Christianity, Capitalism, & Chinatown
Politico reports that the business community leaned very, very hard on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the law offering religious freedom protection to business owners who are gay-marriage dissenters. Excerpt:
It was a sharp admonition from some of the groups — including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry — that represent the tent poles of the state’s economy. And over the next 48 hours, the private-sector pressure on Brewer just kept growing.
The Arizona legislation was an especially acute uproar over gay rights and religious liberty, but the larger dynamic at play there — pitting powerful business interests against ardent social conservatives — has played out over and over as the fight over same-sex marriage has spread across the country. In blue states like New York, big companies have played a pivotal role in pushing same-sex marriage measures into law. In battlegrounds like Virginia and now Arizona, corporate America has slowed or halted hard-right social policy from taking effect.
What Arizona proved, as much as any other in recent American politics, is that there’s currently no more powerful constituency for gay rights than the Fortune 500 list.
Business leaders in Arizona and Washington called the campaign to kill 1062 a moment of triumph for the corporate world, and a reflection of how the need to attract talented employees and project a tolerant image to consumers has overridden virtually any other political imperative businesses face in a state like Arizona.
“I’m not a military person, but it was a DEFCON 1 situation,” said Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It would have been catastrophic, economically, if that bill had been signed.”
Hamer said that his group encouraged member companies to denounce the legislation and urged Brewer to use her veto to make a statement about Arizona. The governor was disinclined to sign the legislation from the start, said Brewer adviser Chuck Coughlin, but the overwhelming business outcry most likely accelerated “the speed with which the decision was made.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who publicly and repeatedly urged Brewer to stop the legislation from becoming law, likened the eruption in his home state to the divisive upheaval there in 2010 over a restrictive immigration law that Brewer signed. This time, he said, the state stepped back from the brink.
“We were talking about losing the Super Bowl. Can you imagine the economic impact?” McCain said in an interview. “We saw that movie before with S.B. 1070. It took us a long time to recover from that.”
Well, sure. Something as important as protecting the religious liberties of what would no doubt be a vanishingly small minority of religious Arizonans is nothing when the money that could be made from the Super Bowl is concerned. Right. Sen. McCain is a principled politician; the quality of his principles are another question.
This story could hardly be a clearer demonstration of the fact that, contrary to what so many conservative Americans wish to believe, the corporate class is no friend of traditional religion. In fact, as the Politico story makes clear, American business leaders are a far greater threat to Christian morality than all the faculties of all the universities in the country. Let us acknowledge the wisdom of this observation, in which the analyst describes the role of the “bourgeoisie” — a term that here refers to capitalists:
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
One need not agree with all of this, or with the conclusions its infamous author drew from this analysis, to credit the accuracy of his insight. Sometimes it takes a radical to see the true nature of the thing. There is no more revolutionary force in the world than capitalism. If this story from Arizona, and the role that corporate America has played and is playing in destroying traditional Christian social morality, doesn’t reveal to social and religious conservatives the pathetic naivete of believing that the interests of capitalism align with the interests of Christianity, then they are simply ineducable fools.
In modern times, the Republican Party has been composed of a fusion of social conservatives, businessmen, and defense hawks. Social conservatives are the useful idiots in this troika. The problem is, there’s nowhere for us to go, politically, so our leaders and those they lead see no alternative to behaving like the beaten wife. We bark, but both the Republican and the Democratic trains in the progressivist caravan move on.