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The Fusionist Coalition

Different Sectors on the Right

To understand the coalition that formed to promote the impeachment of Clinton it is necessary to review the main sectors in the secular, Christian, and xenophobic right. One way to do this is to observe the various topical coalitions. Another is to look at groups, institutions and movements. In addition, there is a methodological dividing line on the political right, the conservative right (which embraces electoral strategies), versus the hard right (which embraces some form of antidemocratic or authoritarian control). [See Chart One in Appendix].

In this article the term Secular Right refers to electorally-focused conservatives, neo-conservatives, and mild reactionaries primarily motivated by issues involving economics, foreign policy, or traditional morality, and operating within the electoral system. Institutional examples include the American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institution, Heritage Foundation, American Security Council, and Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ultra-conservative members of groups such as the John Birch Society anchor the right-wing of this sector and overlap with both the Christian Right and the Xenophobic Right.

The term Christian Right refers to theologically-motivated reactionaries, primarily fundamentalist Christian evangelicals, who seek to impose on secular society their religious views on morality and culture, but who still are operating within the electoral system.180 This is a resurgence of the Calvinistic vision of settlers in Massachusetts' Puritan colony who banished free thinkers as heretics.181 Institutional examples include the Christian Coalition, Free Congress Foundation, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and Traditional Values Coalition. The milder form will be called Christian nationalism and the more aggressive and authoritarian form will be called Christian theocracy.

The term Xenophobic Right refers to right-wing dissidents and revolutionaries with contempt for or a fear of difference, alien ideas, or immigrants. This sector is motivated by a variety of themes including reactionary ultraconservatism, regressive populism, white racial nationalism, or ethno-racial chauvinism rooted in white supremacy and antisemitism. Institutional examples include the Liberty Lobby and Aryan Nations. The more xenophobic wing of the John Birch Society fits here. This sector includes the regressive populists in the patriot and armed militia movements, as well as the far right, consisting of overt race hate groups, and organizations with revolutionary agendas, including the Ku Klux Klan, various Christian Patriot formations, and groups promoting Christian Identity.

Many groups in all three sectors have at least some philosophical roots in orthodox versions of Calvinistic Protestant Christianity, especially support for heterosexual patriarchy, individualism, and a free market economy. The WASP has its sting. There is overlap at the margins of the sectors, and some ultra-conservative political ideologues such as Pat Buchanan and Sam Francis draw from all three tendencies. Nonetheless, the secular, Christian, and xenophobic branches of the right each have distinguishing characteristics and operate as self-conscious movements.182

The Fusionist Coalition

The Christian Right is part of a longstanding coalition within the Republican Party that began by finding common points of agreement within economic libertarianism, social traditionalism, and militant anticommunism.183 This conservative coalition was called "Fusionism." Jerome L. Himmelstein wrote that:

    The core assumption that binds these three elements is the belief that American society on all levels has an organic order--harmonious, beneficent, and self-regulating--disturbed only by misguided ideas and policies, especially those propagated by a liberal elite in the government, the media, and the universities.184

With the collapse of the Cold War, militant anti-communism has been expanded into a conceptual framework that can be usefully called "militant anti-collectivism," an umbrella for fighting the globalist New World Order, the United Nations, Chinese communism, liberal "New Deal" Democrats, and the so-called tyranny of political correctness. The durability of the reconstituted fusionist coalition on the right can be seen in how it is replicated in the anti-Clinton coalition. An extensive review of rightist attacks on Clinton over the past several years shows that they cluster in familiar groups:

  • Moral Collapse
  • gay rights
  • abortion
  • feminists
  • pornography
  • non-traditional sexuality
  • violence
  • Statist Intrusion
    • big government
    • onerous taxes
    • government regulations
  • environment
  • land use
  • parental rights
  • job site safety
    • activist judges
  • Collectivist Conspiracy
    • liberal media bias
    • government tyranny
    • treason
    • New World Order globalism
    • Satanic One World Government

As people became swept up in the impeachment campaign, the specific charges of sexual misconduct, lying under oath, and obstruction of justice were taken seriously, but the underlying motivations flowed from pre-existing hard-line grievances against Clinton. Nonetheless, attempts by House Republicans (and their allies in hard right national organizations) to broaden the base for impeachment failed. Sociologist Sara Diamond points out, "The right's elite-oriented and mass-based contingents are autonomous but mutually dependent on each other." Yet the use of populist-style rhetoric by elite political leaders does not always spark a grassroots populist movement outside the hard-core loyal grassroots constituency.

Polling over the past two decades shows that depending on the issue and the definition, this hard right constituency fluctuates somewhere between 2 and 12 percent of the general adult population. What is crucial to understand, is that they represent a much higher percentage of actual voters. According to Sara Diamond:

    In June 1994, a New York Times poll revealed that about 9 percent of a national sample identified themselves as part of the Christian Right....Exit poll data indicate that about 25 percent of the people who voted in November 1994 were white evangelical Christians. Among these, about two-thirds voted Republican.185

Other polls show similar results, with the Christian Right electorate generally representing some 11 to 15 percent of voters in elections when they mobilize a heavy turnout.186

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