Understanding The Anti-Reason Hysteria Of The Republican Party

Understanding The Anti-Reason Hysteria Of The Republican Party Picture

Recently, Paul Krugman began a New York Times column on the anti-science and anti-intellectual stance of today’s GOP by quoting Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, wherein he stated that the Republican Party is quickly becoming the “anti-science party.” Most people haven’t heard of Huntsman, Republican pariah-in-residence. And even if they do, they probably won’t listen to him. Why? Because he’s reasonable, and there is simply no room for that trait in the Tea Party movement’s hellish and destructive crusade within the GOP.

As the Tea Party has gained momentum, reason has evaporated into the ether and has been replaced with polarizing rhetoric often with a religious flair. We’ve seen this with Sarah Palin’s spurious “death panel” remarks during the debate over Obamacare, Rick Perry’s prayer-based solution to a Texas drought, and Michele Bachmann’s more recent claims that, no matter how much she tries to palliate them with shrill and off-putting laughter, God has had a substantial role in the recent earthquakes as well as Hurricane Irene. Digging a bit deeper, former President George W. Bush, the Connecticut-coddled kid with a specious Texan drawl, kindled the polarization flame again with his famous 2001 appeal to the US Congress where he stated, “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” And then with the nightmare that was the debt ceiling “talks,” we’ve witnessed a party willing to drive its country into the dirt over something more powerful than reason: their beliefs.

In this unfortunate political arena, reason — the pesky little tool that separates us from flea-picking baboons — has no place. What we see unfurling now in the Republican Party and in the remarks of its primary presidential frontrunners is not the result of reason, but rather Christian fundamentalists who pit their God against science and research in a fight they are determined to win. And that, like Krugman said, is terrifying. But it is also something that, for better or worse, is not new in the American story; it is part of our tradition.

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When wondering how something in the United States got to be so screwy, it often helps to think back to our beginnings with those nettlesome Puritans. Fleeing England due to religious persecution, they set sail to the future U.S. of A., taking their austere garb and convictions along for the ride. Recoiling at the thought of anything remotely royal (and naturally so given their sordid history with the British crown), they were suspicious of those with authority, and by extension, intellect. For instance, in Puritan John Cotton’s “The Pouring Out of the Seven Vials,” Cotton claimed that “the more learned and witty you [be], the more fit to act for Satan you will [be].” Surprisingly, not all Puritans felt this way, and oddly enough some of those dissenters went on to found prestigious academic institutions like Harvard and Yale, both of which would produce future highbrow heathens like Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy.

In the Puritan quest for that “beacon on a hill,” a canonical concept whose biblical roots have been echoed in political stump speeches for centuries, the implementation of their dogma—secular governors accountable to God, women being born with more original sin than men, and the divine duty to punish wrongdoers—caused the climate of this “ideal” society to be rife with not only cod and barley but also intolerance, largely based upon apocryphal cries of bored tweens, as evident with the Salem Witch Trials. Singling out those who didn’t seem to fit the mold of their provincial norms, it didn’t matter if the claims didn’t make a scintilla of sense, or if the source was legitimate. All that mattered was what they believed to be true. Belief, then, not only superseded reason; it was its enemy. And that antagonistic relationship haunts us to this day.

Fast-forward a couple centuries. The United States defeated that evil British Empire, and we were able bodied. We were one nation under God, and we had the one-two punch to prove it. We were a plucky people whose knowledge was more empirical than theoretical. Who needed philosophy books when you had hands and a heart in the “right place,” anyway? When writing about Indiana, for instance, Reverend Baynard Hall scribed that “we always preferred an ignorant bad man to a talented one […] and attempts were usually made to ruin the […] smarter one; since smartness and wickedness were […] generally coupled.”

And so, in a typically nonsensical American way, we elected incompetent and wicked jingoes like Andrew Jackson that are remembered largely for their abuse of power and attempts to rid the country of an entire race of people. And why did we do that? We liked their humble, log cabin beginnings. We liked that they seemed like “us.” And so we continued to spread our divine “destiny,” oppress and enslave in the name of God, and ignore the increasingly conventional wisdom in half of the country that the other half was wrong, plain and simple. And largely because the South’s inability or unwillingness to acknowledge truths other than their own, the United States imploded and went to war.

Cue the Evangelical Populist Movement. After the Civil War had ended, instead of using reason to reconcile and dig itself out of the rubble, the American South survived on resentment and clung desperately to its archaic beliefs. Manifesting these ill wills in the KKK and Jim Crow laws, this entrenchment only compounded the economic and educational disparities that still make Southerners so angry today. And make no mistake, some GOP leaders know that and capitalize on it.

