I was thinking about Elvis Costello’s “Waiting for the End of the World” this morning. With the government shutdown coming and all, it just seems natural. But I’m especially focused on the lines, “Dear lord, I sincerely hope your coming; ’cause you really started something.”
Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. It is all about the destruction of the world and how God will then reward the good little girls and boys who believed in him. So it isn’t surprising that Republicans, who would be better named the Christian Conservative Party, are interested in other apocalyptic visions. Government shutdown! Debt default!! Nuclear war!!! It all brings us closer to the time when Jesus comes back to kick some unbeliever ass.
On a smaller scale, I do hope that the Republican elites are going to show up to these two (shutdown and default) fights. It is clear that the elites don’t want these fights, but they did start something. Ed Kilgore suggests that the conservative movement reached a critical mass of craziness during the Bush administration and we are still living with the consequences. But this just puts a history on top of the general observation that this is the Republican base getting out of the control of the elite’s power.
The main thing is what I harp on here: that the Republican base believes the exact same things that the elites have claimed to believe for many decades. As Kilgore puts it: “the same old torch of resistance to the New Deal and Great Society and the decline of the patriarchal family, passed on from generation to generation.” The conflict we are seeing in the Republican Party is just one of tactics. The base is tired of waiting and the elites know that the conservatives do not have the power to get their utopia qua hellscape.
But let’s be clear: the elites don’t actually want what they’ve been agitating for all these decades. In fact, the base doesn’t want it either. The same was true of the Democrats when they truly were a liberal party. Extremists push for ultimate solutions, but what they really want is just to push society in their ideological direction. Both the libertarian and socialist extremes would be terrible places to live—even for the “winners.” In general, I think the elites know this. The base voters, unfortunately, have deluded themselves into thinking they would love a world where everyone protects their own property with their own guns and there are no public parks or public roads. But just like the conservatives who only support gay rights once they find out their children are gay, these conservatives would change their minds in the cold light of reality.
So I imagine there are a lot of Republicans sitting around anxiously awaiting the government shutdown just as they await the second coming of Jesus. It appears to be a conservative thing.