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of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.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

Capitalism and Socialism Making Sweet Love For Over 200 St. Valentine’s Days

(That's Capitalism on the right)

I’m starting to realize that the reason I started blogging is to define things.  Terms get thrown around in the media as if we’re all in agreement on their definition.  But these terms are interpretive.  Instead of real understanding we’re left with presumption, oversimplification, and gross generalization.  It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the rhetoric.  Next thing you know you’re wasting your time battling propaganda and false arguments and the point gets lost.

"What'chu talkin' 'bout, dog?"

Of course, obfuscation is the point more often than not.  Modern discourse in America isn’t about trying to solve the momentous problems we face.  It’s about playing politics.  We’ve been programmed to forswear actual debate and instead respond to sound bites.  Job Creators.  Pro Choice.  Family Values.  We hear the cues and infer the rest.

For example, the reason I started writing this particular blog was to rail against the privatization of our prison system (based on a story I saw on The Young Turks).  I feel strongly that our prison system should remain socialized.  But I kept feeling like I already lost the argument because I was talking about socialism, a word whose very mention opens me up to ad hominem attacks from the right and abandonment from everyone except the far left(many of whom are, in fact, socialists).  Never mind the fact that police, firefighters, teachers, and soldiers are all forms of it, the common argument is that socialism somehow destroys capitalism.  It failed in the Soviet Union; it’s failing in Europe; and it will fail here.  Socialism is un-American and by proxy, I am un-American for proposing it.

Being labeled a socialist might engender some mild criticism.

Socialism is automatically condemned as a hammock for the weak and lazy…as capitalism is worshiped as an almost biblical virtue.  In reality, neither is inherently good or bad.  They are simply economic systems.  Both have a variety of interpretations, manifestations, and specifics.  The good and bad is derived from their application.

So what do I mean when I say socialism and capitalism?

  • When I say capitalism, I mean an economic system where the means of production are primarily controlled by private enterprises.
  • When I say socialism, I mean an economic system where the means of production are primarily controlled by the government.

Capitalism is not morality.  However, it has proven to be the most effective way to cultivate resources and equitably distribute the goods and services needed to drive the economy and  meet the needs of the population.  It generates profits by rewarding ingenuity, invention, and hard work (and luck).  Markets are vicissitudinous.  Private enterprise can be very nimble.  Governments generally plod.  Capitalism is the most logical and natural economic system for the overwhelming majority of market needs.

Yay Products!

However, there are times when need for a good or service supersedes the profit that can be gained by providing it.  We can probably all agree that it’s better for our military to be controlled by our representative government than by private corporations.  It’s better not to need a credit card or account number when we call 9-1-1 to report a crime. And it is in the interests of our nation as a whole not to task Microsoft with educating our children.

Corporations aren’t necessarily malicious.  (Inherently, they are amoral, and free to decide how they will conduct themselves.)  But their main priority isn’t determining what’s in the best interests of the people they serve; it’s making money.

That’s where the argument lies.  It’s not a battle about whether or not capitalism or socialism can work as a philosophy.  Both have examples of success and failure.  Besides, I agree that capitalism is almost always the better choice.  Nor is it a battle for the country’s soul.  Capitalism and socialism have always been a part of America’s composition.

The U.S. Constitution establishes the government’s responsibility for raising and maintaining a military, building roads, and delivering post.  All are Constitutionally established socialized institutions.  So the un-American argument about socialism is fiction.  There are socialist institutions at our very core.  Socialism and capitalism can coexist in the same economy and have since our nation’s inception.  It’s a marriage that has lasted for two hundred and twenty-three years and looks highly likely to reach its tricentennial.

With the dogmas removed, the philosophical questions become simple.

  • Is it in America’s best interests that private corporations profit from imprisoning people?  Is it right that they lobby for more laws and stricter sentencing?
  • Is it in the interest of commerce to unburden private businesses of the responsibility of providing healthcare?
  • Does Social Security keep the elderly and disabled out of poverty?  Is America better off if the cost of their care is placed on individual families?

    Where do we go from here?

The devil is obviously in the details, but these are some of the real questions surrounding socialism and capitalism that can lead to real answers (and ultimately, real solutions) to our nation’s problems.

(Heart Hands image from http://www.fanpop.com/spots/love-stories/images/15142614/title/couples-love-photo  Confused baby image from: http://bellamysorganicnews.com.au/tag/babies-names/  Confusion fingers image from: http://vocalblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/capital-campaign-confusion-or-collusion.html  Obama joker image from: http://www.inhabitatiodei.com/category/culture/capitalism/  Weeping George Washington image from: http://www.politifake.org/793  logos image from: http://www.fullblownwebdesign.com/full_blown_logo_design.cfm)