Has the GOP become..the Stupid Party?
November 21, 2011
Shouldn’t someone in the GOP be concerned that broadsides like this practically write themselves?
How did we devolve to the point where a leading Republican candidate for the presidency can’t count to three? Whatever happened to conservative intellectuals?
John Stuart Mill famously dismissed mid-19th-century British conservatives as the “stupid party.” But in the America of my youth, it wasn’t true. Conservatives looked up to intellectuals. William F. Buckley set the tone with his sesquipedalian erudition. George F. Will was a must-read, and my conservative classmates at the University of Texas in the Age of Reagan could all quote Milton Friedman.
No more. Today’s conservatives are more likely to mimic Rush Limbaugh than Buckley, and they probably know more of the work of Salma Hayek than Friedrich Hayek. To be sure, Will still commands respect, and intellectuals like David Frum and Bill Kristol carry the torch ably. But today’s Republican Party is more the party of Sarah Palin’s defiant know-nothingness than the brainy conservatism of Bill Bennett. The GOP is a party of ideologues, not ideas.
Turns out – some on the right do find this embarrassing, and are more and more willing to talk about it.
Republicans aren’t really stupid, of course, and Begala acknowledges this. But, as he also pointed out, the conservative brain trust once led by William F. Buckley has been supplanted by talk radio hosts who love to quote Buckley (and boast of his friendship) but who do not share the man’s pedigree or his nimble mind. Moreover, where Buckley tried to rid the GOP of fringe elements, notably the John Birch Society, today’s conservatives have let them back in. The 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference was co-sponsored by the Birchers.
Scientific skepticism, the engine that propels intellectual inquiry, has morphed into skepticism of science fueled by religious certitude. In this strange world, it is heresy to express concern about, for example, climate change — or even to suggest that human behavior may be a contributing factor. Jon Huntsman committed blasphemy when he told ABC’s Jake Tapper that he trusts scientists on global warming.
What Huntsman next said, though refreshing and true, ensured that his poll numbers would remain in the basement: “When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science and, therefore, in a losing position.”
..the Republican base requires that candidates tack away from science toward the theistic position — only God controls climate. More to the point, Rush Limbaugh says that climate change is a hoax and so it must be. Huntsman may as well be a Democrat.
A lot of people have seen conservative Mormon Climate Scientist Barry Bickmore’s lecture-
“How I Avoided the Truth on Climate Change” – which gives a little insight into the rationalizations that go on in the sentient conservative underground.
The thing about people like us is that, since we sort of straddle the fence on some issues and can see some truth in alternative points of view, we are more likely to set aside ideology and vote for candidates that seem like they have some modicum of integrity and are, well… capable of abstract thought. But in the current GOP presidential race, who are our choices? We’ve got Huntsman, who seems pretty good (and was a great governor,) but who has no chance in the Primary.
We’ve got Romney, who isn’t so terrible, but badly needs to grow a spine. We’ve got Rick Perry, who comes across as a dumb jock who is real proud he can name Galileo, but we’re not sure he knows much beyond the name. (Prove me wrong, Rick! Tell us three new things about Galileo! I want you to go out there in that next debate and give 110%!!! ”And the third thing is… uh… uh… oops.”)
We’ve got Newt Gingrich, whose recent conversion from being a sleazy hypocrite is less than convincing, and who alternatesbetween sounding intelligent and like Archie Bunker. We’ve got Michelle Bachmann, who comes across as a saucer-eyed devotee of a UFO cult… and unutterably stupid. (Being a Mormon, I find this amusing. Go into any Evangelical Christian bookstore, and you will find countless books on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that ask whether we are “Christian or Cult”. For many Evangelicals, anyone who isn’t an Evangelical belongs to a “cult”. Ok, I completely understand that many LDS beliefs sound weird to outsiders–what religion doesn’t sound weird to outsiders? But just look at the GOP presidential candidates, and if you want to tell me that Bachmann and Perry come across as more sane than Huntsman and Romney, I’ll politely mumble something as I back away.)
We have Herman Cain, who is very likely a groper, is ridiculously uninformed, and who now answers all uncomfortable questions with “999″. No, I’m serious. Frankly, I don’t know anything about Tim Pawlenty except that “T-Paw” looks like a total pansy in debate. Makes me want to pants him and shove him in a locker. [UPDATE: I realized just after I posted that it's Rick Santorum who's still in the race, rather than Pawlenty. Nobody cares.] And Ron Paul… I’m at a loss for words.
Maybe there aren’t very many of us, but we’re beginning to hear some rustlings from Republican environmentalists. The Salt Lake Tribunereported today that Tim DeChristopher, who is in jail for obstructing the sale of resources on sensitive government lands (even though these sales were later deemed improper,) would support Jon Huntsman for president, because he had showed some integrity on environmental issues while in office as Utah governor.
Yesterday, four Republicans in the New Hampshire State House supported a hearing requested by a group of birthers who want President Obamaz officially removed from the state’s primary ballot.
Of course, Birther attorney Orly Taitzz is in the midst of it and had filed a complaint about Obama’s candidacy that, according to WND, was joined by several state lawmakers. Ortiz had submitted “evidence” of alleged fraud regarding his birth certificate. The evidence, she charged, “indicates he does not meet the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a ‘natural born citizen.’”
It’s not clear whether all this is a smokescreen or whether these dead-enders actually believe this stuff. But they aren’t letting the facts get in their way — one group in Arizona has even demanded that the President “release the microfiche” of his birth certificate.
Here’s what one of the state representatives backing the effort had to say about yesterday’s hearing: “I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, (PS – that’s apparently a real quote) but even I could take [the long-form birth certificate] apart and see that it was fraudulent.”