On Conservative Victimology
I've been over this ground before, but the Foley/Haster scandal and the frantic spinning that the Republicans are doing to mitigate it has me thinking about the fact that for American religious conservatives it is an article of faith that they are persecuted. Every Sunday they get the message from their Pastors that to be Christian is to be pissed on, and abused by secular society. In fact, in some denominations if a Christian is not understood to undergoing some sort of abuse at the hands of worldly society then the validity of his or her conversion is called into question.
Of course this is an entirely imaginary situation. Western Christians are far from persecuted, but that is irrelevant to the religious conservative. Since everything that happens is filtered through this world view of perpetual victim-hood, it is "true" and self-fulfilling. Religious conservatives have a siege mentality that makes it impossible for them to admit any weakness in their leadership.
Mainstream conservatives have picked up the lingo and mannerism of religious conservatives for purely pragmatic reasons, and in so doing they have also adopted this sense of themselves as victims. Listen to Sean Hannity talk about Dennis Hastert and you hear it loud and clear. Listen to Rush. You'll come to believe that in addition to the media, liberals are the ones controlling three branches of government right now, and that they are using every lever of government to beat up on and attack conservatives. The liberals are Rome and the conservatives are nobly heading into the coliseum.
Being the victim is liberating. It liberates you from reality and from responsibility. It is not that Hastert and Foley acted in bad faith - it is George Soros who is abusing them. It is not George Bush who is incompetent, it is Bill Clinton who laid a trap for him. Framing "conservatives as victims" has works. So why then should mainstream conservative worry about the rise of victimology?
Maybe they shouldn't worry. Maybe conservatives as victims will work out as well for them as it has worked for some Christians. Victimhood seems to be a very durable platform upon which to build a group identity.
However, as the Foley/Hastert scandal shows this identity is causing some cognitive dissonance among those conservatives who think of themselves as belonging to the rugged individualist, or libertarian wings of the party. The "party of personal accountability" Republicans are butting heads with the "it was the Democrats fault" Republicans. This conflict may contain the seeds of the demise of modern conservatism as these strains come into increasing conflict. That is a good thing.
The bigger question for you and me is what more damage do they do to the country while they work their way back into the minority status that they so richly deserve?