A reader points me toward this thoughtful piece at Balloon Juice which views Ted Cruz’ campaign as a reprise of the apostle Paul’s successful transfiguration of class antagonisms into Christianity.
Friedrich Nietzsche made the argument about the triumph of “ascetic morality” and the Christian reevaluation of values 140 years ago in On the Genealogy of Morals. Imagine you feel oppressed by a culture and a political system that has consistently ignored you and the things you care about. (For today’s conservative, these values might include the definition of marriage as being “between a man and a woman,” the idea of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, or that life begins at conception.) Now imagine someone promised to overturn all of the prevalent values of the day in favor of your own, opposing values. For Nietzsche, this meant the value of being wealthy would be reversed into the virtue of being poor; the value of being proud would be upended by the virtue of humility; the celebration of the body would be transvalued into the virtue of sexual restraint. Having power, on this account, would mark the powerful as morally blameworthy; being powerless, by contrast, was a guarantee of righteousness. It was Paul and his astonishing insight into the psychological needs of the powerless of his time that accomplished this transvaluation of values, the very same psychological needs that Cruz hopes to tap into now.
I think Trump has done a better job of mobilizing resentments than Cruz, but the general observation is correct.
The appalling irony, of course, is that the Republicans have spent the past 7-years pursuing a nihilistic policy of frustrating governance; even as their constituency seeks a strongman to get things done, they are so reckless that the Supreme Court might be shorthanded for an entire year because they simply refuse to do their job.
Bah. The stupid are like the poor; they will always be with us.