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.



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18 Responses to “Palin Is the Symptom, Not The Disease”

  1. Wait, isn't Obama a Christian and hasn't he said God created the Earth? Oh, indeed he has …,CST-

    I guess its not just the religious right who believe in old Jewish folk stories.

  2. mattmaroon Says:

    Eh, it's debatable if he's even really a Christian or just recognizes that one cannot be a politician in America without it. But either way, he certainly doesn't trust them when they come in conflict with established science, which is all we can ask for these days.

  3. My issue is that you're painting christians with too broad a brush–a brush based on a group of people whose priorities (IMO) are out of balance because they've mixed too much politics with their faith.

    Not every christian is a climate-change denying, anti-science, liberal-media blaming, young-earth creationist. It's a shame that we (I say “we” because I'm a christian) have that reputation because of this vocal group. That's not your fault, of course, but it gets frustrating when every discussion of religion+politics includes this generalization.

    BTW, if Obama is just playing the christian card because he can't get far without it, is that any less pandering (just to a different group)?

  4. mattmaroon Says:

    I'm not trying to lump all Christians in that group at all, just the evangelicals (who sometimes even take the bible so literally as to believe man and dinosaur walked the Earth together) to whom the Republican Party is pandering. Sarah Palin isn't a VP choice you make to appeal to the average Christian.

    It would be pandering to Christians in a different way, yes, but tolerable as long as it doesn't influence his policy because, well, it's the only choice for now. Christianity (like all religions) is fine for a politician, as long as one recognizes the validity of science and the importance of separation of Church and State.

    I would vote for a Christian over an atheist if I felt assured of that and liked him better in general. I would vote for Obama over most of them in fact, real Christian or pretend.

  5. Even the term “evangelical” now has a pejorative connotation, which frustrates me (again, not your fault). I want to be considered “evangelical” in the original sense (relating to and sharing of the gospel of Christ) … but now it's lumped in with the religious-right and ultra-fundamentalism. I need to find some words which haven't been hijacked yet :)

    Curious–do you think there's enough checks/balances in the US to prevent someone of any religion from making policy decisions based on his/her faith? I mean, after all, in 8 years Bush didn't overturn Roe v Wade or change science curriculum nation-wide. And I wouldn't consider the Iraq war a faith-based policy move.

    Good discussion …

  6. mattmaroon Says:

    Hmm, I see your point about the term. It's gone much the same route as “liberal”. That's a popular Republican tactic, never occurred to me that that one may have come from the opposite side.

    Good question about the Supreme Court, I really don't know. A lot of people seem to think another 4-8 Republican years we be certain death for Roe. I'm not sure. Even though I'm pro-choice, I'm not even sure I agree with Roe v. Wade, as the issue is really more about states' rights vs. federal. I wonder, though, if religion might not impact other foreign policy decisions, especially in regards to Israel.

    There certainly are a lot of checks and balances, but I wouldn't want to test it too much. I'm afraid of things like Presidential vetoes over stem cell research funding, etc. It might be the President acting as the check religiously that I worry about more than the lack of people keeping him in check.

  7. Matt, I'd be really interested in getting your opinion on something. In one (admittedly narrow) sense, the political right is about making capitalists rich, while the political left is about making sure no one is left behind (or, in other words, making sure no one gets rich).

    Those on the far right may reluctantly admit that their plans are not the best for everyone, but they'd still like to put them in place. How could that happen if they didn't convince the religious right to join them? They don't have enough of a following without them.

  8. mattmaroon Says:

    Well, I don't think the far right's basic premise is necessarily making the rich richer. That's certainly been Bush's though, and now McCain's. It doesn't have to be that way.

    They could easily spread the tax cuts around more. Put capital gains back to where it was, then lower every income tax bracket by a couple % to make up for it.

    Their message of cutting taxes and government spending is a good one, but unfortunately Bush lost them a lot of trust there, because he did the former while raising spending and, unsurprisingly, doubled the debt.

    I think they should promote candidates who offer a message of fiscal responsibility.

  9. I agree. However, I think the majority of the public likes spending (even if they don't like deficits), so I worry about the plausibility of a true fiscal conservative ever getting support.

  10. mattmaroon Says:

    Well, you know, people hate government spending in general, but they like a lot of the individual things that spending buys. Its probably good to campaign on cost cutting as long as you don't get to specific.

  11. *raises hand*

    I'll take back my party, you just wait and see. ;)

  12. deciding who to vote for this year was too easy. i hope they take your advice, especially depoliticizing science.

  13. mattmaroon Says:

    I think they will. They've suffered the sort of resounding defeat that makes a political party realize they need a serious change of direction. I didn't mention anything that I haven't heard well-known conservatives suggest.

  14. I'll agree with you on everything you wrote here, Matt, except for the media having a liberal bias. In a world where Chris Matthews says on air that it is his duty to make the Obama Presidency work well, the media has a liberal bias. The fact that 90% of journalism students are Democrats should worry us. Leftist assumptions get passed off as fact, unquestioned (such as that Bush is a Free Market libertarian extremist, for example).

    I disagree with you that intelligent news is left-news. The Wall Street Journal and The Economist are two of the best periodicals published today (I would even say, THE two best). They certainly present more global and informed reporting and analysis than the Gray Lady. And both are clearly to the right of the media average.

  15. mattmaroon Says:

    The Economist endorsed Obama. I don't think the WSJ endorsed either as a Presidential candidate.

    NPR is intelligent news, and it's derided as being leftist. It's not. Chris Matthews may be, but he's no further to the left than Sean Hannity is to the right.

    The fact that most college educated people are Democrats (especially among grad degrees) should worry you. It's not because they're by nature left-leaning, it's because the Republican Party has been so anti-intellectual for the last decade. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

  16. Rejecting the idiot-wing of the Republican Party does not make one liberal. You are correct that every educated segment of society has rejected Bush and everything he stands for.

    But in a world where the country's most leftist senator runs as a tax-cutter, liberals should be careful when interpreting voters' rejection of the neocons as an endorsement of their worldview.

    I am hoping for a resurgence in intelligent conservatism. I was pulling for Obama, but I express the same concerns about him that the Economist did. I am afraid that liberal protectionism and union-driven economic policy will do great damage to our economy. I fear that subsidizing health care expenses will do nothing to address the spectacular health cost inflation that has occurred in our country. I worry that lavishing massive subsidies on favored industries is a poor way forward for any economy.

    It should bother liberals that the more a person learns about economics, the less liberal they become (all other factors being equal). After the neocons are run out of the conservative coalition on a rail (hopefully), we'll see what happens to the liberals' economic know-nothingism.

  17. You know, the ability to edit a comment would be nice. Do I have to register with DISQUS for that ability?

  18. Then why are the overwhelming majority of economists Democrats? It would seem that the more an economist learns, the more liberal they become oddly.

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