Palin Is the Symptom, Not The Disease
I’ve been reading many articles lately by well-known conservatives who have the same opinion of Sarah Palin and the modern Republican Party that I do. It gives me hope. Sometimes I feel like the intelligent ones have just been too silent over the last 8 years as they’ve been shoved aside by the religious right and those willing to sell their core values to them for votes, figuring it was better to remain in power than to alienate their base. But with that base deteriorating and the grim (to them) prospect of a Democratic Congress and White House, they’re making themselves heard and, if we’re lucky, they’ll take back the party.
Christophers Buckley and Hitchens both endorsed Obama, in part due to Palin who they called “an embarrassment” and “a disgrace” respectively. That, most of all, gives me hope. My first instinct about Palin seems to have been correct, and I admit, I was scared for a couple weeks there that I had been wrong. Maybe there’s an open seat for me on the right side of the aisle yet.
In this video interview on YouTube, David Brooks says that Palin “represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party.” And “there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.”
I disagree that Palin is a cancer. She’s not the disease. She’s far too new and far too irrelevant to be that. She’s merely a symptom. The only possible result of a decade of pandering to the Sarah Palins of the world is that one of them will rise to the highest ranks, however briefly.
The disease is the desire to win even at the cost of selling out their core ideals. Fear of losing their very vocal base has caused the Republicans to develop that rampant anti-intellectualism our nation has suffered under for eight years now. Rather than compete with ideas, they’ve sought to win the other 30% of the vote they needed by marginalizing them, making them appear elite and unpatriotic. When a Democrat argues his ideas to improve our country, they call him anti-American. Wanting to better our nation has been recast not as every citizen’s patriotic duty, which was the belief that made America great in the past, but rather as self-loathing.
So, here’s what I’d suggest for the Republican Party to get back on track.
First, embrace ideas once again. The downside to cursing as unpatriotic anyone who wants to improve our country is that you yourself can’t suggest the same thing. That won’t work well in the era of the 24 hour news cycle. There’s a multibillion dollar industry devoted to making everyone believe the sky is falling, and winning in politics now means reassuring people that you can make it stop. There’s no way to do that but through ideas.
Depoliticize science. Science is humanity’s greatest achievement, and over time it will always triumph over superstition. There will one day be a time when people view strict creationism much as we currently view the belief that Earth is flat. Over half of the nation already does. Stop holding these people up as shining examples of your party.
Global warming, too, is not a political issue, it’s a scientific one. How we deal with it may be political, but its existence is not. No single scientific body in the world denies that it is largely man-made, not even the ones funded by oil companies. A Republican politician arguing the fact is simply insulting, and their penchant for doing so has given the Democrats a base maybe not as large as the religious right, but every bit as fervent.
Marginalize the religious right. I’m not saying tell them to stick their ballots where the sun don’t shine, but totally remove pandering to them from your policy. They’re not going to switch to the other party anyway. They’re too adamant about abortion for that, and Republicans can stick to their Federalist stance, which is not totally repulsive to the center while still being just anti-Roe enough for the right.
Some of the evangelicals won’t vote at all, or might waste votes on a right-wing third party, but you won’t lose that much. You’ll gain far more from the moderate center than you give up.
Stop whining about the media having a liberal bias. Reality has a liberal bias. Or, more accurately, liberals have a reality bias. While you’ve pandered to the people who believe all truth comes from a 2,000 year old book of Jewish folk stories, liberals have been listening to scientists, economists, and the like. Journalists, who are highly educated people trained to report reality as they see it, of course aren’t too enthused by the right’s epistemology (or lack thereof).
The perceived liberalness, according to those decrying what they feel is a lack of integrity, of a given publication is almost directly proportional to the intelligence of the content, with the New York Times and NPR at the top, all the way down to Fox News. Fierce anti-intellectualism isn’t a good way to get intellectuals to write about you, and equating the opposing side with intelligence might not be the best strategy in general.