Monday, November 22, 2010

Are today's Republicans actually stupid?

The conservative side often complains that universities are liberal places. And they are, but part of that has to be that universities are places that celebrate knowledge and discovery, and increasingly, the conservative movement and the Republicans oppose these things.

This may be why most conservatives on university faculties are of a libertarian, rather than typical Republican bent. The old style Republicans--socially libertarian, fiscally conservative, responsible supporters of free market policies-- they are independents, now, as the Republican Party has embraced social conservatism--at the cost of intelligence.

Now in the majority, Republicans want to hold hearings on the "global warming conspiracy". Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who will seek the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship maintains that we do not have to worry about climate change because God promised in the Bible not to destroy the world again after Noah’s flood.Their electoral base "doesn't believe" in evolution. They characterize homosexuality as somehow unnatural, or a pathology. They have a regrettable tendency to believer birther conspiracies and complain that Obama is a Muslim. They consider scientific findings to be politically manipulated by self-serving liars.

Given all this, I think it is not surprising that the GOP has a brain drain, especially among the young.
[T]he picture that emerges is alarming. In good universities across the nation, students flee the Republican Party. And the better the universities, it seems, the more drastic the trend. …
Today’s top students are motivated less by enthusiasm for Democrats and much more by revulsion from Republicans. It’s not the students who have changed so much. It’s the Republicans….

Under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, Republicans championed science and knowledge. But over the past 30 years, national Republicans have formed an intensifying alliance with religious conservatives more skeptical of science and knowledge. I don’t know whether discarding evolution goes against common sense; but I’m pretty sure it goes against most Ivy League-educated senses.

To advance this alliance, national Republicans have derided elite universities as dangerous and hostile places….

In the age of Fox News and the Tea Party, the cultural war has heated up, and the anti-academic and anti-science rhetoric has intensified. …
The culture war that Republicans have waged has paid off. They have stoked up resentment against the educated "elites" and worn their anti-intellectualism as a badge of pride. And increasingly, they rely for votes on an uneducated, resentful class -- the left-behind class, the ones displaced by the modern global high-tech economy. With this current strategy, it is actually to their advantage to maintain a large part of the population as ignorant, ill educated, and aggrieved.

I think the Republicans are divided between the cynical manipulators, who politicize inquiry, mis-state facts, and use the media to enforce the idea of disagreement where none occurs, and the proudly ignorant, who willingly state that they don't "believe" in evolution or global warming, and who glare balefully at those who do.

While other countries rush ahead with investments in the future, developing science and technology and investing in education, the current Republican party wants to take the country back--into the 1950s, or beyond. I don't believe that ALL of them are that stupid. But those who aren't, are willing to sell out for short term gains and power. And that is truly frightening.

Meanwhile, the stupidification of America is well under way.


JCF said...

Outstanding post, IT.


A request of the FoJ readership: I have bolstered this idea of an "escape from knowledge", by citing an article from the National Geographic Magazine, circa late 1970s/early 80s, about a Protestant (Anabaptist?) religious sect, then living in Mexico, that---in their dedication to pious anti-intellectualism---had actually fallen into illiteracy (So long, Scriptura!).

I tried to Google for the article, and got nowhere (NG's own site only archives articles from the past decade! :-0). Does anyone have old NG magazines, or access to a more complete index of articles? If you can help me track this down, please email me at jcf1899 at gmail dot com. Thanks!

[No, I haven't tried my local library yet. ;-/]

Mark said...

Excellent article.

Erika Baker said...

It's odd viewed from across the pond. Here, the uneducated, resentful, left behind by modern technology ones are most likely to vote Labour (if they vote at all and if they don't vote for immigration hating extreme right wing parties who promise to kick out the foreigners that cause all the problems) because that's the party that promises to look after them with benefits etc and to pull them out of their misery.

The Conservatives are associated with big business that is only motivated by self interest and profit which then never trickles down to the poor.

Why is the trend in the States just the other way round?

JCF said...

See the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", Erika.

Basically, the group affectionately known as "Po' White Trash" (my peeps come from 'em, so *I* can say that!) have SO bought into 1) Social Conservatism, combined w/ 2) lingering racism against a black President, that they will ignore if not CHEER the economically-conservative rich who keep them at minimum wage, working at Walmart (if not unemployed).

