Republican Party Animals

by John Holbo on May 21, 2006

Just so Henry does not have to doing anything undignified, like remind you all again that he’s over at Firedoglake later today, discussing Perlstein’s Before the Storm [amazon] … well, now I’ve done it for him. And doesn’t it seem like it’s about time for some kind of anti-Perlstein backlash? (Don’t look at me. I don’t have an unkind word. Great book. No kidding.)

Here’s a fun bit from p. 372. It’s time for the Republican National Convention in 1964, at the Cow Palace, in SF:

Across town, at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, a new kind of bohemia was taking shape, although many of its most flamboyant representatives were occupied with a cross-country trip on a bus called “Further,” whose riotous exterior decoration included a sign reading, “A VOTE FOR BARRY IS A VOTE FOR FUN!” A stop along the way was the commune of former Harvard professor Timothy Leary, whose The Psychedelic Experience had come out that year. These were Ken Kesey’s “Merry Pranksters,” later to be immortalized as the first hippies in a book by New York Herald Tribune writer Tom Wolfe. The delegates, mostly gray old factory owners and club women – the butt of cabbies’ jokes that San Francisco banks were running out of nickels and dimes – would have been altogether disgusted by the goings-on at the Haight, were they aware of them; but the folks who would fill the Cow’s spectator galleries – the YAFers and Young Republicans – might have been amused. They were packing North Beach nightclubs dancing the swim (some might have taken in the country’s first topless dancing act), snapping up comic books lampooning such trendy dances by inventing new ones like the “Eisenhower sway” (“sway back and forth. But end up in the dead center. Do not speak while performing this exercise.”, and heckling lefty comedian Dick Gregory at the hungry i when they weren’t laughing at his cracks at the expense of Scranton (“He reminds you of the guy who runs to John Wayne for help”). They did think a vote for Barry was a vote for fun. They exulted in each other, rejoiced, felt an electricity they would not experience again in their lives; it was their Woodstock.

I think it’s rather interesting the way conservatives – particularly movement conservatives – have gotten so adept at being both the party of fun and the party of traditional moral values; while managing to tar the left as both too relativistic and hedonistically permissive (take that, you big hippy!) and too morally authoritarian (politically correct). It’s a good trick when you can make the opposition carry the weight of your own contradictions, as it were.



Patrick S. O'Donnell 05.21.06 at 11:04 am

A classic case of Freudian projection.

An analogous case from a certain sort of fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity:

A couple of years ago the LA Times had a series of articles on Pastor Jim Crouch and his wife Jan of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN): ‘Over the last 31 years, Crouch and his wife, Jan, have parlayed their viewers’ small expressions of faith into a worldwide broadcasting empire — and a life of luxury.’

Among the things we learn:

The network…was buffeted by unwanted publicity last week, when The Times reported that Crouch had paid a former employee $425,000 to keep silent about an alleged homosexual tryst.

Paul, 70, collects a $403,700 salary as TBN’s chairman and president. Jan, 67, is paid $361,000 as vice president and director of programming. Those are the highest salaries paid by any of the 12 major religious nonprofits whose finances are tracked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

TBN’s “prayer partners” pay for a variety of perquisites as well.

The Crouches travel the world in a $7.2-million, 19-seat Canadair Turbojet owned by TBN. They drive luxury cars. They have charged expensive dinners and furniture to TBN credit cards.

Thirty ministry-owned homes are at their disposal — including a pair of Newport Beach mansions, a mountain retreat near Lake Arrowhead and a ranch in Texas.

The Crouches’ family members share in the benefits. Their oldest son, Paul Jr., earns $90,800 a year as TBN’s vice president for administration. Another son, Matthew, has received $32 million from the network since 1999 to produce Christian-themed movies such as “The Omega Code.”

Overseeing these expenditures is a board of directors that consists of Paul Crouch, Jan Crouch and Paul’s 74-year-old sister, Ruth Brown. Control resides primarily with Paul. In a 2001 legal deposition, Jan said she did not know she was a corporate officer and could not recall the last board meeting she attended.

TBN’s declared mission as a tax-exempt Christian charity is to produce and broadcast television shows and movies “for the purpose of spreading the Gospel to the world.”

