What I Hate About Republicans–Anti-intellectualism

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”  -Stephen Colbert

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  Several Republican leaders, including Republican 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, appeared on the steps of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.  Of course, the individual mandate they find so unconstitutional is actually a Republican conception.

It was proposed in 1993 as a “free market” counter to then-president Bill Clinton’s employer mandate for providing healthcare and was supported by Republicans as late as the 2008 election by, among others, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.  It was signed into law in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. Both of these men are running for office in 2012.

Understand, Republicans didn’t oppose the mandate until Barack Obama began supporting it–in yet another unjustifiable concession b y the president–during the healthcare debates in 2009-2010.

So, to be clear: the Republican party leadership is gathered on the steps outside the Supreme Court to argue against the constitutionality of their own proposal.

Of course, short-sighted, narrow-minded, wildly hypocritical governance is now the Republican modus operandi.  They write confounding legislation like Stand Your Ground, then double down on their support for the law after tragedy strikes.  They unnecessarily ban Sharia Law-based legislation–which is already unconstitutional per the Establishment Clause (separating church and state) they so often lament.  They roll out religious leaders to support their anti-contraception agenda then–a few weeks later–ignore religious leaders when they denounce the Republican budget plan.

I know, it makes no sense.  (And for all those who would argue that Democrats also do a bunch of boneheaded things, that is not a defense.  It’s like a murderer saying he shouldn’t go to jail for killing his wife because other people commit murder, too.)

This kind of dim-witted lawmaking has overrun the Republican politics because Republican culture is not very big on thinking…or thinkers for that matter.  It’s like they’re allergic to facts.  Actually, it’s anti-intellectualism, relegating thought to simple reasoning and selective memory, prioritizing opinion over fact and propaganda over truth.

This may seem like an unfair charge.  So, in the interest of not over-generalizing, only those who subscribe to the following beliefs can be considered fact allergic conservatives:

  • Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats.
  • Unregulated industries police themselves.
  • Markets are driven by low employee wages and tax rates.
  • The effective U.S. corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world.
  • Taxes are unconstitutional.
  • Not raising the debt ceiling IS constitutional
  • Gay marriage threatens traditional marriage.
  • Barack Obama is a socialist.
  • Barack Obama is a Muslim
  • Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
  • Creationism is an equivalent alternative theory to Evolution.
  • Global warming is a hoax.

I could go on, but I believe this cuts a wide enough swath.  I’m not going to demonstrate how each of these beliefs is false.  There is a plethora of easily-accessed, unbiased information for disproval, from Barack Obama’s birth certificate to the U.S. Constitution. The problem is not with the facts.  It’s with Republicans’ unwillingness–perhaps inability–to trust those facts or process them objectively.

The reason for this lies partly with conservatism itself which is based on maintaining–or returning to–traditional institutions, values, and systems.   Yet progress–the advancement of social inclusion, knowledge, and technological capability–often disproves or revaluates our previous understanding.  So to protect beliefs that are constantly being  invalidated, conservatives,and especially Republicans, distrust contradictory facts and the people that provide them.

Before we go forward we have to separate Republican leadership which uses anti-intellectualism to control and manipulate uninformed and uneducated voting blocks.  They’re as bought out by the corporations as the Democrats and the media.  They’re part of that machine and therefore not really included in this discussion.

So why do Republicans subscribe to anti-intellectualism?  It seems that has to do with the make up of the conservative mind.

As more and more studies show, conservatives tend to see the world in a much more negative light than liberals.  A 2008 study conducted at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln demonstrated that conservatives had a much greater physiological response to negative stimuli than their liberal counterparts.  Notice the study didn’t just conduct surveys or fill out questionnaires.  They measured physiological responses, i.e., the body’s integrated fight or flight defense mechanisms (changes in heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, respiration rate and depth, sweating, etc.).  The study also found that subjects who favored capital punishment, patriotism, and defense spending were highly responsive to threatening images.

A preliminary study by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience demonstrated that conservative brains tend to have larger amygdalas–responsible for fear conditioning–while also having smaller anterior cingulates–the part of the brain responsible for rational cognitive functions, such as optimism, decision-making, empathy, and emotion–than liberal brains.

Likewise, a study at Brock University in Ontario suggests “that low-intelligence  adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies.”  According to Gordon Hodson, the lead researcher of the study, “Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice”.

These studies alone are hardly definitive, but as more studies on the subject come out, the more they support these conclusions.  In fact, I have yet to see a reputable study that contradicts these findings. More importantly, these study concord with what we see in societies across the globe.

The universality  of fear, ignorance, and a dearth of critical thinking leads many conservatives to de-emphasize facts.  These are the conditions that allowed propaganda threatening a mushroom cloud over a major U.S. city to overwhelm the fact that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were political and religious enemies and therefore unlikely to cooperate. Thus leading us into an unnecessary war that cost the loves of thousands of Americans.

