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of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.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:

The Ugly Head of Citizens United Rears Up

Remember during the 2010 State Of The Union Address when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in dissent when Barack Obama commented on how the Citizen’s United decision would greatly affect elections (Or when Alito and the other conservative Justices didn’t attend the 2011 State of the Union Address)?

I wonder what Alito thinks now.

The Young Turks break down the impact of the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission in the form of a phenomenon newly prevalent in this election: the billionaire sugar-daddy.

I believe that this is the number one problem we face in our country today.  Sure, there are more severe issues surrounding war and poverty, life and death stuff.  There’s corruption and greed, too.

But in the end, it all flows back to Citizen’s United, wherein the activist Supreme Court decided that money represents free speech.

The Citizen's United Decision is reverting us back to the political boss system.

Thus, corporations and special interest groups pumping billions of dollars into elections with minimal identification standards and no standards for honesty or truth-telling, is simply an expression of free speech.

“What’s that you say?  The electorate has been so turned around by all this heavily funded misinformation and outright lying that they don’t know which way is up?  Whoops!  Pure happenstance–hey, is that Glee playing on the t.v.?  That looks like a hoot!”

Never mind that China–or any foreign government or group–could theoretically be footing the bill.  Those interests would simply be exercising their freedom of speech.  Here.  In America’s political system.

Citizen’s United is the reason why we have privatized prisons and crappy public schools and stagnant wages and and humorous financial reform law and even more (or less) humorous health care reform and record breaking corporate profits and record-breaking executive bonuses and draconian online piracy bills and all the other situations that occur when financing elections adds to the profit margin.

We all have a voice, some voices are louder or farther reaching, but essentially, it’s an equivalent right.  When we talk about dollars, it’s not equal.  And that’s the point of capitalism.  If it was all equal it would be communism.  So by definition, the Citizen’s United decision gives those that have lots of money even more rights than the rest of us.  Supreme Court activism at its worst.

You know what?  I could care less what Alito thinks.  I could care less what any politician thinks.  It is imperative that we get money out of politics.  The future of our nation depends on it.

(Constitution correction image from: http://www.laprogressive.com/citizens-united-corporate-power/.  Citizen’s united logo from: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/citizens_united.php.  Pledge Allegiance Cartoon from: http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/2011/12/30/citizens-united-loses-in-montana-supreme-court-upholds-state-ban-on-corporate-spending/.)

Into The Margins

The 2012 Republican presidential candidates don't inspire much hope for the future.

I feel like the Republicans are done for in 2012.

As vulnerable (and mediocre) as President Obama has been, the GOP was unable to find anyone better than the murderer’s row of assholes currently working the Primary Season Tour.  Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum suck so badly they can’t even beat Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum.  The candidates are tearing themselves apart in an ugly primary conflict that could drag out and irreparably devastate whoever is left standing to accept the nomination.

At least one can hope.

Ron Paul manages to get about 50% of what he says right.  And he’s pretty damn honest for a politician.  Unfortunately, the 50% he gets wrong he gets waaaaayyyy wrong.  I mean, the Department of Education is Unconstitutional?  By that logic so is the United States Air Force and the FBI.  (And I’m not even touching on how he printed (and profited from) a White Power themed newsletter for 20 years.)

Ron Paul has some intriguing qualities. Too bad he's tin shit-house crazy.

But more than any particular candidate’s shortcomings, I think the actual Republican Party has pushed itself out of the mainstream.

They’ve been virulently opposed to women’s reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade and against sensible immigration reform for a decade.  They’ve spewed rhetoric against multiculturalism,  the labor unions, and entitlement programs for years.  They’ve been trying to shove their interpretation of the Bible down our throats since the 1980’s.  And they’ve tried to disenfranchise left-leaning voters since the Nixon era.  None of that is new.

GOP Women's Rights Platform

What is new is that they’re going after all of these groups at the same time.  They started as soon as they took power following the 2010 elections and they haven’t let up since.  I doubt they will relent going forward either.  Maybe they feel like they’re going to get voted out of office soon and they want to make hay while the sun’s shining.  I don’t know.

Actually, I wish the Democrats would legislate with as much vigor.

Republican governors on the hot seat.

Another new element is how far they’re trying to turn things back.  Conservatives always want to roll things back, but it seems like these guys want to go back to Dwight Eisenhower’s America.  I mean, anti-contraception?  Seriously?    Then there are things like the trans-vaginal ultrasounds and mandatory drug tests for people receiving unemployment (as well as anyone–who is poor–receiving government assistance).  They’re talking about moon colonies and poor kids cleaning their schools.  Mind you this is in the election immediately following the chickens for healthcare debacle.  It makes them seem very wacky.

It’s already turning people off.  The ultrasound bill looks like it’s been effectively killed.  Scott Walker is being recalled in Wisconsin.  John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida are teetering on the brink.  To top it off, the Republicans came out on the short end of the debt ceiling debate (which may be starting up again around election time).

Wisconsin voters not havin' it. (Feb. 16, 2011)

And for all their efforts, mainstream America is not happy with the Republicans.  Of course, no no one is happy with the Democrats either (although Obama’s labors are now starting to bear fruit).  But the Republicans have done a lot more to alienate voters. They are out of touch with what people are dealing with.  They are too openly supportive of big business.  And they’ve got enemies all over the electorate.

