T.E.A. and Solipsism with Lolita, or How SoCons Killed the Party

Posted: May 21, 2014 in conservatism, culture wars
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The Book

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is a stunningly beautiful example of prose at its very best. An absolute pleasure to read and to immerse oneself in the writer’s delicately crafted imagery, Lolita, as seen through the eyes of Humbert Humbert is the epitome of one who “walks in beauty like the night.”

 “Oh, what a dreamy pet! She walked up to the open suitcase as if stalking it from afar, at a kind of slow-motion walk, peering at that distant treasure box on the luggage support. (Was there something wrong, I wondered, with those great gray eyes of hers, or were we both plunged in the same enchanted mist?) 

The deftness of the prose is incredible. In your mind’s eye you can “see” exactly what the writer wants you to see moving at the exact pace that he intends for you to move at.

“She stepped up to it, lifting her rather high-heeled feet rather high and bending her beautiful boy-knees while she walked through dilating space with the lentor of one walking under water or in a flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a  copper-colored, charming and quite expensive vest, very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings.”

Just then, you feel a tinge of something wrong.

You begin to sense the vulgar aesthetic of it all, and you come to grips with the realization that you’re enjoying beauty through the eyes of a pedophile, and the book is never the same again. You struggle with Humbert’s morally repugnant behavior even as you recognize the greatness of the writing.

Lolita herself is nothing like what Humbert describes her as being. She is a rather ordinary twelve year-old, and her exotic beauty resides solely in Humbert’s mind. The nymphet described in the book exists because he exists.

That’s classic solipsism.

The theory or view that the self is the only reality. An extreme form of skepticism which denies the possibility of any knowledge other than of one’s own existence. Applied to political ideology, it is the belief that one specific set of beliefs is the only acceptable set of beliefs which defines that political ideology, to the exclusion of all others.

The modern day Social Conservative movement is Humbert Humbert to the Taxed Enough Already coalition’s Lolita.

Humbert Humbert

The origins of today’s Social Conservatives can be traced directly to Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”.  Formed in 1976, Falwell’s decision to forego traditional Baptist principles separating religion and politics soon blossomed into a Southern Baptist political machine that was arguably instrumental in Ronald Reagan’s victories in the 80’s.

Falwell’s vision was to create a Southern Christian Right coalition to push back against the nation’s moral decay by bringing together conservative Christian PAC’s under one umbrella, with the goal of promoting candidates who campaigned on the “right side” of issues they perceived were central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

The Moral Majority’s primary goals were basic, yet wide ranged in nature:

  • Censorship of media outlets that promoted an “anti-family” agenda
  • Enforcement of a traditional vision of family life
  • Opposition to state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual acts.
  • Outlawing abortion.

In effect, Falwell injected religion into American politics to a greater degree than it had ever been done.

By the end of Reagan’s tenure, Falwell’s group was coming apart at the seams, as was the case for other Christian Right groups. Falwell resigned his position as the head of the Moral Majority in 1987, with the coalition formally disbanding in 1989.

Announcing the disbandment of the Moral Majority in 1989 in Las Vegas, Falwell declared, “Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and…religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration.” (*)

That ends Humbert Humbert’s portion.

Having lost his beloved Annabel Leigh, Humbert is left to mourn his love and seek a new one to fill the empty space in his life.

Lolita

What was the T.E.A. Party?

As one can surmise from the expanded acronym (Taxed Enough Already), the T.E.A. Party was (originally) a grass-roots movement protesting excessive taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility.

Some sources credit the simultaneous yet independent actions of two individuals for the birth of the movement:

  • Keli Carender – A Seattle at-home mom, Carender (using the online identity “Liberty Belle”) was using her blog to organize and promote the “Porkulus Protest” a populist rally organized to protest President Obama’s proposed $750 billion stimulus package. About 100 people attended her mid-February event.
  • Rick Santelli – On February 19, 2009 while broadcasting live from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Santelli delivered a spontaneous rant, harshly critical of the Obama administration’s proposal to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance their homes. The video went viral, and Santelli’s idea of organizing a “Tea Party” where “capitalists” would dump derivative securities into Lake Michigan in July that year resonated a chord with people of all walks of life and all political affiliations across the nation.

Both Carender’s “Porkulus Project” and Santelli’s “Tea Party” inspired similar events across the nation. Rallies protesting the idea of out-of-control tax and spend government were quickly organized in places like Denver, Mesa (AZ), and Tampa (FL). The first coordinated national T.E.A. Party event took place on February 27 that same year, with rallies of various sizes occurring in 40 US cities.

The impetus created by the “Porkulus Protest”, the Chicago “Tea Party” and the myriad of organized rallies across the nation culminated in the Tax Day event of 2009.

