Not only have Republicans embraced the power of stupid, they're winning with it
Remember Ronald Reagan? Republicans recall Ronnie reverently. But in reality? Ronald Reagan was constantly mocked for his stupidity. Same with George W. Bush. While Democrats are certainly not immune from saying or doing stupid things, Republicans far outstrip them in this regard. Oh, you need examples? Sure, here you go:
“The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.” ~ Texas Rep. Steve Stockman
“Wanting a white Republican president doesn’t make you racist, it just makes you American.” ~ Failed Congressional Candidate Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher
“When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body.” ~ Alabama state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin
“The middle class. Since when in America do we have classes? That’s Marxism talk.” ~ Perennial Presidential contender Rick Santorum
“But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.” ~ Sarah Palin
It’s hard to comprehend ignorance being held up as a virtue, but Republicans have increasingly been doing just that. How many conservative climate change deniers qualify their rants with, “I’m not a scientist, but…” How many tirades against women’s health have included, “I’m not a doctor, but..”
An excellent example of this can be found in the statements of Arizona Senator Jon Kyl in 2011. He claimed over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business was abortion related, when in reality the number was actually about 3%. When his error was pointed out, his reply was that his words weren’t meant as a “factual statement.”
Stupidity and ignorance are bad enough on their own, but when applied willfully, they become terribly dangerous. Blocking out reality will only ever result in great harm to a nation and its people. But not only do Republicans refuse to relent with their willing ignorance, they take pride it it.
“If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.” – North Carolina GOP Executive Committee member Don Yelton on NC’s voter ID law
It’s hard to conceive of anyone more dangerous than someone who is proud of their ignorance. This is someone impossible to reason with. They dismiss whatever they don’t want to hear, regardless of whether it’s true or not. They aren’t discussing anything, they’re telling you how they want things. They are absolutely uncompromising, and reality does not sway them. This fits the clinical definition of insanity.
“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” – Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman on the GOP’s government shutdown
Now this is not a new problem in America, anti-intellectualism has always been around, and isn’t always a bad thing. There’s a charming element to the folksy down-home rhetoric that the ignorant are trying to mirror. The problem lies in taking it too far. You can’t get a diploma recounting old wives tales. You’ll limit your horizons that way, and if you’re an elected official, you’ll limit your nation’s as well.
“When I hear politicians talk about restoring faith in government . . . No, no, no, no, no. That is the wrong solution!” – Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson
Limiting America has very much been the Republican agenda, that much is clear. Mitch McConnell admitted as much when he said the GOP’s primary goal would be to limit President Obama to one term. While they failed at that, conservatives piled up false scandal after false scandal while constantly pumping the brakes on as much progress as they could.
The Midterms told Republicans that their obstructionism was working, so we can expect far more of the same. This has also encouraged Republicans to become far more contrarian. They now go against some of their own interests, should they be proposed in a bill by Democrats. Hell, Mitch McConnell once filibustered himself! That’s because their main interest now is being “anti-Liberal.”
“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” – Clayton Williams, 1990 Republican candidate for Texas Governor
If the conservative identity is one of being opposed to everything liberal, then that means they must despise anything associated with liberals. As liberalism is aligned with the values of science and reason, conservatives then oppose those values in and of themselves.
And so, conservatives take a contemptuous view of reality, and the proudly ignorant are growing more belligerent daily. No rational conversation on politics is possible, as facts are always overridden by their personal opinions, which are themselves not swayed by reality. A Republican strength is the ability to ridicule a stronger argument, and truth or intelligence isn’t needed for that.
“When you say it’s not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?” – Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, on Marriage Equality
Rational debate, constructive discourse, even polite conversation becomes impossible. You cannot reach someone considering basic logic as an anathema to them. People like this shouldn’t be anywhere within shouting distance of leadership. Those who willingly reject reality should never have the chance to shape it.
Yet that’s just what is happening. Senator Jim Inhofe wrote a book about climate change being a hoax, and he’s heading up the Environmental Committee. Ted Cruz is in charge of overseeing NASA. Say again, Ted Cruz is in charge of overseeing NASA! This is the same guy who missed the irony of protesting the ACA by reading Green Eggs and Ham.
“When WOMEN got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and uh, maternal instincts.” – Rush Limbaugh
So how are Republicans winning with a strategy of stupid? Similarly to what we’ve written before, it comes down to how there are large numbers of Americans who must deny reality in order to continue on with a conservative mindset. Facts are inconvenient things to them. The truth is too painful for many conservative voters to bear, and this plays right into Republican strategies.
That’s why the GOP consolidates its power through stupidity. They have to. Were their constituents better informed, they would be far less likely to vote against their own best interests. So Republicans play stupid even if they aren’t, and the truly ignorant among them become the stars of the party. It’s a vicious cycle of the obtuse, and it’s not just feeding upon itself, it’s taking everyone else down with it.
“The Great Flood is an example of climate change. And that certainly wasn’t because mankind overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.” ~ Texas Rep. Joe Barton
The only way to stop this is to stand up to them, and that’s something very few people, especially Democrats, are willing to do. You have to be blunt, and you can’t be polite. The ignorant do not respond to niceties.
“There are many other states that embrace those conservative values, the approach that we’ve taken over the years. I’m in one today, in Florida.” ~ Texas Gov. Rick Perry, delivering a speech in Louisiana
When someone saying they aren’t a doctor or a scientist is talking out of their ass about a subject they are proudly ignorant of, they have to be told to shut the f*ck up. Instead, we are giving them center stage on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows. They need to be schooled, not flattered.
A healthy society relies on a well-educated Electorate. Civilization relies on scientific advancement. Republicans are now actively trying to undermine both of these basic foundations, and if they’re allowed to continue doing so, they will bring the nation crumbling down.
If you exist in a world not based on reality, you will eventually lose to reality. The question is how many other people will you hurt along the way?
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ~ Isaac Asimov