It should go without saying that stupidity is not exclusive to conservatives or Republicans.  There is more than enough idiocy and ignorance to go around.  Still, there are a lot of conservatives ruled by fear, anger, and factionalism.  Republicans cater to this element and perpetuate it.

As always, the problem is exacerbated by the compliance–or silence–coming from free-thinking conservatives.  Those who know better have a responsibility to lay aside their “liberals do it, too” cop-out apologism and take control of their faction or distance themselves from it (which, of course, liberals need to do as well).  There can be no legitimate discourse when facts are being ignored and dismissed purely on whim.

The only way we will get past this political dystopia is if the better minds and purer hearts among us put partisanship aside–albeit momentarily–step away from the fray, acknowledge the system is broken, and commit to rebuild it.

Otherwise people like this are going to get more power and more influence and bring this beautiful dream crashing down.

By comparison, this is what a real free-thinking conservative sounds like:

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Richard Fisher Proves Conservative>Republican

This is what I’m talking about.  Real conservatives distancing themselves from the flock and calling foul on the whole corrupt system.

For how much I go off on Republicans my one caveat is that Republicans are not actually conservatives.  Unfortunately, true conservatives are buying the bill of goods currently being sold to them by Faux News and “conservative” talk radio.

But there’s hope.

A REAL conservative spoke out about the big banks and damn if it don’t make a whole lotta sense.   As long as he’s not a social puritan, he’d get my vote if he ran for office.  I’ll take a real honest conservative over these bought-out Republicans and Democrats any day.

What I Hate About Republicans – Intro

Due to constructive-feedback from friends, I changed the title of this series of posts.

I have to begin with a caveat–not to soften my stance, but to make a distinction.

I do not hate conservatives.

In the many debates I’ve had with my conservative friends we could usually get to a point where finding some middle-ground at least seemed possible–if we didn’t reach it outright.  There are, of course, plenty of instances where we’ve agreed to disagree but it’s clear enough that our core principles aren’t so far apart.  I guess I’m saying that most of the conservatives that I’ve met have been pretty decent people.  They love America and they want what’s best for it.  That’s the reason I make the distinction.

The Republican party does not represent conservatives. Conservatives believe in fiscal responsibility, limited government, low taxes, a minimal (or nonexistent) welfare state, and strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  However:

  • No Republican president has overseen a balanced budget in over 30 years.  (Anyone arguing that it was the Newt Gingrich-led congress that balanced the budget during Bill Clinton’s presidency would then have to explain why there wasn’t even an attempt to balance the budget under George W. Bush even though the GOP continued to control both houses of congress for his first 6 years in office).   Don’t buy into the attacks on Clinton or Obama, the GOP’s premise is that Republicans are fiscally responsible so the burden is on them to show that responsibility.

    The chart clearly shows that neither party can consider themselves deficit hawks.
  • Republicans don’t want limited government.  They want to stick their noses into our bedrooms, books, movies, music, schools, women’s wombs (figuratively), and hammer us over the head with their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible–which flies in the face of the 1st (FIRST!) Amendment. President George W. Bush and his Republican-led congress actually increased the size of the federal government and attached ineffective, wasteful spending programs to Medicare and the Department of Education among others.
  • Republicans don’t want lower taxes; they do want to lower taxes for the rich, as evidenced by their intransigence on such things as corporate subsidies and the Bush Era tax cuts.  But their attempts to repeal the home mortgage interest deduction and shift the payroll tax credit away from employees, both of which primarily benefit the middle-class, show their true colors.  How can taxes affecting the middle-class not count?
  • Damn, Grandpa should'a been an oil tycoon.

    Republicans don’t want to end welfare.  Well, they want to end it for the poor and unemployed (or at least humiliate them by requiring them to take drug tests and other such folderol).  But they will fight tooth and nail to make sure the oil industry keeps every penny of their subsidies, even though big oil companies are among the most profitable businesses in the world. As a side note, many of the oil subsidies began as incentives to spur investment in oil production–which we can all agree is probably not necessary anymore.  Yet those same Republicans fighting to keep oil subsidies chafe against providing similar subsidies to clean and renewable energy.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point.  Republicans do not represent conservatives.  To be fair, Democrats are even worse at representing progressives, and disregard of the population is a common practice among politicians.  It’s the reason I have disdain for the Democrats as well (I’ll get to that later). The only real difference between the two parties is that Democrats still believe the government has a role in assisting the disabled and disadvantaged.  Republicans could care less.

Republicans see America from one perspective: the white heterosexual Christian male.  Obviously, a WASPy straight guy is a perfectly fine thing to be.  The problem is, the further you identify away from that, the more you find the Republicans pissing in your eye.  If you’re black, LGBT, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native American, or a woman, they have no interest in helping you get to equal footing.  They admit there is discrimination, but do nothing to combat it…unless the they feel the discrimination goes against whites.