Depending on who you ask, there were somewhere between 200 and 750 rallies that took place across the country on that day, with between 250,000 and 500,000 people in attendance. Several thousands gathered in Atlanta (GA), and the protest outside the White House was broken up by police when a protester threw a box of tea over the fence.Throughout that summer, people claiming to be members of the T.E.A. Party disrupted hometown meetings held by members of Congress with demands of fiscal accountability, charging elected politicians with malfeasance and even treason.

So there’s the Lolita part of this analogy.

A young, boy-kneed political movement, alone and unattended (Lolita was an orphan) needs direction and leadership, and politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Solipsism

Falwell’s exit from the political stage and the dissolution of his Moral Majority left a membership in disarray, and the troops figuratively wandering the political desert.

The vacuum created by Falwell’s and the Christian Right’s loss of cohesiveness began to be quickly filled by activism in an emerging medium. Electronic bulletin boards and Usenet groups sprang up and Falwell’s troops assembled once again, this time in in virtual communities. The homeless, orphaned children of Falwell’s former political machine pseudo coalesced into a gelatinous, unmolded voting block of vaguely like-minded individuals that, for lack of a better name, became known as Social Conservatives (SoCons).

Somewhere along the way, and as a direct result of Falwell’s influence in the 80’s, the definition of what constitutes conservatism began to change dramatically. Where conservative icons such as Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke had understood that morality was a a deeply-held personal set of values necessary for a free society’s survival, Social Conservatives worked toward implementing moral values via support of candidates who would outwardly pledge to enact legislation that would secure in place those things that (reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority) they perceived as being central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

Thomas Jefferson’s warning on the dangers of mixing religion and public service were forgotten:

“… (O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.” – The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786)

As were Madison’s warnings ignored.

Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]

Eventually, conservatism was defined as ONLY that ideology which supported social policies reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority, and any other right-wing set of values which did not adhere to a Christian Right ideological base was not considered to be “true” conservatism.

Fiscal conservatives with liberal social values became libertarians, and moderate right wingers became liberals in the eyes of the SoCons. Conservatism had been successfully co-opted.

When the T.E.A. Party emerged as a cohesive national coalition, SoCons claimed title to the movement, and a grass roots uprising against taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility which included Democrats and persons of various (or no) religious affiliations, was literally hijacked.

SoCons have recreated the movement into their own image of what should constitute a grass roots movement, and what is today called the Tea Party not only barely resembles that original movement, but sounds exactly like every single other SoCon/Christian Right PAC that’s ever existed.

From the Tea Party (notice that the acronym has been dropped) website’s “About Us” page:

The Tea Party includes those who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judeo-Christian values embedded in our great founding documents. We believe the responsibility of our beloved nation is etched upon the hearts of true American Patriots from every race, religion, national origin, and walk of life sharing a common belief in the values which made and keep our beloved nation great. This belief led to the creation of the modern-day Tea Party.

The only thing that created the modern-day T.E.A. Party was anger at out-of-control government taxation and spending. There was nothing fundationally Judeo-Christian about Keli Carender’s and Rick Santelli’s rallies.

Listed on that “About Page” of TeaParty.org (next to the pictures of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul) are the organization’s “15 Non-negotiable core beliefs” which include things like #1. Illegal aliens are here illegally, #2. Pro domestic employment is indispensable. #5. Gun ownership is sacred. #12. Political offices must be available to average citizens (What exactly does THAT mean? When haven’t they been?) #14. English as our core value is required and #15. Traditional family values are encouraged.

Great values all to be sure, but values that have nothing to do with the original purpose of those rallies back in 2009.

Balancing the budget, ending bailouts and reducing income taxes are #s 7, 8, and 10 respectively. Quite a demotion. Almost an afterthought.

Here’s something to ponder.

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are members of the establishment. You don’t get to be a vice -presidential candidate, or a Senator and avoid being part of the establishment, so it’s hard to perceive a group that counts such luminaries among its leadership as being anti-establishment.

Social Conservatives have now successfully solipsized the T.E.A. Party. The movement has lost any semblance of its own identity, existing only as a creation of the minds of SoCons. The boy-kneed, wild child that disrupted Congressmen at town hall meetings and threw boxes of tea over the White House fence, has been replaced by the SoCons image of a nymphet in politics, but it’s not the same. It was never what people like TeaParty.org claim that it was.

Today’s Tea Party is a fabricated image of what SoCons want a grass roots movement to look like, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify grass roots activism with star-studded celebrities like Palin and Cruz as the face of the movement.

Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere in that “About Us” page will you find Keli Carender’s or Rick Santelli’s name.

“Lolita has been safely solipsized.”

And that’s the last wire for Tuesday, May 20th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

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Comments
  1. boilingfrogs says:

    Reblogged this on The Universal Spectator.

  2. What is the difference between a SoCon and NeoCon?

    • boilingfrogs says:

      NeoCons are basically social libertarians interventionist foreign policy wonks, which sets them apart from small “l” libertarians who are non-interventionists.

      SoCons (Social Conservatives) are largely driven by social issues, making most of their political choices based on the candidate’s stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

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