Now, take a look at the current scene. Not too much has changed, at least with popular faces of the GOP. Michele Bachmann is an Evangelist who interprets the law under a biblical lens, doesn’t seem to care much for history or facts (just ask her about Lexington and Concord), hides from and campaigns against the increasingly empowered and represented homosexual population, and claims that God caused recent national disasters as well as her decision to run for President. And to this I say, if God does exist, he certainly is a malicious one. Hearkening back to our Puritanical roots (oh, how I’d love to see her in a bonnet and collar), Bachmann has also suggested in interviews that a committee inquire into the lives of politicians to determine if they are pro- or anti-American. One might wonder what being pro-American even means. But don’t worry about meaning. After all, Michele doesn’t.

You also have Rick Perry, Eddie Bauer model with a Texas twang, who calls evolution “just a theory” with “a lot of gaps,” despite, as Krugman states, nearly all of the scientific world’s consensus to its veracity. He’s also added that global warming is just a scheme so scientists can get more money “rolling into their projects.” Projects which, given how damning his diatribe is, must be atheistic in nature and therefore God hating. Perry has also been surrounded by a bevy of reason-free radicals in some of his speaking events, these zealots hailing from the neo-Pentecostal sect known as the New Apostolic Reformation. A group that, according to Texas Observer reporter Forrest Wilder, seeks to “infiltrate politics with government” and believes Christians are “destined to have dominion over the government and the ‘Seven Mountains,’” which “[include] media, arts, and entertainment.” And to think we’re afraid of Sharia Law.

And then there’s Mitt Romney, innocuous Mormon male who seems to be in the throes of a perpetual identity crisis, evidenced by the video below from June of this year:

And yet a mere 2 months later, Romney was on the fence on human-driven climate change:

“Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is. I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans. What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to.”

Similarly, his 2006 healthcare program in Massachusetts was the archetype for Obamacare, and he formerly believed in man-made climate change. Though when questioned recently, as Krugman points out, Romney ducked and covered. But honestly, who can blame him? Reason clearly isn’t popular with Tea Party voters, and you’d have to be either an idiot or the paragon of courage to stand up against an angry Evangelical pointing a finger. And we all know that Mitt Romney is neither.

While none of these candidates have reason or courage going for them, they’ve got (at least Bachmann and Perry) that je ne sais quoi likability factor. And despite America’s founding fathers’ Plato-esque dreams of philosophical types leading the country, these presidential hopefuls realize that it is more important to be liked than it is to be logical. 1988 Presidential candidate and loser Michal Dukakis confirmed that. Long-faced John Kerry did as well. The truth is that if you seem cold to Americans, the bottom of your ballot bin will be, too. And let’s be frank, if it weren’t for Clinton’s “sax” factor and down-home Southern drawl (despite his Rhodes Scholar pedigree), he may not have fared so well in his impeachment. And lest we forget, former President George W. Bush was so charming that he avoided impeachment all together.

From all of this, reason and one’s religion may seem mutually exclusive in today’s tumultuous environs, and perhaps are even eclipsed by one’s charisma. Though there have been many in the past and present that have been successful in balancing them, even resulting in a certain symbiotic relationship of the two. Old names like John Locke, a particular American favorite, come to mind. Or for newer names, maybe even Jon Huntsman. You just don’t hear about them too much today because, shockingly enough, being “fair and balanced” tends to lead to the same kind of thoughts, none of which will land you much time on a network with the same catchy phrase.

Nevertheless, what we see and read in the headlines today is terrifying. Nothing good can come from radical Republican rhetoric and religiosity combined with a drought of reason. And if these ideologues were elected, the things that could come would be even scarier. The resurgence of God as a “decider” in political thought is not the mark of an enlightened and progressive politician, but rather that of a provincial Puritan who would burn others with whom they disagreed at the stake. Nor is it a sign of the future but rather the simultaneous warning and reminder of our dark past; one that we, thanks to reason, science, and intellect, have been somewhat successful in striving against. To be blunt, these candidates would have our founding fathers, ardent lovers of science and reason, rolling in their grave. And if elected, we must make room for a new body in the National Cemetery: the American intellect.


Savannah Cox is a Foreign Languages/International Studies and Political Science double major at Bellarmine University, and has recently returned from the University of Granada, where she studied Spanish and Political Science. She has interned for the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana as well as Congressman John Yarmuth. In her free time, she enjoys reading, strumming a ukulele, and consuming large amounts of salty carbohydrates.

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  1. Dimebag says:

    The author of this article obviously knows NOTHING about the Tea Party other then what he has been told by the talking heads at MSNBC. While his points about these nuts job republican political people strikes some truth, none of that has anything to do with the Tea Party movement. The movement is about less spending, less taxes, less government, more freedom, more liberty. Tea Party leaders, (not the politicians like crazy ass Bachmann, Perry) refuse to throw support behind social issues like Gay Marriage. People need to do alittle reading for themselves and stop letting the liberal media do their thinking for them. Savannah Cox you are narrow minded, like most liberals and conservatives.

