My view of the tens of millions of Americans who have fallen into the embrace of the Christian rights magical thinking underwent a profound change as I conducted interviews for the book. During that time I did what good reporters do: I listened. And the stories I heard were heartbreaking. I grew to like many of these people. The communities they lived in, many of which I visited, looked like the towns where my family lived in Maine. They were terrified of the future, especially for their children. They struggled with feelings of worthlessness and abandonment. I fear the Christianized fascism in which they enshroud themselves, but I also see them as its pawns.
They hate a secular world they see as destroying them. They long for the apocalyptic visions of Tim LaHayes Left Behind series. They want the cruelty and rot of secular humanism to be obliterated before they and their families are lifted into heaven by the rapture (an event never mentioned in the Bible).
I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.
Arlie Russell Hochschilds book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right in story after story makes clear that members of the white underclass are also victims and deserve our empathy.
The liberal class has no hope of defeating the rise of American fascism until it unites with the dispossessed white working class. It has no hope of being an effective force in politics until it articulates a viable socialism. Corporate capitalism cannot be regulated, reformed or corrected. A socialist movement dedicated to demolishing the cruelty of the corporate state will do more to curb the racism of the white underclass than lessons by liberals in moral purity. Preaching multiculturalism and gender and identity politics will not save us from the rising sadism in American society. It will only fuel the anti-politics that has replaced politics.
Liberals have sprinkled academic, corporate, media and political institutions with men and women of different races and religions. This has done nothing to protect the majority of marginalized people who live in conditions that are worse than those that existed when King marched on Selma. It is boutique activism. It is about branding, not justice.
Murray Bookchin excoriated the irrelevancy of a liberal class that busied itself with the numbing quietude of the polling booth, the deadening platitudes of petition campaigns, car[-]bumper sloganeering, the contradictory rhetoric of manipulative politicians, the spectator sports of public rallies and finally, the knee-bent humble pleas for small reformsin short the mere shadows of the direct action, embattled commitment, insurgent conflicts, and social idealism that marked every revolutionary project in history.
Human history, as Bookchin and Karl Marx understood, is defined by class struggle. Americas corporate elites successfully fused the two major political parties into a single corporate party, one that seized control of electoral politics, internal security, the judiciary, universities, the arts, finance and nearly all forms of popular communication, including Hollywood, public relations and the press. There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. And Trump is about to remove whatever tepid restraints are left.
Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West predicted that, as Western democracies calcified and died, a class of monied thugs, people such as Trump, would replace the traditional political elites. Democracy would become a sham. Hatred would be fostered and fed to the masses to encourage them to tear themselves apart.
The only route left is revolt. If this revolt is to succeed it must be expressed in the language of economic justice. A continuation of the language of multiculturalism and identity politics as our primary means of communication is self-defeating. It stokes the culture wars. It feeds the anti-politics that define the corporate state.
The heirs of the New Left of the Sixties have created, within the academy, a cultural Left, Richard Rorty wrote. Many members of this Left specialize in what they call the politics of difference or of identity or of recognition. This cultural Left thinks more about stigma than about money, more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivations than about shallow and evident greed.
Our enemy is not the white working poor any more than it is African-Americans, undocumented workers, Muslims, Latinos or members of the GBLT community. The oligarchs and corporations, many of them proponents of political correctness, are our enemy. If we shed our self-righteousness and hubris, if we speak to the pain and suffering of the working poor, we will unmask the toxins of bigotry and racism. We will turn the rage of an abandoned working class, no matter what its members color, race or religious creed, against those who deserve it.