Thus we come to the first reason I hate the GOP: Bigotry.

Believe me, it’s the bread and butter of Republican politics.  Stay tuned for for part 1 to see why.

(Republican money machine image from: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-gop-became-the-party-of-the-rich-20111109.  Most profitable businesses image from: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/12/most-profitable-global-companies/. Federal debt chart from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Debt_1901-2010_.jpg)

The Chivalry of Rick Santorum

The battlefield roils.  Explosions erupt in the frighteningly near distance.  A gamut of firearms blurt angry chatter from vantages hidden by the smoky haze.  In the middle of it she stands, knock-kneed, heels akimbo, pack thrown to the ground, and her M16 dangling from the crook of her elbow like some clunky designer bag.  Wailing to the sky, she tries to pull fistfuls of her hair out at the root as the mascara streams black rivers down her face.

This is the inevitable fate from which hate-mongering presidential hopeful Rick Santorum hopes to spare our military servicewomen.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Michelle Mollen could probably stomp a mudhole in Rick Santorum without really trying.

After a yearlong investigation, the Pentagon has decided to loosen its restrictions on women serving in combat…somewhat.  Female soldiers may now be permanently assigned to battalions in support positions.  They still can’t serve directly in combat, but they are allowed to be closer to the fighting.  This decision is not groundbreaking; it’s not even news.  Women have already served in these positions for years as “temporary” attachments.  It’s the job sector equivalent of passing your probationary period.

A young girl reacts upon hearing the future Rick Santorum has planned for her.

Not good enough for Santorum.  His incontrovertible authority on the psychological handicap that is womanhood has forced him to make the not-ludicrous assertion that women are too emotionally unstable for combat (sorry, for support in combat).

It seems Ol’ Santorum’s mercy–much like his bigotry–knows no bounds.

Never thought I’d miss the days of Dan “Potatoe” Quayle (or that he’d be such a harbinger of Republicans to come).

(Santorum image from: http://themoderatevoice.com/133837/the-rick-santorum-that-america-doesnt-know/  Marine Gunnery Sargeant Michelle Mollen of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment image from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/women-fight-iraq-afghanistan-preclusion-ground-combat/story?id=13716419#.TzVWoeQmySo  Dan Quayle image from: http://www.lifewith4boys.com/2011/09/dumb-celebrity-quotes.html)

The REAL Healthcare Debate In A Nutshell

I’m just going to come right out and say it:  We need to socialize our health care system in the United States.

Call it single-payer, call it a public option, call it a Medicare buy-in, call it whatever you want, just socialize it so we can move on.  (Yes, I hear the political heads exploding.) 

I understand.  I’ve used the dreaded S-word.  Fortunately, I just finished a blog about the dogmatic shroud surrounding socialism and I believe you’ll find it less scary (and less un-American) than you think.

We already know detractors will slather the idea in terrifying imagery.   They’ll try to make it seem like you’ll have to go to some kind of DMV for your chemotherapy.  This is the United States of America.  I have no doubt that if we make it a priority to have the most effective and efficient socialized healthcare system the world has ever seen we could get it done.  We did it with our socialized military.  You can’t argue with success.

I look at it like this: human life is more important than profit.  If it is impossible to treat every sick person and still make money then the private sector should not be tasked with providing care.

The naysayers will nevertheless complain about all of the medical advancements our private healthcare system has made.  They tend to leave out the fact that the majority of those advancements were actually made with public, taxpayer-funded grants, and many of those to public, taxpayer-funded universities.

They’ll lament that we’re turning into France or some other socialist state.  (I’d counter that with the story of my French expatriate friend Annie who had her first child in France.  The child was premature and there was a complication with the birth.  Annie was hospitalized for three days.  Her daughter for a week.  There was no bill.)  The fact is, medical costs are one of the main factors behind most bankruptcy filings in  America.  According to a 2007 study by The American Journal of Medicine, getting sick was a factor in 62% of personal bankruptcies.  Even worse, 75% of all those filing for personal bankruptcy actually had some kind of medical insurance.  If it looks like failure and smells like failure…

The critics will say it’s unconstitutional and that the Founding Fathers never intended for us to have universal healthcare.  I would begin by doubting their clairvoyance, then follow up with the argument that in the days of the Founding Fathers a doctor engaged in practices like applying leeches, bloodletting, and having the patient hold boiled stones.  Modern medicine can be the difference between life, death, and the quality of both.  It has become a foundational element of the human experience.  The Founding Fathers could no more predict its advent than they could the internet.

Constitutionally, I consider a socialized healthcare system both a promotion of the general welfare and a Fifth Amendment right.  Anyone who denies a person access to healthcare is denying them their Right to Life without due process.  It is a somewhat broad interpretation, but it doesn’t go against the spirit of the Constitution any more than it does to interpret the inclusion of an Air Force into our military.  Who knew there would be airplanes?

