Republicans really do "like nonsense." Jonathan Cohn is right. Even their own people know it.
Libertarian blogger Conor Friedersdorf says that on climate change the entire Republican presidential field is embarked on a "race to the fringe" thanks to the way conservative talk radio "encourages politicians to make needlessly polarizing statements."
There are many possible positions that Republicans could have taken on global warming, for example, says Friedersdorf. They could have said climate change may be happening but now is not the time to worry about it with unemployment so high. Or, they could have said it isn't happening and those who think it is are mistaken.
Instead, the actual position Republicans have taken is by far the least popular with the general public who see the GOP position as both "wildly implausible" and based on "paranoid delusion," namely that climate change isn't happening "and the people who say otherwise are engaged in a widespread ideological conspiracy" to control our lives.
The problem for Republicans is that this implausible, paranoid position happens to be the most popular one with their base.
"By caring about the symbolism of issues far more than policy outcomes, the GOP is ensuring its eventual nominee will find it harder to win a general election," says Friedersdorf.
Funny, that's exactly what New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks said yesterday in his plague-on-both-your-houses column. Brooks offered a defensible, if mostly conservative, program for digging out of the recession that stood in sharp contrast to the demented Republican Party's own "growth agenda" of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts that Brooks finds "stupefyingly boring, fiscally irresponsible and politically impossible."
But it doesn't really matter that Republican budgets don't add up or make sense, says Brooks, echoing a point I made last week, since "Republican politicians don't design policies to meet specific needs. They use policies as signaling devices - as ways to reassure the base that they are 100 percent orthodox and rigidly loyal."
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein offers another example of Republican disregard for the truth in the extreme tactics used by Republicans to prevent implementation of the recently enacted Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
At the same time Republicans do everything in their power to defund and destroy those who might "dismantle firms that are about to detonate the financial system," Klein says they seriously try to pass themselves off as "anti-bank" with their own bank-hating populist base.
Since Republicans have not yet relinquished their self-appointed role as interpreters of what "the American People" want and believe, Klein finds it odd that Republicans would side with a Wall Street constituency that polls show the public rates about as highly "as the guy who ran over your dog when you were a kid, or the boss who fired you from your first job."
What Republican's servile attentiveness to the demands of bankers shows, at a time when almost 70% of Americans think banks have too much power, is that Republican's "substantive positions are meaningless," says Klein, since Republicans will pretend their agenda is anti-bank "even though it echoes the banks' agenda almost precisely."
When pressed for alternative financial reforms, Republicans mindlessly repeat their FOX News-approved talking point that Fannie, Freddie and the Consumer Reinvestment Act of 1977 were wholly responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008 and that Wall Street had nothing to do with it.
While thoroughly discredited, that position "has become such conventional wisdom on the Republican side of the aisle that they think, though can't clearly say, that regulation of Wall Street isn't really needed. The problem was Washington, and you can't solve that with more Washington," says Klein.
And then there is Tim Pawlenty, whose deficit-reduction plan is so transparently partisan and pandering that it's made him a laughingstock with commentators both left and right.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center said Pawlenty's tax cuts will cost $11.6 trillion over the next decade with nearly all of those benefits going to the rich. Nevertheless, Pawlenty has resorted to defending his preposterous claims by recycling the most laughable of supply side economics' many debunked myths.
"Keep in mind, whether it be the Bush tax cuts, the Reagan tax cuts, or other tax cuts, they always produce an increase in revenue," Pawlenty told FOX News with a straight face. "There's no dispute about that.... We don't have to guess what will happen to revenues if we do bold tax cuts, and mine are amongst the boldest in the modern history of the country. We saw that the revenues increased dramatically because of President Reagan's tax cuts, same with Kennedy, same to significant extent under President Bush the second. So it's not a question of whether revenues are going to go up. They will."
Absolutely none of this is true and Pawlenty knows it. The record of debt, and where it comes from ever since supply-side became conservative religion, is well known and irrefutable. But we've become so inured to right wing nonsense from conservatives who simply make stuff up that it's not even news anymore when they offend the truth. Perhaps that's because we've all becomes Stockholm Syndrome victims ourselves - not as hostages of kidnappers this time but as targets of the blatant falsehoods and fabrications that a right wing movement will tell whenever it thinks a Big Lie will enhance its power, protect its interests or advance its conservative agenda.
We've even adopted cute little slogans to explain all this away, such as the idea that liberals live in the "reality based community" while conservatives inhabit a "faith based" one.
But the contempt which contemporary conservatives seem to have for the truth is neither charming nor harmless, and here is why.
Democracy is not just a system of political mechanics. It's a mindset. If the Constitution is the hands, feet, skeleton and muscular system of our body politic, the Bill of Rights is its soul.
There is a reason the Founding Fathers made freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly - freedom of the mind, spirit and conscience, in short -- the subject of the very first amendment in their Bill of Rights. By enumerating these political guarantees right from the start, the Founding Fathers hoped to create a republic governed by the head and not the gut or the spleen. They wanted a republic whose politics would be fought out using reason and science, rules of evidence and fair debate, rather than ignorance, prejudice, superstition and the lies which inevitably attach themselves to self-interest.
So, isn't it fitting that the right wing corruption of American politics would begin with the corruption of the First Amendment itself?
The Counter-revolutionary radicals of the Republican Party have tried to transform the First Amendment's guarantee of a freedom TO associate into a constitutional justification for racial discrimination in which racists and bigots are given a corresponding right NOT to associate with people who look and think differently from them. In the minds of the right, the amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion has been re-christened as the freedom to impose one's religion on others. And, among right wing conservatives, freedom of speech has become a barrier to free expression as it is used to justify repealing the Fairness Doctrine so that right wing broadcasters can mislead and deceive tens of millions of Americans without the impediment of rebuttal or correction.
The Tea Party has made a cult out of hero-worship for the Founding Fathers in much the same way that ancient tribal societies once created early religions based on the worship of dead ancestors. But the American Republic was not created by those who thought "Truth" was already known or held in safe keeping by privileged and self-perpetuating elites. America was created by those who thought "Truth" was the product of a never-ending process and that societies were better off when people of very different backgrounds, experiences and views searched for that truth together.
Democracy is simply not possible as an intelligible form of government except upon the basis of principles of public behavior that Walter Lippmann once summarized as the "traditions of civility."
And the most important of these - the "sovereign principle of the public philosophy" as he called them -- is that we live in a rational order in which sincere inquiry and rational debate are what we use to help us distinguish the true and the false, the right and the wrong.
"Rational procedure is the ark of the covenant of the public philosophy," said Lippmann. "There is no set of election laws or constitutional guarantees which are unchangeable. What is unchangeable is the commitment to rational determination."
Only in the maniac minds of right wing conservatives, who think they have a god-given right to deceive, is it considered a violation of free speech to use the law to deny them the pleasure of suppressing the free speech of others.
Modern conservatives and the Republican Party they control are unfit for democracy. This is not because their ideas about debts and taxes, spending and war, faith and science disqualify them from democracy, however obnoxious those ideas might be.
No, what disqualifies conservatives from popular politics is their lack of respect for impartial truth, for fair comment and free debate and for values that are superior to party -- all of which shows that conservatives simply lack the discipline for democracy or even the desire for it.
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