“I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.” John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873.
I have conservative friends and they are not stupid people. However, it seems as if the leaders of modern conservatism are in competition to see who can out-stupid the other. Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., summarized this perfectly when, on Jan. 24, 2013, he said, “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.” His words, not mine. Sadly, conservatives/Republicans don’t seem to be taking his advice.
Two recent LVN columns illustrate this truth. In one, the author complained about government, saying, “...government is Stupidity Central.” To prove his point, he described two incidents where he was the victim of stupid behavior. Interestingly, these incidents happened while he was dealing with private companies. Instead of saying that perhaps these companies needed better worker training, the author fell back on the old “blame public education” excuse, criticizing liberals for everything. Maybe Republicans aren’t allowed to say that private companies are ever wrong. Personally, I have found government employees to be courteous and respectful; it’s private company customer service representatives that send me screaming.
Another column recalled several so-called Obama scandals including Fast and Furious, in which ATF agents traced private citizens’ “straw purchases” of guns. No government agents bought guns. These guns were then tracked when the purchasers sold them into Mexico, which has begged the U.S. to stop the steady flow of guns into their country. This plan was one attempt to do so. The plan failed, partly because the NRA has opposed laws forbidding straw purchases. To the NRA, and therefore Republicans, Americans should be free to buy as many guns as they want and sell them to any buyer, no matter how criminal. There was never any evidence that President Obama or Attorney General Holder ordered this operation. When Holder found out, he stopped it immediately. The root of this scandal lies with our gun laws, but once again, fantasy trumps reality.
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992.
Some Republicans seem to glory in spreading ignorance. I still receive many debunked conservative emails. Some describe benefits illegal immigrants get; these are full of misstatements. Another email discusses HB 3200, listing the terrible things that will happen under Obamacare. Of course, there was no HB 3200. It was HR 3200, a preliminary draft of the health care bill which was never voted into law. None of the provisions occurred. Yet this email is still circulating, still lying, still scaring people. Still being stupid.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has spent millions on endless hearings on Benghazi; every hearing has determined the Obama administration did nothing wrong. I would love to do a survey among Republicans/Tea Party members and ask them where they think the U.S. embassy in Libya is. I would bet anything the vast majority would say Benghazi. These low-information voters just spout talking points without fact-checking anything. Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts!
In another example, conservatives worship Ronald Reagan, who was brilliant at saying all the right words and doing absolutely nothing. In Benghazi, four people died; 30 were rescued. When recent fighting in Libya became hazardous for our diplomatic personnel, Obama recognized the danger and evacuated them.
In contrast, when our embassy in Beirut was attacked on April 18, 1983, 17 Americans were killed; Reagan did nothing. Within the next six months, there were two attacks on our Marines in Beirut. In those three attacks, 270 Americans were killed. After all these deaths, Reagan finally realized the danger and evacuated our people. Reagan’s actions in Beirut don’t excuse any mishandling of Benghazi, if such occurred; this just illustrates how Republicans pick and choose which facts they want to regard as relevant.
I frequently say that decisions should be based on facts. When conservatives’ default position is always to blame liberals, no matter what reality says, it’s difficult to find solutions. Please, conservatives, listen to Gov. Jindal on this. Stop being the stupid party.
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other week. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org