By Bill Berkowitz | 22 November 2022
The embrace of Christofascism is nothing new in our history. Some of its loudest proponents: Father Charles Coughlin and Henry Ford, and such movements as the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Legion, Crusaders for America, and the Knights of the White Camelia, and the William Dudley Pelley Silver Shirts, flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. With Donald Trump, Josh Hawley, the Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers, echoes of those past leaders and movements resonated on January 6 and beyond.
Now, nearly two years after January 6, the results of the Midterm election appear to indicate that the people of the United States have kept the election deniers and Christian nationalists at bay … at least for now. Despite a Republican Party in desperate need of an autopsy, the only rethinking likely to go on amongst the GOP and its hardcore white Christian nationalists is how to keep the Trump base, while devising new ways to subvert democracy.
Take the recent ramblings of the senior editor of the Federalist magazine John Daniel Davidson. You wouldn’t know him if you bumped into him on the Subway; you couldn’t pick him out of a line-up; and, he has yet to appear on any of the Law and Order spinoffs. Nevertheless, it is people like Davidson that will continue to push hard line evangelical Christian politics.
In a late-October piece for The Federalist titled “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives” Davidson wrote: “Given the state of America in 2022, conservatives should stop calling themselves conservatives,” and prepare “for a new approach.”
Alternate Headline: We Need To Start Calling Ourselves Fascists. https://t.co/x934MuK2bK
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 20, 2022
After listing a litany of conservative failures to stop an encroaching left-wing culture, Davidson writes: “So what kind of politics should conservatives today, as inheritors of a failed movement, adopt? For starters, they should stop thinking of themselves as conservatives (much less as Republicans) and start thinking of themselves as radicals, restorationists, and counterrevolutionaries. Indeed, that is what they are, whether they embrace those labels or not.”
Davidson went on:
Conservatives had better be ready for it, and Republican politicians, if they want to stay in office, had better have an answer ready when they are asked what reasonable limits to abortion restrictions they would support. The answer is: none, for the same reason they would not support reasonable limits to restrictions on premeditated murder.
On the transgender question, conservatives will have to repudiate utterly the cowardly position of people like David French, in whose malformed worldview Drag Queen Story Hour at a taxpayer-funded library is a “blessing of liberty.” Conservatives need to get comfortable saying in reply to people like French that Drag Queen Story Hour should be outlawed; that parents who take their kids to drag showsshould be arrested and charged with child abuse; that doctors who perform so-called “gender-affirming” interventions should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked; and that teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.
Religion Dispatches’ Annika Brockschmidt responded to Davidson in a piece titled “The Quiet Part is Very Much Out Loud: Conservative Publication Calls For Embrace of Totalitarianism.” Brockschmidt is not surprised by Davidson’s White Christian nationalist rhetoric. She is, however, surprised that his fulmination against democracy appeared in The Federalist.
"[John Daniel Davidson's] vision for America is…a fascist nightmare," writes @ardenthistorian, "in which White Christian men have the right to power, and everybody else either knows their place or is forced into submission or silence." Read more: https://t.co/DTUVOG6tSI
— Religion Dispatches (@RDispatches) November 8, 2022
But this article was published in The Federalist—an online magazine firmly rooted in American conservatism, not its fringes. It was founded in 2013 by Ben Domenech and Sam Davis. Domenech, who’s married to Meghan McCain, has worked with right-wing think tanks like The Heritage Foundation and The Heartland Institute. To this day, it’s unclear who funds the magazine—although, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s Alex Kotch, 2019 tax returns reveal that at least some of its money comes from shipping supply billionaire and Republican mega-donor Richard Uihlein, and some from the Koch-linked DonorsTrust, which has been dubbed the “dark money ATM” of the Right.
Then again, as she reports, “In recent years, this has meant increasingly bellicose rhetoric, as well as a focus on “owning the libs” and “culture wars.” They’ve published incendiary pieces that smear transgender people and the doctors who care for them; and spread COVID misinformation and climate change denial. Just like its editor-in-chief, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, The Federalist has gone from criticizing Trump before he became the GOP candidate in 2016 to one of his most vocal supporters.”
As historian and author John Hennen has pointed out, “the MAGA infatuation with an authoritarian crypto-fascist like [Hungary’s Viktor] Orbán should not be surprising. The ‘Christian Nationalism’ espoused by Q-Anon acolytes, ‘voter integrity’ crusaders, and AR-15 worshiping apocalyptists like Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, and Marjorie Taylor Greene is hand-in-glove comfy with the racial purity dogma spouted by the Hungarian bully.”
"There’s ample historical precedent for Donald Trump and the MAGA GOP embracing far-right, if not outright fascist, European politicians."
America’s right wing has long been enamored with fascists abroad https://t.co/1GGUnEaKIN
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) November 23, 2022
It is doubtful that those Christian nationalists pushing totalitarianism will give up their position anytime soon. If you think the Midterm Election was a chastising, come to Jesus moment, think again. The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Church in New York City, and others have urged the church to fight back against Christian nationalism.
United Church of Christ General Minister and President John Dorhauer spoke about the need to confront this “perverse re-branding of Christianity.” Dorhauer said: “I seek to engage progressive Christianity in a deep conversation about just what is needed to send these bigots and homophobes and misogynists back under the rocks out from which they crawled when the 45th president took office and brought their brand of Christian nationalism back to the center and put them back in power,” he said. “The complacency and the decorum characteristic of white Christian liberalism is not going to bring back the justice we seek, nor mitigate the damage being done by those whose brand of Christianity calls them to engage in holy war.”
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