In the end, I think it will probably cost them the election.  And not just the presidency.

(Approval ratings image from: http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx.  Republican hopefuls image from: https://plus.google.com/117458573761796006397/posts/75neNe6QxwU.  Ron paul image from:  http://speakup-usa.com/.  Wisconsin protestors image from: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_62326.shtml.  Mittually assured destruction motivational from: http://www.stridentconservative.com/?p=2097.  The governors image from:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/19/republican-governor-popularity-plummets-from-ohios-kasich-to-floridas-scott-to-wisconsins-walker.html.  The spanked woman image from: http://www.politicususa.com/en/shame-american-women)

What I Hate About Republicans: Bigotry

GOP-style nonsense.

The Solid South was a voting block comprised of the repatriated Confederate states.  From the reconstruction era until the late 1960’s the Solid South voted largely democratic, as the Democratic Party has been pro-slavery prior to the Civil War.  For over 100 years, the Solid South allowed the Democratic party to enjoy a considerable political dominance, especially in the Congress.

The Solid South in Blue

In 1968, in an effort to break up the Solid South, Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign employed a tactic known as the Southern Strategy.  It was a blatant appeal to racism.  Republicans played on southern whites’ anger over the Civil Rights Movement.  They joined the opposition to Civil Rights legislation, polarized racial divisions, and worked to discourage black voters from going to the polls.

It was a largely successful strategy.  The GOP had finally broken the Solid South.  It also popularized the euphemising of bigoted rhetoric.

Throughout our nation’s history, both parties have run on a variety of hate-based platforms.  Of course, prior to the Civil Rights Movement, you could just come out and say who you wanted to discriminate against; we don’t want women in the workplace; we don’t like Jews, Irish, Chinese, etc.  The Civil Rights Movement helped marginalize that archaic way of thinking.  Hate-mongers were forced to find new ways of conveying their message. The Southern Strategy proved effective.

Reagan/Bush-I political Strategist Lee Atwater

In a 1981 interview, political consultant, and former Republican National Committee Chairman, Lee Atwater, gives a compelling description of the strategy’s evolution:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Republicans didn’t care that it was a slap in the face of the black voters who had supported the party for over a century.  The Southern Strategy helped sweep them into power.  And they’ve never looked back.

Now, in every election, Republicans rail against the potential threat of the other.  Rick Santorum compared gay marriage rights to the legalization of incest and bestiality.  Santorum and and fellow presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich both immediately referenced black people when discussing welfare.  Gingrich has generated additional buzz by referring to Barack Obama as the “Food Stamp President.”  Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump led a Republican movement demanding that Barack Obama produce his original, long-form birth certificate to prove his citizenship.  If not these, then it’s illegal immigration, women serving in combat, or Sharia Law.

Hate-mongers can always find a reason to hate other Americans–even if they have to invent the reason out of whole cloth.  And there is good cause to continue the practice so long as bigoted anger gets results at the voting booth.

Yet somehow Republicans dispute this obvious through-line of hate politics.  According to them, they’re merely arguing the issues.  Apparently it’s just pure happenstance that minority groups ALWAYS end up on the other side.  That’s the danger of this coded language developed by the Southern Strategy.  Everyone knows what it actually means, yet it allows Republicans to play the big innocent.  It’s not about race, or gender, or religious beliefs; it’s about balancing the budget.  What’s so wrong with that?

To be fair, there are a few minorities in the Republican party–whom the GOP  loves to trot out before the media to chastise their own minority groups and blame them for being abused and discriminated against.  What you don’t see from these minority Republicans is any effort to get the party to tone the rhetoric down (I’m sure they’d be thrown out on their asses if they did).  I guess it is always better to have a whip in your hand than a plow.

So okay, we know racism is out there.  We know that homophobes and Islamophobes exist.  And we know misogyny and chauvinism are pandemic.  Political opportunists and true believers alike will always try to leverage prejudice to their advantage.  Its just politics, qué no? 

But real people’s lives are being affected by this bigotry.   The GOP works to deny minority groups those unalienable rights endowed upon all human beings by their Creator, and are currently enjoyed by many Americans, based on the antiquated idea that white heterosexual Christians are the real America and any expansion of that definition will lead directly to our nation’s demise.  Those rights are not negotiable.

This is not some extreme, fringe element of the Grand Old Party. This is mainstream Republicanism.  It’s accepted on both sides of the aisle.

Meanwhile, it’s nothing more than old school hate in latex gloves.

And it’s unmitigated bullshit.

It’s also the number 1 reason I hate Republicans.

Next up: How they make this whole shameful approach even worse in how they employ that bigotry.  They use it to divide and disenfranchise the lower economic 99% of the population and line their benefactors’ pockets with billions.

Stay tuned.

(Solid South image from: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2008/06/party-like-its-1928/45225/. Civics lesson image from: http://www.seattlegayscene.com/2012/01/republican-senator-hops-on-the-same-sex-marriage-bandwagon.html.  Forced integration image: http://www.ordoesitexplode.com/me/hope_from_history/.  Lee Atwater image from: http://www.pensitoreview.com/2011/08/17/roves-brain-lee-atwater-in-1981-gop-push-for-budget-cuts-is-stealth-racism/)

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)