great post…….I myself am fighting a battle with several dear friends and family members who live in the cult bubble. The post election period has been extremely hard for them, and I am amazed at the depth of the denial in many of them. Some of them have taken steps recently that is rather shocking in this day and age…….but not unexpected since they have been propgandized on a daily basis for a long time now.

    I have several political e-mail chains amongst old childhood friends that I enage in on a weekly basis. A little more than a year ago I read this great piece that was sent to me which was written by a former GOP congressional staffer who was retiring after 28 years on capital hill. Its an interesting take by one who was operating on the inside of the Republican machine, and explains much of why they have taken this path…….I urge everyone to read it if they have the time.

    The original post is not available..but a copy exists at

    “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult ”


    • #12 by Scott Erb on December 13, 2012 - 00:22

      I remember that piece. It is powerful. I think political reality will force the GOP to reject the extremes. This reminds me of where the Democrats were in the early 80s.

  6. #13 by Scott Erb on December 13, 2012 - 18:14

    SShiell: I think Obama will agree with a lot of GOP cuts, but so far they haven’t proposed any. They gave numbers, but no specific cuts. Until they do, Obama has nothing he can agree with them upon (that’s why he says he won’t negotiate with himself.) The GOP has to propose actual cuts. The thing is that without a deal tax rates go up on everyone and the Democrats will propose a middle class tax cut. The Republicans can’t ultimately oppose that, so they’ll get their increase on the top 2% by doing nothing. Obama needs that before he can make any cuts.

    Otherwise, the sequestration goes into effect. They do nothing, those cuts get made. Whichever side likes those cuts least will deal on other cuts. But I think the GOP has to propose real cuts – they have to get specific. So far, they haven’t.

    • #14 by SShiell on December 14, 2012 - 02:35

      Who says the GOP has to put their cuts on the table first? Did they flip a coin?Did they play rock-scissors-paper while they were behind closed doors? Sorry, but you have put forward a strawman that doesn’t have any straw.

      Instead of playing “go get me a rock” game with the President, why doesn’t he just tell the GOP what cuts he will accept. And if you haven’t played the “go get me a rock” game it goes like this – The GOP goes out and brings back a rock and Obama looks at it and tells them “No, not that one. Bring me the one I want.” And it starts all over again. Ad nauseum.

      This is a common game the Democrats have played with the GOP for the past several years. The GOP puts their plans or offerings on the table (example: 2012 Budget) and they are demonized for it – regardless of the merits of the proposal. And instead of providing a counter offer, the Dems patiently wait for the GOP to “bring another rock” to the table and it begins all over again.

      Obama has offered two things – tax rate increases and a demand for future debt ceilings to be waived. Where is his “balanced” approach? Not one word on spending cuts. Not. One. Word. My advice to the GOP? Two alternatives:
      1) Give him everything he has asked for except the debt ceiling waiver. Put the offer to the vote in the house and have every Republican vote “Present.” He will have quorum and the Dems will then “OWN” the results.
      2) Step away completely from the negotiations and “Let It Burn”

      (Note: If Obama’s offer is so good, why won’t Reid bring it to a vote in the Senate?)

      • #15 by Norbrook on December 14, 2012 - 09:59

        The way negotiations work in the real world (outside of Washington) is that you say what you want, and the other side says what they want. What the Republicans are doing is saying “we want cuts”, but not what they want cut or how much, even when asked. They even admit that they don’t have any specifics in mind. So asking the President for his cuts is saying “we want you to do our work for us.”

  7. #16 by thalesomiletus on December 15, 2012 - 09:12

    I would rather be a heretic than a theocrat.

  8. #17 by thalesomiletus on December 15, 2012 - 12:54

    Also, Maddow herself has made 12.5 Million off of liberal rage. Ca-ching!

    • #18 by Scott Erb on December 17, 2012 - 01:30

      But Democrats aren’t scared of Maddow. Republicans are scared of Limbaugh.

      • #19 by thalesomiletus on December 17, 2012 - 08:16

        Who said they were?

        Yes, the country-clubbers are scared of losing power — ironic because if not for the Porkbusters cum Tea Party, they’d have zero power right now, and Obama would be completely unchecked.

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