Late last week word came from a Republican confab held in Charlotte, N.C., that Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, told his fellow conservatives that their party must stop being “the stupid party.” The jokes, of course, write themselves.
Not to be outdone, Haley Barbour – the former chair of the National Republican Committee, former governor of Mississippi and Boss Hogg stunt double – chimed in in complete agreement. “The comments that they made were stupid comments, offensive comments, and in today’s world, when a candidate says something, the negative effect of that can spill over to lots of other candidates,” said Barbour.
The “they“ the King of Mississippi was referring to were the two failed Republican senatorial candidates who made loathsome comments on rape this past election. To wit, or lack of it, the issues they raised were whether rape was ever “legitimate” or merely “divinely inspired.” Not exactly winning issues, as the GOP found out to its dismay in November.
As Barbour candidly pointed out, the great political sins committed here were not so much the comments themselves, but the degree to which such comments in the information age can jump audiences and media markets and so sully the brand name of an entire party. Indeed, it would appear that conservatives are especially prone to problems of this sort and have yet to come to terms with its implications.
Take, for example, the racial quip that doomed Virginia Republican George Allen’s U.S. Senate reelection bid in 2006. Allen, thinking he was being witty amongst friends, introduced an opposition campaign worker, who happened to be of South Asian heritage, shadowing Allen’s campaign appearances. All well and good, except Allen introduced the young man as ‘Macaca’ – a derogatory ethnic slur meaning monkey – in a crowd where the young man was the only non-white face in the place. Oh, and it was taped, posted on YouTube, and went viral – destroying Allen’s hope to retain his Senate seat in the process.
Or, as another example, consider the case of Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia, who sits on the House Science Committee – the committee that oversees and authorizes funding for federal agencies and departments deeply immersed in non-defense science and technology research. Broun, in other words, looks after such organizations as NASA, EPA, the Department of Energy, NOAA and a host of others. Broun, a medical doctor, was caught on tape announcing to his fellow Bible thumpers at the Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga., that evolution, the Big Bang Theory and so on were “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
More examples abound. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008, for instance, was caught like a deer in headlights when she was asked by CBS’ Katie Couric to name the newspapers and magazines she read and which helped form her world view. Of course, she could not name any — not surprising since the fundamentalist femme fatale was suspected of wanting to ban books in her hometown library back when she was its mayor.
Speaking of fundamentalist femme fatales, Michelle Bachman (R-Crazy Town) of course really isn’t a politician at all. Instead, she is an avant-garde comedy act à la Andy Kaufman. Or, maybe that’s Rush Limbaugh.
Then there is the mother of all stupid comments, Romney’s infamous 47 percent statement where he called nearly half the country mooching parasites. Appropriately enough, Romney received only 47 percent of the popular vote as a consequence. It seems that denigrating folks, none of whom perceive themselves as moochers, doesn’t play well with the voters.
One could go on by listing the innumerable gaffes, mistakes, outright falsehoods and mind-killing dumbness seen throughout the conservative media apparatus, but it would confound the laws of time and space to list them all here. Suffice it to say, conservative media, like Republican politicians, is not known for its accuracy. Like Senator John Kyl’s (R-AZ) demonstrably wrong conclusions about Planned Parenthood, much of what you see in conservative media is “not intended to be a factual statement.”
So, too, with conservative “intellectuals” like Charles Murray or Arthur Laffer, both of whom have presented conservative “scholarship” that mysteriously only appears in conservative journals, is presented at conservative think tanks or is only published by conservative presses. Then there is the whole school of “Austrian economics,” a laughably incorrect group of libertarian “economists” who turn up their noses at things like empiricism and peer review – the foundation of modern scientific research. It is dogma masquerading as an academic discipline – scholasticism, not science.
The problem that Jindal and Barbour have put their finger on, then, would appear to be a widespread problem. Stupidity riddles both the conservative establishment and the Republican Party from top to bottom. This is to be expected from a party that for a long time now has fully embraced anti-science, know-nothing populism. Indeed, it is the party’s bread and butter and heart and soul, and has been since the party began welcoming people like Strom Thurmond into Republican ranks.
Raging against know-it-all elites is a time-honored tradition in American society, where money talks and bullshit, as it were, walks. Today, though, money not just talks, but employs a vast army of bull-shitting shills whose sole goal is to rile up an ignorant, fearful and backwards base with a devil’s brew of right-wing populism that is one part fundamentalist religion, one part racial fear, and one part undistilled country bumpkin. The “Stupid Party” that Jindal and Barbour now lament has made great political hay out of profiting from John Stuart Mill’s famous observation that though conservatives are not generally stupid, stupid people are generally conservative.
This is a fact now conveniently demonstrated by, you guessed it, science. In one study, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics argues that since “general intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionary novel problems they did not have innate solutions for, intelligent people are more likely to understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligence people.” Some of which, Kanazawa added, “are preferences, values and lifestyles.”
In Kanazawa’s study, data on young people drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health demonstrates that young adults who identify themselves as very liberal have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence. Those who identify as “very conservative” when as a young adult, in turn, have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence. A different study, published in early 2012, states even more categorically that racism, prejudice and social conservatism are linked to low childhood IQ. Indeed, a host of interesting research now suggests that predispositions towards conservatism or liberalism may in fact be, in part, genetically determined.
So, fret not Republicans. Your inability to keep from believing and saying demonstrably dumb things – like that the founding fathers intended to make America a Christian theocracy, that Global Warming doesn’t exist, or that President Obama is really a Kenyan sleeper agent is part of your nature. You’re stupid, just admit it – like Jindal and Barbour – and move on. It’s not like you will be admitting anything we here on the left don’t know already.
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