Monday, April 30, 2018

If Josh Marshall is right

The GOP is in worse shape than I thought:

There’s only so much we can draw from McNaughton’s painting, though the sales reproductions of his work and his growing fame on the Trumpist right give some indication of how much he resonates. This kind of hagiography is one small part of a story we are fools to miss. Even as President Trump in some ways losing grip over the Presidency, he is tightening his grip on the Republican party. He’s not losing ground on that front. His grip is intensifying and transforming what the core of the GOP is.

Well, maybe.  I'm not sure the analysis is all that keen.  Take this, for example:

The paintings are of course at one level just comical schlock. Most levels, really. But what I want to focus on is the idealized Trump we find in these paintings, a sort of gentle teacher, humbly dispensing lessons, reprising various biblical motifs. This is needless to say, quite different from any actual Trump who has ever walked the earth. Even if you like, perhaps especially if you like Trump, he is the archetypical dominator of enemies. He’s a disruptor. He’s a lot of other things. But this is the most positive read. But here we have the creation of this alternative, godly Trump, which you actually see increasingly in various Christian art produced over the last year which incorporate Trump into scenes communing with or taking guidance from Jesus.

There's always a market for this stuff, especially in "Christian Art."  I had a seminary professor who pasted all kinds of pictures from ads and magazines on his office door (every college has at least one).  They showed a very white Jesus playing soccer with very white very American kids, or helping the boy swing a bat at baseball, stuff like that.  All good athletic stuff; no manly Jesus beaming in the kitchen while a blonde young girl learned to bake a cake or anything like that.  And that was over 20 years ago.  The market for this stuff isn't new, in other words; and I wouldn't read too much into it being a market where Trump is the Christ figure (you can go to Marshall's post to see the pictures).  There's another thing, too, that's going to sharply limit the reach of these pictures:  the only people in them are white people.

Well, here's one without very many white people, for obvious reasons:

White people are normative in these pictures, and obviously are the civilizing force.  Even the "Forgotten Man" in two of the paintings Marshall shows, are white men.  Blacks, Hispanics, Asians even, need to be "forgotten."  This is a white man's world, and the sooner it returns to that, the better. I know that's the attitude of the most fervent supporters of Trump, but they deserve to be seen as a vocal minority.  That racism is resurgent in America after the triumph of the Civil Rights movement and the active dismantling of racist language and ideas and institutions, is not really a surprise.  It is of a piece with the return of militancy in a country that had turned so decisively against war that the TV show "M*A*S*H" was about the hospital; the war that produced the casualties was always off screen and far away, and chest-thumping "war heroes" were never allowed.  And then came "Rambo," and then came space opera again with "Star Wars" ("We're here to rescue you!") and once again America had to fight because bad people had to be fought and one wants to revive the draft or join the military.  Well, some people do, but most would rather not, thank you very much.  We love our militarism; we just want someone else to be the military.

Just as we despise racism, we just want to be free to say, once again, that we don't want our daughter or sister to marry one.  Even as no one bats an eye any longer at mixed race marriages, or even the children of such unions.  We're not bringing back the legal designations of "mulatto" and "octaroon" any time soon, and no one is arguing for a repeal of Loving v. Virginia; there's really barely a peep now about Obergefell (although we're still getting used to what that decision means).  We despise racism, but we love a racist.

Or do we?  I'm sure there's a market for Jon McNaughton's art.  Chick Young made money off his horrific pseudo-Christian tracts (I refuse to call them "Christian" at all).  Thomas Kinkade made a good living selling kitsch.  McNaughton has hitched his wagon to Sean Hannity's falling star (it's only a matter of time until Hannity goes the way of Limbaugh).  That's a good way to make a good living, no doubt; but his art won't change the course of American history, and may be only the visual signifier of why the GOP is losing ground even before November.  Trump and McNaughton want to revive a white world, but that is nothing more than a blush on the cheek of a dying age.  That world is gone and it isn't coming back, no matter how many pictures Mr. McNaughton sells.  It's rather like the gun companies going bankrupt because Obama is no longer in office.  McNaughton may make money as long as Trump is in office, but if he does represent what is "transforming" the "core of the GOP," then the GOP will soon be a discarded apple core, and go the way of the Whigs.

And I don't think baseball playin' Jesus loves me that much.

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