    • Anonymous says:

      While the Tea Party’s principles may tout “less spending, less taxes, less government, more freedom, more liberty…”, its ardent followers, as Savannah Cox noted, are evangelical nut jobs who want to insert their version of a Christian god into everything. You, Dimebag, need to go out and talk to Tea Partiers… then you’d understand why they scare the shit out of intellectuals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tea party constituents are no better than the candidates they throw their support behind. If they support Michelle Bauchmann politically, then by extension, they support her total agenda. It would be like if I voted for Bush in 2000, because of his tax cuts, despite being against his lack of support for social projects and military policies. Political endorsement is all or nothing.

    • PlacitasRoy says:

      The TeaParty is nothing but the know nothing &/or racist wing of the Republicon Party being lead around by the nose by the hate radio, Fux, and the uber-rich oligarchs. and hate radio.

    • Daeggman says:

      Yes more freedom to poison my water, more freedom to pollute my air. Your freedom is infringing on my inalienable right to life. Screw the Tea Party, when it boils down, you are all nothing but TP for my wiping pleasure. You are the most ignorant party to come along since the whigs. Who do you think employs most of the country, private enterprise, you mean those guys who fired 10+ million people 2 years ago, those true patriots of wall st who screwed the entire world for their own profit. When will you morons get it through your heads that it is the government, made of US, and patriotic citizens, who despise the fraud of the upper crust, the insanity of the uneducated, the ridiculousness of the “bible as total truth” idiots, and the absolutely failed idea of the free market system, a system designed to keep the weathy in riches and power, by those with riches and power. Who do you think wrote the business tax laws for small and medium business, the middle class??…you have no concept of America, you don’t or maybe can’t fit the pieces together. Its been class war since the first people came here, looking for gold, to start their wars, to kill the poor and amass their fortunes. The Tea Party is the party of lack of understanding of how things actually work. You should be against the power held by the corporations and the elite 500 or so, who erode your chances of having anything, while using super-computers to make millions of trades in a day, without lifting a finger to actually do any work. I know people who make 30,000 dollars a year and they work a hundred times harder than these rich aristocrats your little band of ninconpoops stands behind. Bastions of free enterprise, my ass, these are the succubi that have plagued the planet since the romans and you support them, because in your tiny little brain, you think that one day if you just work hard enough, you too will have a jet and 5 houses and a yacht. I don’t think you should use the moniker Dimebag, how about Elmer J Fudd? Sorry, just a little pissed at the ignorant today…but please don’t think my response in any way means I suppor the Democrats or the repubs either. I support the majority of this country who goes and works hard every day, pays their share to have schools, roads, police, teachers, firemen and the benefits of civilization. I have no desire to return to the dark ages, where all the dominionist evangelical nuts would have us return to. I enjoy my taxes being spent on those less fortunate and those who nare hungry and go without medical care. I believe America is a nation of caring people who have been usurped by greedy, self centered, Ayn Rand worshipping cretins, who are using their ill gotten gains to provoke division and distortion, turning us all against each other, while letting the man behind the curtain go free. Remember, the government is US!!!!! not a bunch of chinese communists, its your teachers, your police, your firefighters, who would die for you. It is the workers of the companies that the government buys products from. Only a small fraction of the government are the people you loathe, the rest are your friends, neighbors, they make hardly anything compared to the robber barons like the Kochs, who would have them all fired, and paid half to work in the private sector. Do you know the qualifications a teacher needs in the private sector..NONE!!! If you think teaching to the test is good for America, you’re wrong. Teaching is about turning a mind onto the wonders of learning, that we all learn every day, from each other from books, from discourse, from the seeking and aquiring of knowledge, that may one day lead to wisdom. A test means nothing..when do you take tests in your career…NEVER, unless you are a teacher in the public school system who has to better themselves and take more classes if they want to make more money, so they can share their knowledge with their students. And how abot those firemen and women. They risk their lives everyday for YOU!! They make almost next to nothing, some are volunteers, are these the people who have to get smaller because you are so blind to your tea party talking points that these people don’t matter. How about your ideas on “entitlements?” How is a paid into system, that has supported the government for so long, in need of being cut, and, why do you call them entitlements if they’ve been paid for? An entitlement is something that was given to the barons and dukes (or the VP’s and Senior VP’s by the king, or CEO of the corporation, as a bonus for having the title. It is more like a car payment, you pay into the system at x amount of dollars over so many years and you get the car at the end of the payments. How does that reseble stock options, or expense accounts, the true entitlements of the wealthy? You, my friend, have been conned like a senior citizen who sends their pension check to Pat Robertson, thinking he’s on your side and you’ll wind up to hebun…WAKE UPm stop letting the wealthy tell you how to think. If its said by a major news outlet, its not the truth, its only the parts that keep you ignorant, so you’ll go along with the plan. You think the bible is about love and trust and respect and piousness, its about the story of slaves and how to make and keep them. ” Do like we say, not like we do, and, after you die, you’ll be rewarded in a place without all those asses who oppressed you, sucked you dry and spit you out your whole life, no matter how hard you worked, no matter how much you gave into the plate, no matter how much you gave up personally..” Its the wealthy, keeping you docile, while they fleece you, defer their taxes for years, then pay about 40 cents on the dollar by the time they get around to paying them. Workers pay thier taxes up front, the wealthy don’t!! Is that the kind of system you support. If you support the TP it is!! bunch of white, over the hill whiners, wondering where theirs is…its in the pockets of the people who run you, who tell you what to think, who have convinced you thet their interests are yours…what a bunch of monkeys you are..hey I’ll throw a rock, you throw me a coconut, who wins, the monkeys?

