Sunday, August 10, 2008

The party of stupid

Know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

In the case of oil, this takes the form of pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump. In fact, earlier this week Republicans in Congress actually claimed credit for the recent fall in oil prices: “The market is responding to the fact that we are here talking,” said Representative John Shadegg.

What about the experts at the Department of Energy who say that it would take years before offshore drilling would yield any oil at all, and that even then the effect on prices at the pump would be “insignificant”? Presumably they’re just a bunch of wimps, probably Democrats.
In the Republican worldview, everything is black and white, and stopping to think before doing things like drilling holes that you KNOW won’t produce oil for years or even starting a war is weak-willed hand wringing.

So why are Republicans gushing about offshore drilling, even though the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Energy Information Administration says, “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030”? That's exactly why. You don’t think Republicans are in a hurry to take a real bite out of the hands that feed them, do you? No, they’d rather take a fake bite and bullshit voters into believing that it’s a real bite.

And the bullshit campaign is starting to pay off. A recent poll shows that 51 percent of voters now believe that offshore drilling will have a significant impact on oil prices within a year, even though both George Bush and John McCain have said that the only short-term impact of drilling would be “psychological.”

Plus, Republicans finally found a talking point that stuck. After months of failed narritives, Republicans have finally realized that it’s the economy, stupid, that voters care about. It’s hard to blame them for taking their time in getting around to economic issues, considering who is responsible for the current state of the economy. (Remember that $128 billion surplus someone inherited?) So after months of bragging about the alleged success of "the surge" to a war-weary public and accusing Obama of being a “celebrity” in the mold of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the GOP finally hit a nerve. And all they had to do was take advantage of the desperate by telling them what they desperately want to hear: That there’s a simple, immediate answer to their trouble that won’t cost them anything.

(And while we’re at it, John McCain is going to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. Yeah, that’s going to happen.)

So Krugman says that the Republican party is the party of stupid, but he’s only talking about the simple-minded solutions the GOP offers to problems facing the American people. But I will go a step further and say that Republicans count on stupid. They need stupid. Stupid is as essential to their success as fundraising. They need voters to believe bullshit, like Hurricane Katrina caused no oil spills and that offshore drilling is the immediate answer to skyrocketing fuel prices. That’s why Fox News is so important to the Republican party: it’s williness to say anything, to repeat any lie — no matter how ridiculous — to support the GOP narrative. More to the point, Fox News is important to Republicans because it helps keep people stupid.


It’s significant, I think, that for the Republican party, simple-mindedness is reserved only for policy positions. They’re quite shrewd when it comes to campaigning, election tampering and disseminating talking points. Which leads me to believe that these are the areas where they are focusing their attention, and that they aren’t interested in solutions to the problems of American people. They’re interested in power, not governing.

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