If that’s not enough for the bellyachers, then I say let’s convene a Constitutional convention and decide–once and for all–whether or not there should be a Constitutionally protected right to see a doctor.  If almost 3/4 of the population at least want a social health care option–and according to multiple polls they do–our representative government should have a clear mandate.  At the very least, all sides will have a chance to be heard.  A Constitutional amendment could have the added bonus of disincentivizing the rampant profiteering that drives up medical costs (America has the highest prescription drug prices in the world).

So I say again, socialize healthcare.  Do it and be done with the entire argument. In a nutshell.

(Exploding head image from  http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2010/02/24/videos-of-heads-exploding-in-movies/  Founding Fathers image from: http://www.foundersofamerica.com/Founders_of_America_Posters.htm  Bankruptcy image from: http://katzlawflorida.com/bankruptcy-law/  Doctors support public option image from: http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/us-doctors-support-public-option)

The Obama Problem

President Barack Obama

There was an interesting article by Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Beast about President Barack Obama showing how both the left and the right have underestimated him and his supposed mastery of fourth dimensional political chess.

Andrew Sullivan has done some compelling work and often displays a very unique perspective.

This article, however, is nonsense.

Not in its entirety, mind you.  Mr. Sullivan does a nice compilation of the Obama administration’s achievements from a fairly objective point of view.  It’s an argument not made nearly enough in the media, forcing Obama to make it himself.  Sullivan is also effective contrasting the rapaciousness of the right’s attacks on Obama’s every word (even when they agree with it) and the left’s “unjustified” dissatisfaction with the rate and quality of progress.

However, he  uses the actions Obama is criticized for on the left to show conservatives why Obama is not a capitalism-squelching Marxist/Leninist.  Sullivan then ignores everything he just said and uses issues like the passage of Healthcare and Finance reforms into law as proof that Obama is achieving liberal objectives, pishawing the fact that most of the legislation his administration has passed has been gutted of the elements most dear to lefties and much of it by Obama’s hand.

The problem is, Sullivan seems to be  going by the conventional wisdom that progressives are a bunch of wide-eyed stargazers infuriated that Obama hasn’t delivered nirvana.  It’s a gross generalization.  Are there dreamers on the left? Absolutely.  That still doesn’t make it fair, or accurate, to portray all of us in that same light.

I’m liberal because I’m on the left side of most issues, not every issue.  Plus, its a sliding scale.  My spectrum ranges from far left to center right depending on both the issue at hand and the state of affairs at the time.  I didn’t agree with every position Obama took in his campaign, but I agreed with him more often than not.  Since’ he’s gotten into office however, that ratio has inverted.

The problem isn’t what he gotten done or the compromises he had to make.  The problem is that he constantly gives in to the right.  Before the negotiations even begin he hands the republicans the left-wing’s heart.   He runs from almost every fight.  He never even makes the argument.

  • He put Social Security and Medicare on the table for budget cuts.  He never made the point that Social security had a surplus that the Federal government raided for the general fund and now doesn’t want to pay back.  He doesn’t talk about the seniors and disabled that have been kept out of poverty by Medicare.
  • He “loaned” money to the banks (at 0% interest) with no strings attached, allowing millions of people to go underwater on their homes or lose them outright while the banks raked in billions.
  • He torpedoed the public option in his healthcare reform legislation.

    Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia State Director of Rural Development and Obama Administration Victim
  • He’s kept the prison at Guantanamo Bay open.
  •  He “asked” for the resignation of Shirley Sherrod. ( The administration wanted Sherrod fired before Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News went on-air.)
  • He stared at his shoes while Republican Governors went to war with the unions all over the country despite promising to march with unions if they were under fire during his 2008 campaign.
  • He signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, allowing for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without a trial.
  • His administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in history while offering no immigration reform in return.  (I guess he did give Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 a good finger-wagging.)
  •  He told Bernie Sanders that the problem with “us” liberals is that “we” always see the glass as half empty.

Does this sound like a president that liberals should be happy with?  Fortunately for the President the Republican candidates are comically absurd.  No reasonable, free-thinking candidate is going to make it  through this Republican party’s primary seasons (As illustrated by Jon Huntsman being criticized for simply saying he defers to science on things like evolution and global warming).

The Republicans are insane and a vote for a 3rd party candidate is a wasted vote.  These are facts the president is acutely aware of.  According to Joe Biden, Obama is fond of saying, “Don’t judge me against the Almighty.  Judge me against the alternative.”

…Obama 2012.  Damn.

(President Obama image from:(http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-obama). Shirley Sherrod image from: (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0729/Shirley-Sherrod-Does-she-have-a-case-against-Andrew-Breitbart)