    • Mort Adela says:

      You state that “The movement is about… more freedom, more liberty.” UNLESS, of course, one is a gay person, or a pregnant woman, or an atheist, right?

  2. Bones says:

    Holy revisionist history Batman!!!!

    This author is reguritating the same liberal slant she has obviously been fed ad-nauseum throughout her “intellectual” upbringing. Her brief resume at the end of the article belies the facts – she is a liberal hack without even the intellectual honesty to go out and research for herself what truths have been distorted by the organizations she has allied herself with. Stalin would call her a “Useful Idiot”.

    Wake UP!!! Before the precious Republicrats you so love and hate are revealed for the charade they have become. The two party system is a farce!! You are being played, and you don’t even know it.

    • Savannah Cox says:

      Revisionist history is nothing at which to scoff, Bones. Revising and questioning what has been generally accepted and then comparing it to something seen in the present is not the mark of a liberal “hack,” but rather pretty standard fare for the historical writing process.

      Additionally, I am quite curious as to which organizations with which I’ve aligned myself distort “truths.” Have you personally studied at the University of Granada? Are you aware of the great works and programs the World Affairs Council and John Yarmuth have participated in and planned? That doesn’t make too much sense to me. The Stalin comparison was an unnecessary compliment, though, as a BBC documentary has listed other “useful idiots” according to Stalin, some of whom include H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. I simply cannot accept the compliment.

  3. Infidel753 says:

    Sorry, but this essay is right on target. It’s teabaggerdom which has thrown its weight behind Perry and propelled him to the front of the Republican pack. This is not something the “liberal media” made up. Perry is eminently relevant to an assessment of the teabaggers — they made him, they own him.

    Moreover, teabaggerdom essentially is the Christian Right, repackaged. Sorry, but that’s another one of those things you tend to get a lot of in the ‘”liberal media” — it’s called a “documented fact”.

  4. mark says:

    The Tea Party is concerned with more than lower taxes and tiny government–they are strongly associated with various hate mongers, as documented here.

  5. ExpatZ says:

    You really need to stop repeating that lie about the Puritans “escaping religious persecution”, Puritans were hated here in the UK for good reason.
    Through Cromwell they had taken over England in the mid 14th century, killed the King, dissolved the fledgling parliament, installed Oliver Cromwell as a theocratic dictator, banned all forms of entertainment as blasphemous, imprisoned people for dancing, singing and swearing, persecuted the Catholics of the country and Ireland (even to the point of sending Irish children to the East Indies to work as slaves in sugar plantations with the hopes they would eventually die as dead children do not breed) and generally persecuted, killed or imprisoned anyone who wasn’t a Puritan for a period of 7 years.
    Americans knowledge of history is appalling, please educate yourselves about the world and you will find that many of the things you have believed about your country, it’s founding and the inventiveness of it’s citizens are just flat out fabrications.

    • THE GRAMMAR POLICE says:

      It’s funny when a pretentious prick, like ExpatZ, decries the educational failures of America, when he doesn’t even know the proper use of ‘its’ and ‘it’s.’ Who’s uneducated now, bitch?

      • Savannah Cox says:

        I could have been more thorough in why the UK disliked the Puritans — it would have strengthened my argument, I believe. Although, his or her valid point is largely overshadowed by the sweeping generalization made about an entire population and history (what period? and where?). Furthermore, there’s no reason to call someone a “bitch” or a “prick” based on a disagreement or grammar (as much as it pained me to read, too). It’s that kind of extremism in thought, on both sides, that makes me so scared today.

      • befuggled says:

        It’s also funny when somebody decries American knowledge of history while simultaneously managing to place Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans in the wrong century.

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