Republicans and TeaParty conservatives make it really, really difficult for me to avoid focusing on their lapses in intelligence.


The Republican Spectrum of Ignorance


Republicans and conservatives make it really, really difficult for us to avoid focusing on their lapses in intelligence. And with a conga-line of top shelf Republicans front and center for the 2012 presidential nomination, we’re being treated to more examples of nitwittery from these people.

In the last six or seven months alone, there are enough examples of Republicans botching very basic ideas and facts to fill volumes of “Bushism” style novelty calendars.

Sarah Palin, the matriarch of Republican idiocy, didn’t just botch the Paul Revere story. Among a variety of other gaffes on Twitter (“cackle of rads?”) and elsewhere, she has repeatedly botched the First Amendment suggesting it protects radio show hosts and others from offended citizens. Both John Boehner and Herman Cain have confused the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution. Eric Cantor tried to pass a bill that would somehow magically become law with just a House vote, and this magical law would inexplicably force a separate bill to also magically become law without a Senate vote, a conference committee or a presidential signature. Speaking of lawmaking, Herman Cain wants bills that are three pages or less — presumably with cartoony illustrations by Richard Scarry. Michele Bachmann thinks John Quincy Adams is a founding father and mistakenly linked her campaign with creepy clown/killer John Wayne Gacy. The list goes on and on.

That’s not to say all modern conservatives are stupid. I simply don’t subscribe to the crowd-pleasing notion that they’re idiots.

However, there’s a spectrum of anti-intellectualism on the right, and that’s a fact. The Republican Spectrum of Ignorance runs the gamut from “genuinely smart but wrong” on one extreme to “genuinely stupid” on the other with various points in between. (The categories can be overlapped, Venn Diagram style, and applied to specific conservative players.)

The categories:

Genuinely Smart but Wrong. These are modern conservatives who are, as the category title suggests, very well-educated and bright, and therefore an endangered species. They can construct coherent thoughts and they try to be intellectually honest in constructing their arguments. But where they fall short is their adherence to ideology. Despite, for example, generally agreed-upon economic arguments about stimulating job creation, they’ll insist that tax cuts and spending cuts that impact the middle and working classes are the only solution even though tax cuts do not stimulate job or economic growth, and spending cuts actually make things worse.

Deliberately Ignorant. This brand of conservative exploits the idea that voters want leaders who remind them of themselves — someone they can have a beer with — so they deliberately act like slack-jawed yokels at every opportunity. But just below the surface, they’re very clever and calculating. Irrespective of political affiliation, we shouldn’t want leaders who are just like us, or, for that matter, a random shit-kicker at the bar. We ought to instinctively demand leaders who are better, smarter and more disciplined — times a thousand. But Republican voters disagree. And so they get these phony-baloney hacks posing as ordinary yickadoos.

Un- or Miseducated. These conservatives are often the ones who botch general knowledge trivia and historical facts, or who don’t understand how basic democracy works. I’ve coined the term “miseducated” here to encompass politicians like Michele Bachmann who, while she studied tax law at William & Mary, obviously missed out on proper history classes during her education. They believe that secession is somehow a noble pursuit despite the fact that 600,000 Americans were killed the last time it was attempted. They don’t get it because they never learned it — or they mislearned it. George W. Bush had extensive schooling but didn’t really study because he didn’t have to. His family name carried him through his higher education.

Incompetent and Incapable. George W. Bush and Sarah Palin also fit squarely in this category of conservative anti-intellectualism. While Palin, for example, might have been given information by her advisers about the role of the vice president or tidbits about Paul Revere and bell-ringing of some sort, she utterly scrambled the re-telling of that information, which exposed her general incompetence. If you’re unable to capably regurgitate information, you really have no place in a role that’s almost entirely dependent upon communicating ideas. And if you can’t communicate ideas, there’s even less of a chance you’ll be able to come up with passable ideas of your own, making you increasingly susceptible to the ambitions and political machinations of your advisers.

Genuinely Stupid. At the far end of the spectrum, this category speaks for itself. These Republicans fortuitously stumbled their way into elected office or the news media due to their congeniality or money or both despite being dumber than a sack of Jell-o.

The wild card category is, simply put, Crazy. Going back to Michele Bachmann, I don’t think she’s stupid. I think she’s crazy. Not in the clinical sense (which is her own business), but specifically with regards to her radical ideas blended together with her miseducation — a concoction that makes her so far removed from even the fringes of the mainstream that I can’t believe she’s actually being taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

So it stands to reason that a massive assault against our system of public education has been a priority of modern conservatism during this era of incomprehensible austerity.

