By Mike Marsh
An article in the UK-based Economist news magazine entitled “Ship of Fools” caught my attention this week. The opening paragraph is provocative:
“JOHN STUART MILL once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party.... the title of the “stupid party” now belongs to the Tories’ transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.”
That hurts, coming from a respected conservative source. The article points out that the college-educated voted for Obama in the election. And the more educated the voter, the more likely she or she was to vote Democratic. There was more:
“The Republicans lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than they lost the battle for educated votes, marching into the election armed with nothing more than slogans. Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantánamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be water-boarding. Ha ha. During the primary debates, three out of ten Republican candidates admitted that they did not believe in evolution.”
This sounds about right, at least to me. I was and am today astonished at the lack of respect for simple facts and the poor arguments given by many who speak for the Republican Party. They remind me of a line from a Yeats poem: “the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Listening to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh on local conservative talk radio is a trip into an excruciating fantasy world.
The Economist author ponders on why the Republican Party has become so stupid. He believes there are a couple of reasons. First, today’s party depends on the support of a core group of angry, under-educated Know-nothings. Going against the interests of this group is death to a Republican candidate for office. These people take their cue from Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. They liked George Bush because he pretended to be like them. They love Sarah Palin because she is one of them.
The second reason the author gives for the degeneracy of the Republican is the failure of its intellectual class. He says it is:
“trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.”
This failure is not just national. With some notable exceptions, today's Granite State GOP leadership has little to offer this state in the way of meaningful ideas or solutions to our problems. For example, we are in the early stages of probably the biggest financial crisis of our lifetimes, one that will be a huge challenge for our state government over the next three years. And Republican leaders respond not by seeking to be a partner at the table, but by blaming it all on Governor Lynch and tax-and-spend liberals in the legislature. This may play to fellow-ideologues, but it sure doesn’t to the public at large. People understand the problem is global, are rightfully scared, and want to know what their leaders are going to do solve our state’s problems. Pointing fingers doesn't work.
Is the situation likely to improve? The Economist doesn’t think so. It said “too many Republicans are still refusing to acknowledge that idiocy has consequences.” I am also skeptical. The talk in on right-wing radio and blogs is that Republicans lost because they were not true to their principles. It seems to me to take a special kind of stupid to repeat what has clearly just failed, but Republican leaders appear are up to the task. At the national and state level, they are sharpening their knives and working to weed out those who are not sufficiently conservative (i.e. ideologically blinded to reality). The result may be we end up with a party that is even more out of touch and isolated than it is today. That’s too bad. I remember a time when we had a healthy two-party system in our country. We need it back again.
Rational, responsible Republicans- are you listening?