The Crouches also present themselves as thrifty and budget-conscious. During one telethon, Paul said his personal $50,000 donation to TBN had wiped out the family checking account. He often says that he and his wife live in the same Newport Beach tract house they bought 33 years ago for $38,500.

But nowadays, neither of the Crouches uses that home much. Whether in Southern California or on the road, they live in a variety of other TBN-owned homes. In all, the network owns 30 residences in California, Texas, Tennessee and Ohio — all paid for in cash, property records show.

These include two Newport Beach mansions in a gated community overlooking the Pacific. One of them was recently on the market for an asking price of $8 million. A real estate advertisement said it featured “11,000 square feet of opulent European luxury with regulation tennis courts and a rambling terraced hillside orchard with view of the blue Pacific.”

In Costa Mesa, the ministry owns 11 homes in a gated development adjacent to Trinity Christian City International.

In Sky Forest, a resort community in the San Bernardino National Forest, the network owns a four-bedroom, five-bath home.

TBN officials say the real estate purchases were consistent with the network’s charitable mission, because the homes serve as venues for broadcasts and provide lodging for the Crouches and fellow televangelists as they travel across the country. The properties have also been good investments, they said.

Kelly Whitmore, a former personal assistant to Jan Crouch, said in interviews with The Times that she used a TBN American Express card to make numerous personal purchases for Jan and Paul, including groceries, clothes, cosmetics, alcohol and a tanning bed.
Whitmore said she regularly used ministry money and a network-owned van to stock the bars in Paul’s and Jan’s separate condominiums at Trinity Music City.

Whitmore said the Crouches directed her to make the purchases at a store called Frugal McDougal, hoping it would not be recognizable on credit-card statements as a liquor store.

Credit card receipts also offer a glimpse of the Crouches’ dining habits. In Nashville in the mid-1990s, Paul Crouch hosted dinners with TBN employees in a private room of Mario’s, an upscale Italian restaurant, spending $180 or more per person for parties of up to a dozen, the receipts show.

A former top TBN official described heavy consumption of wine and liquor at a dozen such dinners. The ex-official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retaliation.

“I have no problem with people drinking,” the former official said, “but I have a problem drinking with [prayer] partners’ money.”


Carlos 05.21.06 at 11:06 am

Um. JH, what movement conservative would you say exemplifies the “party of fun”?


John Holbo 05.21.06 at 11:15 am

I’m just thinking about the whole “South Park Conservatives” meme, going back to P.J. O’Rourke’s “Republican Party Reptiles”, going back further than that. A sort of ‘frat boys gone wild’ thing that has been part of Young Republican culture for some decades.


John Holbo 05.21.06 at 11:15 am

It may not be your idea of fun, Carlos. Nor mine.


Answer Guy 05.21.06 at 11:26 am

My favorite takedown of all this “Republicans/conservatives are hip” meme that emerges every so often from…um…wherever they get this stuff from goes like this:

a. There are two political parties in America that matter.

b. One of these parties has a large and powerful faction – arguably a faction that controls the party and its nominating process – that is of the opinion that the nation desparately needs laws outlawing oral sex.

c. This party is NOT the “hip” or “cool” party.



Carlos 05.21.06 at 11:44 am

Ah. “Drink Until She Looks Good” Republicans.


grackel 05.21.06 at 1:09 pm

“b. One of these parties has a large and powerful faction – arguably a faction that controls the party and its nominating process – that is of the opinion that the nation desparately needs laws outlawing oral sex.”

Well, duh! Everybody knows things are more fun when they’re forbidden. Dude! Rock on!


Mr. Toad 05.21.06 at 3:12 pm

Better some South Park libertarians and moderates than the usual PC marxist academics, or close pals of marxist academics. The SP “conservative” is really one of the PC marxist myths: oh, you’re not down with the Susan Sarandon variety of celebrity leftism, or liberal gangsters, or the sentimental wheezebagism of the postmodernist left? You’re a South Park conservative then! Endless silly dichotomies and overgeneralizations. That’s what the PC variety of LIT. Inc. has done. And in a real sense, the real conservatives, as frightening as dixie fundamentalists, are now the statist academics, the tenured Robispierres and Bukharins who simply eliminate all dissent from blogs, whether left or right.