For Republicans, education and intellectualism is the enemy of their wafer-thin bumper-sticker marketing strategy, and so denying people an affordable education has become a matter of survival for the Republican Party. An uninformed voter can be manipulated by sloganeering and trickery. A smarter voter is more likely to see through shallow appeals to fear and transparently deceptive marketing schemes.

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Montana
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 14:28:14

    All hail to Astroturf TeaBparty Queen (ATQ), Michele Bachmann. Isn’t she the one that who rails against the Federal Government while every year she benefits from Federal Medicaid Payments for her Clinic, Federal farm subsidies (talk about a Corporate Welfare Queen), and adopts kids to work them on same farm. Oh yeah she is also a self-proclaimed historian on the US Founding Fathers and US history. The sad truth she will lie to get her way, what honor is there in that? But if you manipulate our US history and double down when you are found out, well don’t go crying to Fake News when you lose. Kind of like the Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (Most recent quitter of her Bus Tour to restore America). We remember what happen when after “W” manipulate Florida (w/ the help of brother Jebb) to win the presidency and his failure to win any of the two wars he started that devastated our treasury and ruined our economy for the next 50 years. If the GOP thinks that Michele Bachmann is the answer, good luck with that. After her “John Wayne” mishap and Tom Petty, calling her a thief, well you know, same old Bachmann, you have a winner GOP.


  2. WakeUpAmerica
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 16:04:40

    So, Syrin, have you become a democrat yet? A little closer every news cycle?


    • Syrin
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 17:26:37

      Ha! You know what they say.. It takes all kinds! No, I’m a Christian Conservative Republican. I intend on trying to work from the inside to find those traditional policy wonks and intelligent and reasonable pundits that I know where once there. At least in the local party here in Alaska. Even so, I feel free as it where to vote for who ever I choose. In the last 4 years I’ve voted for the Democrat in the general.


  3. Mike V
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 18:26:50

    It’s not so bad on the left side. Give it a try.


    • Syrin
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 20:58:24

      Think of the hours of fun debating and chatting about the important issues but having all sides represented.. Every family needs to be balanced! I’m that balance in my family! You, lil bro know that I’m a righty for the right reasons..


      • Campbell
        Jul 07, 2011 @ 08:08:03

        I agree, we do need that balance, especially when it comes to fiscal prudence. I am definitely for Medicaid and Medicare, for example, but we absolutely need to understand that there IS waste and fraud in these programs, and that cutting money from them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Provided, of course, that the money being cut isn’t actually needed. It would be nice to have some Republicans out there that could articulate and draw attention – in an intellectually honest way – the specific areas of waste and overpayments in these programs, but today’s Republican isn’t against Medicare and Medicaid for that reason. They ideologically hate the idea of government stepping in to help where there is no profitable incentive for private industry to do so.

  4. akbagirly
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 20:50:03

    The latest presidential candidate rumor is that David Duke may be entering the arena. I’m not sure what party he’d be representing, but the crazy candidate choices just seem to be getting more so.

    Seriously Syrin, there is hope for a Republican who had the guts to post this insightful Huffington Post article on her blog. I would suggest that you listen to Thom Hartmann and Rachel Maddow a time or two, if you haven’t yet. Then compare to what the Right has to offer (Limbaugh, Beck, etc.).

    I am speaking from the point of view as a former Republican, who became disenfranchised when the Party started mixing it’s religion (a certain brand) and it’s politics. I hung on due to a belief that the R’s were the more fiscally responsible party, then that became glaringly apparent to be untrue.

    As far as I can tell, the only thing that the R’s have got going for them is perhaps the moral upper hand on abortion, but once I came to the conclusion that this way-too-complicated subject was something best left to the judgement of the individual woman and her individual circumstance, I was ready to let go. Even if a person can’t let go of the abortion issue, to me, the Republicans nullify their possibly superior moral compass on that issue by being so dang-nabbed eager to go to war, which kills and maims innocent men, women and children, not to mention destroying the psychological well-being of generations to come.

    I officially registered as a Democrat (something I thought to never do) so that I could caucus for Obama. Now I’m registered as an Independent/Non Partisan, but as far as I can tell, I’ll be voting D for a long time to come.


