Maureen Dowd tells it like it is in her NYT piece, “Rove’s Revenge”.
W.’s presidency rushes backward, stifling possibilities, stirring intolerance, confusing church with state, blowing off the world, replacing science with religion, and facts with faith. We’re entering another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge, more premodern than postmodern. Instead of leading America to an exciting new reality, the Bushies cocoon in a scary, paranoid, regressive reality. Their new health care plan will probably be a return to leeches.
America has always had strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism. But most of our leaders, even our devout presidents, have tried to keep these impulses under control. Not this crew. They don’t call to our better angels; they summon our nasty devils.
Jimmy Carter won the evangelical vote in 1976, and he won it in Ohio. He combined his evangelical appeal with a call for social justice, integrating his church and laboring for world peace. But W. appealed to that vote’s most crabbed insecurities – the disparaging of the other, the fear of those godless hedonists in the blue states out to get them and their families. And the fear of scientific progress, as with stem cell research.
When William Jennings Bryan took up combating the theory of evolution, he did it because he despised the social Darwinists who used the theory to justify the “survival of the fittest” in capitalism. Bryan hated anything that justified an economic system that crushed poor workers and farmers, and he hated that the elites would claim there was scientific basis for keeping society divided and unequal.
The new evangelicals challenge science because they’ve been stirred up to object to social engineering on behalf of society’s most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the sexually different.
Yet the Bush conservatives do their own social engineering. They thought they could toughen up the American character with the invasion of Iraq. Now they want to reshape the country on “moral” issues – though their morality seems to allow them to run a campaign full of blatant distortions and character assassination, and to mislead the public about the war.