The Triumph of WASPish Ideals and Republican Catholicism

By Alex Gonzalez

Two years ago, Historian Gregory Rodriguez wrote a column titled Kagan And The Triumph Of WASP Culture underlying how, with the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, WASPish tradition was in decline, but how that same WASPish culture had also triumphed.  For the first time in American History, Rodriguez argued, The Supreme Court had only four Protestant Justices and five non-Protestants Catholics and Jews. In Rodriguez’ views, Yankee WASPish culture was, and is still, the core American society, but now it is kept alive by non-WASPish groups who dominated the institutions of government.

Similarly, a few decades ago, WASPish Republicans feared the Romanization of America. But today, the GOP is fully embracing the new wave of Roman Catholicism within the Party pushed by an undercurrent of social issues.   For the last two years, the old Waspish leaders within the  Republican Party have  embraced the new intellectual and social teaching of American Catholics to strengthen its  appeal to ”white ethnic” Catholics,  thereby, giving unprecedented power to Catholic “Roman” teaching.  As a result, the old exclusive WASPish GOP now looks to Catholicism for survival, and for the first time in history, there is no protestant running in the Republican Presidential Ticket.

According to Gregory Rodriguez, the “WASP establishment” doesn’t refer to “white” Southern Baptists, the Catholic Irish, or the Jewish  groups. WASPish culture meant you  the descendants of the original English colonists in New England, whose relatively small numbers have always had a disproportionate influence on U.S. culture in the East Coast.

 But this Yankee WASPish culture is not only for Protestants, Rodriguez notes, the term WAS also means that institutions which are largely “the shadows of their Founders”.  As a result,the nationalization of Yankee ideology, symbolism of the New England Puritans’ sense of divine election and the belief in America as a promised land gradually had become a kind of national creed”. And, even if conservatives argue against it, the conservative WASP culture is more about dedication to Core Intuitions of Government,  not  some Rousseaunean Libertarian  idea). Furthermore, according to Rodriguez,

For the most part, even as they became a smaller and smaller sliver of a diversifying nation, Yankees maintained a sense of their ethnic and cultural distinctiveness..Of Universalist ideology – equality, liberty and human rights. One way that worked itself out is that non-Yankees could aspire and acculturate to the Yankee norm and ideal – by gaining entrance to their schools primarily, but also by joining their churches, appreciating their art forms and imbibing their ideas, adopting their aesthetic.  “Ultimately,” the essayist noted, “Waspism may be more a state of mind, a pattern of behavior, than a rigid ethnic type it’s been noted that Kagan’s confirmation would give Ivy League law schools complete hegemony over the Supreme Court. That only proves the point. The new lineup of justices would be ethnically and religiously non-WASP, but they all would h The only thing that has changed is that today’s “WASP elites” are just as likely to be Jews and Catholics as they are to be Yankees. Have been trained in the very New England institutions that were established to spread Yankee learning.   

Similarly, the same way that SCOTUS kept its WASPpish universal institutional and lore by incorporating non-Waspish,  the Republican Party that used to be protected by Southern WASPish lore now has fully embraced Catholicism as its new social engine.  But there was a time when the Republican Party was strictly for White Anglo Saxon Protestants, especially Presbyterian in the South and Episcopalians in North. In op-ed by Timothy Stanley titled How the GOP got Catholicized,  Stanley points out that  It was an alliance between Country Club Episcopalians and twice born followers of the Old Time Gospel, all firmly opposed to mass Catholic immigration from Europe. The nativism of the GOP drove Catholics into the welcoming arms of Al Smith, Jack Kennedy, Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Party.

However, the revival of social issues has put Republican and conservative Catholics on the forefront of abortion, Gay marriage, and too much government dependency by Americans. With the selection of Paul Ryan, a committed “Roman Catholic” as VP, the Republican Party   is officially marrying a new wave of social conservative Catholic American that seeks in Catholicism   guidance a moral compass to unite the GOP under a single Umbrella.  The Catholic Church has a vast intellectual heritage that could be drawn upon when fighting the liberals. But, it was not easy way up for Catholics.

