The first night of my hitchhiking tour north I've made it to Pismo Beach, which I love. At sunset this evening I walked to the end of the pier. There are great forces racing across the Pacific and in from the plains that converge on Pismo (see my friend Doug Lasken's trippy post, "Pelican and Sardine Mandala": http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/2006_07_04_archive.html), and the end of the pier is a great place to meet them. A question on my mind was: Why are some people intensely opposed to abortion, gun control and gay marriage, while other people either don't care much or actively support these things? Standing at the end of piers is where I like to think about things like that.
I'd been trolling thoughts all through San Luis Obispo County, where many people who identify with the Tea Party live, trapped in a solidly blue state. Several wandered on the pier and I listened.
I found that people are not upset only with the acts of abortion, gay marriage or gun control. They are upset by the meanings of these acts, and especially their portents for the future.
Legalized, routine abortion informs the far-right that human life will, in the future, be in the hands of the state, in fact may be created by the state, owned by the state, and terminated by the state. Liberals would hesitate to give the state such ultimate powers over individual lives, but unlike the far right, liberals do not see abortion in terms of the future. They see now, when human misery is greater without abortion than with it.
Regarding gun control, I encountered lots of people who see guns as the only way to stop an encroaching tyranny of the state. I'd have to say that conservatives are correct to worry about state tyranny; their error is in thinking that guns will help them avoid that tyranny. Case in point, America's current status, revealed by Edward Snowden, as a surveillance state. The Fourth Amendment protections against domestic spying- the need to prove reasonable suspicion, the requirements for warrants and due process- are gone. How did this happen in our heavily armed society? How indeed, since the most heavily armed among us are on record in their literature as opposing an all-powerful state? It happened because guns were irrelevant to the battle. There was nothing to shoot at. A few switches were pulled and, presto, Americans are under 24 hour total surveillance. You can shoot at your cell phone, but it won't help.
What about gay marriage? Acceptance of homosexuality seems a likely outcome of our imminent ability to design and clone humans outside of traditional reproductive processes. The future won't care who wants to copulate with whom or what; in fact there may be premiums on homosexuality. The U.S. space program depicted in Arthur C. Clark's novel Rendezvous with Rama rejects applicants who have no element of homosexuality, which is seen as providing cooperative tendencies aboard long interstellar flights. The far right may not want this future, but it is already the case that, with seven billion humans swarming the earth, non-reproductive sex is a good thing.
The Tea Party's strongest opposition, then, is to the future, when the state may control human life much more than it does now. Far-right conservatives are correct to suspect the state; their problem is that they have no hope of stopping science. There will be creation of human life in the laboratory, and it will be designed by humans- no one can stop that. Because of this the Tea Party is also logical to defend the concept of God, since "God" is about to be reinvented as humankind. The Tea Party is right about the future but wrong about its ability to stop it. The furor resulting in John Boehner's resignation represents the Tea Party's rage at losing. Boehner resigned, and Mitch McConnell may resign, but the Tea Part will still lose. Politically, there's only one scenario for them, creating their own, new political party so that the GOP can either reinvent itself or die a natural death. Whether there will be any chance of Tea Party culture (for want of a better term) merging in the future with a scientific culture remains to be seen. There's precedent for it in science fiction, if that helps.
For the rest of us today, we need legalized abortion, acceptance of all sexual orientations, and limits to gun ownership. We are dealing with the present, where these measure are necessities of life, whatever they may become in the future.