Richard Hofstadter’s works contribute to my teaching of American historiography. I am engaged in yet another revisit of his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. This work is highly critical of American democracy – something those of wealth and privilege view positively as it favors them. Teachers teach American democracy from a grand position — a positive and not through a critical lens, a reason why many see Black Lives Matter as noise and not a condemnation of the falsity of democracy. This country allows public pressure on what is taught in schools – often teaching that the USA is right and the world is wrong. Many of us, including myself, received a bad education regarding the Cold War. At Brooks we do not stand and pledge allegiance to the flag; however, at my last stop and many other schools, this is mandatory. Of course I told my students they were allowed to abstain if they wish. It allowed me to educate them on the myths of God and American democracy — a falsity taught. Hofstadter argues that the nation’s democratic institutions are designed to reinforce the purity of capitalism and evangelical Protestantism, which tends to blind the masses due to their own education. Hence, the expansion of anti-intellectualism is pervasive today, where many elect to ignore reason and logic. Many Christians believe climate change is a myth constructed by scientist for grant funding, since God protects the environment. However, they and other secular folk do not see that wealthy big businesses have convinced them that climate change is a myth in order to save them money.
Listening to Race, Finance, And The Afterlife Of Slavery, which is addressing matters of racism and capitalism. Simply an excellent piece of scholarship folks.
An August 2007 article in The Economist titled Is America Turning Left? gave a historical draw on the role of the right, especially the Christian right, in shaping American politics. It started off by stating:
The most conservative president [George W. Bush] in recent history, a man who sought to turn his victories of 2000 and 2004 into a Republican hegemony, may well end up driving the Western world’s most impressive political machine off a cliff.
In 2004, the Republican Party aimed to distract voters from a slipping United States economy and two foreign wars by making faith a part of its platform. That year many states put issues such as gay marriage on the ballot, urging faith-based voters to cast a vote defining marriage between a man and a woman. Such 2004 right-wing fervor still exist in politics and churches, but the post-Barack Obama era appears to have weakened the base of Christian-Republicans. Traditional Republican candidates quickly dissipated in this past election season. And though Donald Trump promises to appoint conservative judges to the bench, many suspect this is a ploy to maintain Christian Republicans.
If one turned their television to a religious station or attended a church service, they might hear how America is moving down an immoral path to being the next Sodom and Gomorrah. Trump, however, has placed distanced from such language in electing to use nationalism over religion, as noted by his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again”.
Trump’s jingoistic language differs from the Puritanical faith-based thinking of past, which has garnered historical attention for centuries, starting with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, movers of the First Great Awakening, which also cemented the South as the Bible Belt. Starting in the late 1970s, those who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, unified to shape mass politics. Goldwater was the standard-bearer of the New Right Republican Party. Goldwater engineered a disgruntled white Conservative population fearing the United States was becoming too liberal. This emerging Republican population consisted of conservative ideologues, fundamentalist Christians, and populist voters who deplored the liberal social, political, and economic trends of the 1960s and hoped to change it. Many of them were against the civil rights legislation, arguing that they were unconstitutional as they undermined states’ rights.
Just like the First and Second Great Awakening of the 18th and 19th century, evangelical leaders were content to combat what they called the forces of Satan, by asking all believers to join in an attempt to save the souls of the lost. This action took place during religious crusades and revivals. By the Fourth Great Awakening, there was no need to rally the troops at revival camp meetings. A quick hit of a TV button had the religious right advocating for political candidates and against what they saw as the sins of liberalism. It was Richard Viguerie, a right-wing publicist, who marshaled the power of the computerized direct-mail advertising as a New Right unifier. This, as well as the message of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, served as an impetus to fighting leftism.
Yet in 2016 the religious right has given their soul to Trump – not God. As I recently noted, Evangelical Christians in America must decide if they really value religious freedom or just the religious freedom of Jesus. If they value the latter — there will be a generational rebellion against them, and thus their purpose of Jesus sharing will die, as far too many right-wing Christian evangelicals have not sided with the love and empathy of Christ, but identity politics.
I say yes. As I study and write some this AM, I keep going back to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court ruling that “ended” Jim Crow in schools, but gave further rise to white supremacy and the Christian right. This was the same Christian right that coalesced with the Republican Party under the guise of Christian morality. After speaking to a friend and colleague for a bit about the historiography of the Christian right yesterday, and after a great deal of reading this AM, I am more convinced that the Christian right, which today is housed within the Republican Party, emerged to justify white supremacy and to combat their growing fears of the interracial solidarity of black and white Communist, particularly after the Scottsboro Trial in 1931. In part, the USA government needed this court case to combat the Soviet Union’s argument that American democracy and capitalism were oppressive. The Christian right unified behind the election of Ronald Reagan in an attempt to elevate the racist conservative norm of states rights, and to dismantle a Soviet system that showcased the systematic realities of black and brown people. Thus, making Reagan the golden child of American racism and classism, as desired by the Christian right.
I read my journals. I participate in the online discussion forums with other teachers and historians. I attend the conferences. Yet, I just learned today that one of the giants in the field, Carl Degler, passed away. I cannot tell you how much of his stuff I have studied and read. He is a model to all historians when comes to the relationship between teaching and scholarship. Though not as public or as political as the late Richard Hofstadter, Degler has been impactful on my own thinking and teaching. Degler represents the weakness of Hofstadter’s scholarship when it came to changes in historiography — particularly the advent of multiculturalism and gender studies.
See article here.