|This all happened before Newt converted to Catholicism and while he was practicing his 'compassionate conservatism'.|
The following short excerpt is taken from a much longer Salon article by Gary Kamiya, "The infantile style in American politics". I want to thank Bill Lyndsy who linked to this article in his most recent post on the current Republican front runner -drum roll please- Newt Gingrich. Bill wonders where Newt's spirituality and politics begin and end. Good question and one that seems really hard to answer. Newt has said he's psychologically a Protestant but appreciates the depth of Catholicism and likes to read the Psalms. One could say that religious eclecticism is indicative of a savvy politician. But what there can be no dispute about, is the fact Newt is pandering heavily to the Tea Party and the very right wing of the Republican party, and seems to be heavily funded by the same sources that fund those factions.
Kamiya's article deals with the seeming irrational paranoia that washes over the conservative parts of the US in cyclical waves. What we are now seeing in US politics is the mainstreaming of what use to be the margins of the conservative movement. It's not that conservative paranoia is new. What's new is there is a whole lot more money behind this movement and consequently it has a much much louder voice. Like McCarthyism of the 50's, it has no sense of decency:
"In 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Army lawyer Joseph Welch asked McCarthy, “Have you no decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?” McCarthy was crushed; his reign of terror was over. It appeared that the American right was a spent force. Hofstadter, however, had the wisdom to see deeper. At the end of “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt — 1954,” he wrote, “[I]n a populist culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” "
Given the performance of the Republican Party over the last three years, it's pretty apparent we have at least one party that is no longer capable of rational pursuit of the common good, well being, and safety of the US. I'm not intending to imply that the Democrats are the party of rationality and reasonableness, but at least they have tried to find some common ground, even going so far as to seem more Republican than Reagan Republicans, but it's been to no avail. I fail to see where the new Catholic Newt is going to have any meaningful impact on making the current Republican Party useful in governing this country, at least the Newt of this current reincarnation.
To be honest, I don't think effective governance is what this paranoid parody of the Republican party is interested in. It's interests lie not in any common good, but in promoting a form of 'self stimulation', in which they set up issues, often peripheral but well funded, in which their adherents can engage in angry frustrated head banging. In Catholicism we have a sort of reverse thing going on because the conservatives have all the institutional power. In this case our paranoid conservative hierarchy set up issues, also often peripheral and also well funded by the same people, in which progressives can engage in their own version of angry head banging. I know this all too well, because I frequently have a head ache. The best of the best of these issues are the unsolvable peripheral ones which get both sides head banging, issues like abortion. In the meantime, the common good swirls down Wall Street drains along with our health care and pension funds.
What I found most salient about Kamiya's article is that what he is describing are the traits of people who have had childhoods steeped in fear, and have carried that fear into adulthood with little in the way of mature coping strategies. If there has been very little learned in the realm of mature coping strategies, there isn't going to be very much of that skill to use in adulthood. It's almost counter intuitive to think that keeping oneself in a constant state of anger and pain is soothing, but it is, if that's what your brain has been trained to think is normal.
When I train new employees for the psychiatric residential program where I work, I try to make the point that it's much easier to 'control' behavior when one gives up the thought of controlling clients and replaces it with compassion for the clients. This change in attitude sets up a whole different relational environment in which healing has a chance to replace externally controlling behavior. What we find is it takes our youngest clients, the ones coming from the children's system, about a month or so to stop trying to trigger us into engaging in controlling behavior and for them to stop the vast majority of their repetitive self soothing behavior. In other words, the head banging stops when compassion, not coercion, rules. It is not an easy thing to do, but the rewards are priceless.
I remember the days when Newt was considered a compassionate conservative--which doesn't necessarily have to be an oxymoron. If he really wants to lead the Republican Party out of it's current mess, he needs to meditate on the power of compassion while he's listening to his wife sing at the noon Mass in the choir at the Washington Cathedral. Who knows, he might even find himself experiencing a real conversion.