However, it was few decades ago that mere mentioning of “Roman” Catholicism would stir sentiments of “foreign allegiances,” especially among Teddy Roosevelt Republicans.  Too, Waspish culture was always suspicious of too much “Roman” influence; many argued that Catholicism had innate advection to democracy and capitalism. But to fight this belief in the US, in the 1920s, Catholic and Jewish groups pushed for integration of their immigrants in the common civic culture to remove any suspicions of foreign allegiances. The Catholic Church used its clergy, schools, press, charity, and fraternal organizations to persuade immigrants to give up their foreign culture and adopt Anglo American culture.   Irish Bishops had difficulty in convincing Irish immigrants to abandon their traditions so as to conform to a more  “Anglo-American protestant tradition of values and moralism.” (WASP culture ).   By the turn of the 20th century, Irish catholic schools and churches became a propagation of American values and American nationalism. But then, in 1960s,  American Yankee WASPish lore feared another wave of “Roman” foreign culture.

In fact, Kennedy had to reassure voters that his allegiances were not to Rome, but rather  to our  WASPish Constitution, Institutions of Government.  In the 1960s, Americans became very distrustful of Rome, and as a result, millions of Americans left the Catholic  Church.  According to Putnam American Grace: What Unites and What Separates us:

the American Catholic Church was “severely affected” in the 1960s not by event in American by major reforms in Rome—the Vatican II. The Vatican II was major Catholic reform council held from 1962 to 1965  triggered far-reaching changes in liturgy ( for example, Latin replaced by vernacular English in the US, the  virtual  disappearance  of confession, and papal recognition of other religions….changes that were welcome by Liberals but anathema to conservatives.

These “Roman” impositions were not what the WASPish Yankee Culture would welcome in 1960s America; so millions of  Americans Catholics abandoned the Church because of too much “Roman” meddling in the private lives of Americans. But today, social issues such as gay marriage, abortion and school prayer are linked to the religious mantra  of the Evangelicals and Catholic Church so much that for the first time in American history the Republican Party is running ticket with no protestant in it.  And this Republican conservative transition within the GOP is precisely what is what Gregory Rodriguez means by the triumph of WASP culture. The Republican Party, a Party that used to be run by old Waspish leaders, is now promoting a new class of Republican Catholics leaders who openly  promote their faith  as  open “Roman” Catholics  without arousing  feeling of suspicion, or “foreign Roman alliances”. This  make the Republican Party the symbol of Waspish universal inclusiveness. And it show the growing power of the Catholic Church within the GOP.

If fact, so much was the euphoria of this new Catholic phenomenon within the Republican Party that every single conservative publications  for the past two week have openly supported Paul Ryan’s Catholics Views. From  the premier WASPish publication such as the  Wall Street Journal, The WeeklyStandar,  and Even CNN, have been praising Ryan’s detestation of  government  helping the poor.  Too, A bigger blessing than others, and Mitt Romney hit the jackpot by signing up Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, to deliver the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week.

60 years ago, the upper echelons of the GOP were dominated by The Protestant Establishment what C. Wright Mills called The Power Elite. If your father went to Harvard, you had a 90 percent chance of getting in yourself, and the path upward from there was in your favor. Since then, we have opened up opportunities for women, African-Americans, Jews, Catholic Irish,  Italians, Poles, Hispanics and members of many other groups. In other words, Ryan is not in Waspish in the traditional sense since he is “Roman” Catholic.

I am not certain what this new current of Catholicism within the GOP will do for  individual  rights and States Rights, especially on social issues. But Ryan’s rise to prominences, while preaching his faith, is the best example of WASPish culture inclusiveness of Universalist ideology – equality, liberty and human rights. As a result,  we are all Waspish Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and  Mormons  can move  into the echelons of old Waspish Republican hierarchy  if we work hard and dedicate our life to Party, as Ryan has.  And, This is very important triumph for American Catholics who no longer have apologies about their Roman faith, or arouse suspicion, every time they have Run for office.

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