This may sound simplistic, but it's not. When I've done political organizing among the less-well-off, I can't count the number of times someone would ask (re a Progressive politician), "Does s/he support abortion?"

Literally, that would be their DEFINING political interest: whether a politician wanted to exert State control over a woman's uterus or not ("Freedom" concerns aside, they were in favor of State uterus-control!)

It's tragic. Really.

JCF said...

if they don't vote for immigration hating extreme right wing parties who promise to kick out the foreigners that cause all the problems

Whoops, I missed this line.

This is a factor, too. But here in the US, our "extreme right wing parties who promise to kick out the foreigners" is just the GOP (Republicans).

Erika Baker said...

JCF, thanks.

"have SO bought into 1) Social Conservatism, combined"

I can see that this is the case, what I don't understand is why. To me, it seems to be compeltely counter intuitive.

JCF said...

I would LOVE to see an in-depth psychological (even psychiatric? neurochemical?) study of Abortion Choice friends and (esp.) foes.

All sorts of people (most, psychologically healthy I'm sure) PROJECT onto infants (especially their own!).

But my HUNCH is that, for abortion rights opponents, the projection onto "the unborn child" is MASSIVE. Literally "the fetus = ME!"

My hunch is that some abortion rights opponents would literally neglect their own children (to say nothing of poor children NOT their own!), out of an OBSESSION that (to paraphrase the saying about Puritans) "some unborn child (e.g., 4 week developed embryo) somewhere is being aborted."

The "unborn child" is an abstraction. Hence, it works as a FOCUS for projection, far better than "my own bratty kids" do! [Nevermind that "welfare queen's brood, all w/ different fathers!"]

An "unborn child" will never wake you in the middle of the night, crying. It will never pick on its younger siblings. You (theoretically) don't have to pass an education bond to pay for it. It will never get sh*t or vomit on you. Geez, *I* am starting to fall in love w/ the clean&quiet&CHEAP lil' darlins'! Forever w/ the tiny half-inch feet! (famous pin many abortion rights opponents wear)

"It's totally innocent, totally a victim . . . just like ME!": sez the subconscious thought. O_o

Well, just my...3c!

MarkBrunson said...

I don't think they're stupid.

I think they're clinically insane.

I think they all just snapped when Reagan didn't rise from death to a triumphant new trickledown life after three days in the Old Spiced tomb.

Erika Baker said...

But social conservatism is much more than being against abortion.

I still can't believe your healthcare debate etc. Your electorate seems to be full of people voting against their own economic interests and I genuinely don't understand that.

What I'm used to from over here is that people vote against the national interest if they think it conflicts with their own, but they never vote against their own interest.

To me, it just makes no sense and I'd love to understand it.

JCF said...

But social conservatism is much more than being against abortion.

I'm trying to tell you, Erika, many in the US electorate have NO political interests, besides opposition to abortion rights.

There is NOTHING that a politician can give them (like health insurance for example), that can compensate for the fact that s/he's a "baby-killer."

It's crazy . . . but it's the simple reality.

Erika Baker said...

I do believe you!
I'm just saying that I find it very hard to understand because it goes to completely against self interest.

JCF said...

I think it has to do w/ a projected sense of "self", as I blathered about above. It's a kind of "self-interest" . . . just not a rational one (Then again, 'merkans are fundementally a MUCH less rational people, than are most Europeans, among others)

Prior Aelred said...

The Republican Party has become the evil leading the stupid.

Erica -- it is the fundamentalists (looking for simple solutions to complex problems) -- somewhere along the line they adopted the RCC opposition to abortion (whereas in the old days it was never spoken about & avoidance of any commonality with papist idolators & their superstitions was taken for granted -- that the Evangelicals vigorously support RC appointees to the Supreme Court would have been unthinkable in my childhood).

Jim Pratt said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I come from Republican lineage on both sides. My mother's family from the mid-Atlantic states, where my grandfather's cousin was a governor and US Senator; my father from New Hampshire, with a strong libertarian bent. I've been involved in a few campaigns for Republican candidates, though I tend to split the ticket. But Sarah Palin makes me violently ill, as do most of the current breed.

It has been interesting moving to Canada and finding voting behavior more closely aligned with economic and social status (except here in Quebec, where one's attitude to separatism prevails). In a way, the current American voting pattern is a perversion of JFK's mantra, "Ask not what your country can do for you...", in which the national interest has been redefined based on abortion, gun control and other issues.