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of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.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