Vice President Cheney’s address the other day must be a mixed blessing to the local GOP folks. On one hand, there was the old fashioned religion, delivered straight. “You’re going to eat your carrots, and you’re going to like it!” In a time of uncertainty about their own future, not to mention that of the nation, such blunt talk can seem like a sure foundation. This goes right to the desire both to be right and also privileged about the world. For all the seeming plain-speaking it is a sort of gnostic rhetoric: the world is nothing like you imagine (so you have to be tough).
And if you’re Peter Hoekstra, especially, this can seem very affirming. The past week he’s been hitting the talk shows and newspapers attacking Sen. Pelosi. And as Jeff Cranson in today’s Press notes, Hoekstra has also been getting noticed. In the school of “I don’t care what you say as long as you spell my name right,” the congressman leads in Indignity Index in the current issue of Newsweek. Not that it fazes him.
All this certainly matches his style: bold, out front, and an insider. Just what Michigan needs. As he explained to The Washington Times,
Republicans aren’t ready to take bold stands, and it is costing them politically among voters eager for reform.
Yet there’s a trap here. The more the Vice President goes on the more, he reminds the public what it was exactly that troubled them about the Bush era. This is the attitutde that believes itself right, independent of the actual information — there’s a secret set of information that explains all, our gnosticism. Naturally, this ends up in a sort of self-righteousness.
There’s no question that this red meat approach plays well with the base, especially the social conservatives. They have not only been the true believers of the Bush era, but the entire Cheney-esque rhetoric resonates with their own theological understanding. He’s plain spoken, long a mark of sincerity in the evangelical community; he sees things clearly as a choice, again finding its echo in the evanglical theology of decision, and to a lesser extent the Reformed mode of antithesis. In his approach they can trace their own viewpoint. Cheney (and Hoekstra) reinforce their political consciousness.
But as noted, this is a trap.
The Cheney-Hoekstra bring the internal motivation. Hoekstra’s strong internal showing is proof of this. But rumblings are underway. Mike Cox’s focus on economics, on being the tax-cutter supreme is an appeal to the same populist segment. Of course, his proposals are no more realistic than the Hoekstra-Cheney defense of the Iraq War c. 2003. A party dominated by this sort of macho-political posturing will not be a party that inspires the broader trust of a struggling state (however much it reflects the real rage about us), let alone begin to think how we move forward. The posturing is a failure of hope.
And in 2010, the one item Michigan voters will be looking for is this hope.
Looking over the responses to Cox’s announcement this morning only confirms the Social Conservative love of Hoekstra’s national security creds. This short note captures the sentiment well:
CHRISTIANS support torture because it keeps AMERICANS safe and alive and not dead and there was just a poll on it and everyone agreed to support it but i dont think that waterboarding is torture and thats what hoekstra says and thinks and speaks and remeber thay nailed jesus to the cross which was torture back then
I only want to believe this is an outlier.