The first reaction of progressives to Bush’s second victory was that of despair, even fear: The last four years were not just a bad dream. The nightmarish coalition of big business and fundamentalist populism will roll on, as Bush pursues his agenda with new gusto, nominating conservative judges to the Supreme Court, invading the next country after Iraq, and pushing liberalism in the United States one step closer to extinction. However, this emotional reaction is precisely what we should resist—it only bears witness to the extent liberals have succeeded in imposing their worldview upon us. If we keep a cool head and calmly analyze the results, the 2004 election appears in a totally different light.
Many Europeans wonder how Bush could have won, with the intellectual and pop-cultural elite against him. They must now finally confront the underrated mobilizing power of American Christian fundamentalism. Because of its self-evident imbecility, it is a much more paradoxical, properly postmodern phenomenon than it appears.
Take the literary bestsellers of U.S. Christian fundamentalism, Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s “Left Behind” series of 12 novels on the upcoming end of the world that have sold more than 60 million copies. The Left Behind story begins with the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of millions of people—the saved souls whom God calls to himself in order to spare them the horrors of Armageddon. The Anti-Christ then appears, a young, slick and charismatic Romanian politician named Nicolae Carpathia, who, after being elected general secretary of the United Nations, moves U.N. headquarters to Babylon where he imposes an anti-American world government that disarms all nation-states. This ridiculous plot unfolds until the final battle when all non-Christians—Jews, Muslims, et al—are consumed in a cataclysmic fire. Imagine the outcry in the Western liberal media if a similar story written from the Muslim standpoint had become a bestseller in the Arab countries! It is not the poverty and primitivism of these novels that is breathtaking, but rather the strange overlap between the “serious” religious message and the trashiest conventions of pop culture commercialism.
[Extract. Appeared in In These Times, on November 5th, 2004. (full text).]