During an economic crisis, Americans return to a language of morality. Perhaps excess and recklessness are vices that deserve social stigma. Perhaps frugality and prudence are personal virtues as well as practices that prevent economic collapse. Perhaps there is a distinction between securing our needs and being dominated by our wants.
No wonder the Depression resulted in Republicans being shut out of power for 18 years.
Exhibit B, Pastor Hibbs:
Titled "Finding Hope in the Global Crisis," Hibbs says the conference will reveal what he believes is the biblical backstory of the economy and America’s wars in the Middle East.
"We also believe the message will bring people hope and understanding," Hibbs says. "That’s going to dispel, I trust, a lot of fear and confusion."
"Our homes and our jobs, those are not the things we are living for," Hibbs says. "There’s a greater purpose for life, there’s a greater reason for living. The Lord has made that clear."
Gerson and Hibbs are both arguing that a depression or prolonged economic crisis will force us to focus on the truly important things, like Family Values. In essence, they’re predicting the ascendancy of the religious right as more and more people turn to God and family to get through the tough times.
They’re probably right, at least within the context of the Republican party. As Gerson suggests, the corporate cons will be discredited and stigmatized by the callousness and tone-deaf entitlement they spit from every pore, making the theocons stronger by default. (And it won’t hurt if lots of people believe that divine intervention is the economy’s only hope, either.)
But unless the religious right is shrewd enough to seize the moment and replace intolerance with compassion, it’s hard to see how they gain much power nationally, or how the three-legged Republican stool doesn’t go all wobbly with its corporate leg loosened. Hey, maybe depressions are good for us after all!