Steve Benen accuses Republicans who want to tank the stimulus package just to avoid electoral doom of not practicing the “Country First” motto they preached with such condescension during the 2008 election. But I think they really do believe that they’re putting country first, and how they justify that belief goes back to the heart of the modern conservative mindset.
One of the things that was most interesting about reading The Great Derangement was how the evangelical Christians in the book seemed to define their Christianity solely as a negative ideology–in other words, as something that stood in opposition to something else, but made no real positive claims of its own. It was less Christianity and more anti-Satanism.
This isn’t just a facet of evangelical conservatism. Atrios likes to point out that Republicans often seem to champion certain beliefs and individuals for no other reason than that they think those things will annoy liberals. Human Events hired Ann Coulter to pen a column naming Sarah Palin the magazine’s Conservative of the Year, in which Coulter writes:
Sarah Palin wins HUMAN EVENTS’ prestigious “Conservative of the Year” Award for 2008 for her genius at annoying all the right people.
See the pattern here? Just like the members of Hagee’s church saw Christianity only as something in opposition to Satan, so do people like Limbaugh and Coulter only see conservatism as something in opposition to liberalism. Not to be too glib about it, but to them, liberalism is bad like Satan is bad, and conservatism isn’t a coherent ideology so much as it is something that stands in opposition to the bad stuff. So when Limbaugh suggests tanking the stimulus package for no other reason than that its passage would be good for Democrats, there’s no contradiction in his mind between that and putting Country First–because since Democrats are bad, Republicans are good, and America is also good, anything that’s bad for Democrats and good for Republicans must also be good for America.
I’m not trying to justify their thinking, just elucidate it. In fact, when you follow this chain of logic to its natural conclusion–that all other interests must be subverted to the will of the party, since the party is the country–there’s something very distinctly proto-fascist about it. But that’s where you end up if you place more importance on the destruction of your opponents than actually standing for anything yourself.