Gene O'Grady 05.21.06 at 4:10 pm

I was a little young to be too sophisticated in my analysis at the time, but I don’t think it’s right to associate the SF topless scene with any sort of liberation, sophistication, or fun. I doubt one ran into too many hippies or beatniks (groups that sort of intersected at that time), just a lot of sexually repressed guys. I have heard, and think it may be true, that what topless moved in on was the old SF jazz scene which the powers that be were moved to put the muscle on to prevent the rumored association of black men with white women.

On a more humorous note, the Cow Palace where the convention was held in ’64 was not actually in San Francisco but just over the line in San Mateo county. At that time my father was practicing law in Redwood City, the San Mateo County seat. Since the sheriff knew that he and his partners were interested in politics (although all except one were democrats) he offered to make them temporary deputies so they could get in to watch. My dad didn’t take him up on the offer, but one of this partners (a quite liberal democrat) did. As he was wandering about the stands he happened to find a drunken delegate pawing a woman, and remembering that he was a deputy sheriff for the day he arrested the guy.


y81 05.21.06 at 6:18 pm

Well, part of the answer is that much humor requires a traditional moral code to operate (but doesn’t necessarily require actual adherence to that code, just that it exist). George Orwell’s essay on comic postcards discusses this theme at some length. Well worth reading if there is anyone who reads this blog and hasn’t read it already.

But there is more to it than that. The New Left actually was pretty funny. But some time after that, the humor went out of the left. Political correctness, I guess. Note, for instance, in response to some of the comments above, that there is one political party that believes that telling a dirty joke at work creates a federal case, and that whether a Supreme Court justice has a collection of Playboy magazines is a worthy topic for the major journalistic institutions of the nation to investigate.


Marc 05.21.06 at 10:21 pm

From the comments above, conservatives are also certainly master adepts of whining about their victimhood while they control all of the levers of power. But it burns, precious, yes it burns – if they know that some academic somewhere might say something mean about them.


Answer Guy 05.21.06 at 10:24 pm

Conservative “humor,” even if devoid of bigotry, consists primarily of the privileged mocking the powerless. The lion’s share of it is facile, cowardly and ultimately hollow. It probably had at least a little more bite a generation or two ago when the opinions of people who called themselves “liberal” might have had some say in national affairs.

I haven’t looked, but I wonder what an outfit like the Dartmouth Review does now. People who “think” roughly the way they do have more or less always run corporate America as well as the military establishment, not to mention all those ridiculous sincecure think tanks. What’s different now? Well, the people they want in power are in power, they got the war they wanted, the foreign policy they wanted, the tax cuts they wanted, they’re getting the judges they wanted, etc. (If you’re a *religious* conservative, you’re probably able to conjure up a persecution complex on cue no matter what the facts on the ground are, but these guys usually aren’t even very good at paying lip service to religious piety.) As far as I can discern, they’ve always seen themselves as some sort of Delta House fighting for the underdog against the Dean Wormers of the world, but that was always dubious at bst and is wholly risible in the context of 2006.


Uncle Kvetch 05.22.06 at 12:30 pm

As far as I can discern, they’ve always seen themselves as some sort of Delta House fighting for the underdog against the Dean Wormers of the world, but that was always dubious at bst and is wholly risible in the context of 2006.

Nah…people who really want to feel persecuted will always find a way. Listen to a half hour of Rush, O’Reilly, or any of their ilk and you’ll learn that the white straight anglo male is the only truly oppressed minority in America, now that feminazis run the universities and the queers have their own sitcoms. Read NRO’s The Corner and you’ll learn that George Clooney has more power than George Bush, the Supreme Court, and the Fortune 500 combined. Risible it may be (and is), but somebody out there is lapping it up.


Shalom Beck 05.24.06 at 2:20 am

If one quarter of your convention delegates are public school teachers, you can bet that the other party will be the party of fun.


Chris Bertram 05.24.06 at 2:24 am

Not if a similar (or higher) proportion of the other party’s delegates are accountants and lawyers!

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