    • Campbell
      Jul 07, 2011 @ 07:37:09

      They’re absolutely full of shit on abortion, too. Believe me, many of these people have had more than one abortion themselves. I’ve also read numerous news stories about pro-life activists who have been arrested for child molestation. At heart, a lot of the so-called prolifers are among the most mean and vicious people you will ever meet, but hide it by loudly trumpeting their pro-life credentials.

      And of course, you have the opportunists who have seized the pro-life banner to form profitable “non-profits” and hit the profitable speaking circuit. Look at that Lila Rose character. She’s garnered some fame as a so-called activist, largely because she’s young and pretty. Anyway, she characterizes herself as a passionate advocate for unborn babies. I have yet to find a single picture of her anywhere actually holding a baby. Another fake.


      • Sammy
        Jul 08, 2011 @ 22:42:09

        Campbell, you are spot on about many republican ri8ght-wingers and anti-choice types also having abortions. I know this from personal experience.

        Women in the republican so- called evalgelical base HAVE abortions the same as women in every other sub-set of tghe population. Anyone of this group who says otherwise is just deluding themselves or outright lying.

        And we all KNOW this.

        Several years ago I volunteered as a MT at a Women’s clinic that offered physicals, lab tests, scripts for bp and diabetic medication ( or in sone cases, free meds if they were available), pre-natal care, birth control and abortion counseling.

        Women wanting abortions had to have a complete physicial before being referred on to physicians who performed abortions which were not performed at this clinic.

        These women were of All Races, Skin Colors, Economic Status, Religions, American Born and Foreigh Born and Immmigrant, mothers with their teen-age daughters, you name it. Some came from the surrounding surburbs and had good financial resources. Most were middle-class, some had less financial resources. Many were referred to the clinic by THEIR personal physician.

        Women were referred to physicians/hospitals where they had abortions if that was their decision. If they HAD NOT been seeking an abortion, but just pre-natel care and testing, they would have seen their OWN PHYSICIANS in their own geographical locations.

        Anyone who doubts that republicans and so-called republican Christians don’t do the same things as the rest of the population, need to get real and STOP LYING.

        It’s about time we started to remind the public os the facts.

        God, I really really hate those hypocrits

  5. Pogo
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 21:53:29

    Excellent post and good discussion. Thanks.
    (I need to invite you to our family dinners – we have no one sitting on the right side of the table!)


  6. anAlaskanAlsoII
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 05:32:22

    July 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Oral Roberts / Regent / Liberty Law – any of em, all of em (and where Bachmann got her Juris Doctorate or where Christine O’Donnell attended her two-week Constitution Camp credentials) should bring to light once again the incredulous influence and power unaccredited Christian institutions are given by conservative leaders.

    While all this brought me back to George W. Bush’s nomination of his White House Counsel, Harriet Miers to SCOTUS, it sheds light on a curious standard the Right had on qualified females over even Harry Reid and George W. himself – until hot for Jesus babes like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and Michele Bachmann came on the scene.

    Look back on the extraordinary brouhaha from within W’s own party on the fact that Harriet was underqualified? She met the technical requirements, in that she was a lawyer – but never truly practiced law nor served as a judge. The Right were so offended at this hodunck woman’s audacity who never left the elbow of W. in Texas or the White House in her career – who was she to seek the highest court in the land?

    The GOP piled on her, it had Harry Reid defending her and saying her pedigree wasn’t all that important – the school of hard knocks would be a breath of fresh air at the bench. Isn’t that something?

    Fast forward five years, only FIVE years, and they are rallying behind a woman who was technically eligible (able-bodied, of age and born in America) but was categorically unqualified to serve as a heart-beat away from the Presidency?

    Now this loon, Bachmann, who knows that she knows that she knows that she’s hot for Jesus, wants us to figure she’s safer from scrutiny on a credentials stand-point when she’s only a JesusU grad and no better a constitutional or tax law expert than Christine O’Donnell.


    None of these women, including S.C. Governor Niki Haley, deserves or belong in public roles – Christian, private sector all they want, but damn this Pink Elephant revolution – there is nothing refreshing or exciting about the staid, tired old White Male Republican Guard brand of non-secular rule that has nothing to do with good faith.


  7. Campbell
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 07:31:05

    And trying to have a conversation with many rank and file rightwingers is akin to reading the Onion’s “Ask a…” column. You know, the one where no matter what kind of question you ask, the answer has something to do with a completely different topic.

    You can’t use reason, you can’t use facts, you can’t use civility, because absolutely nothing gets through to these people.


  8. climber357
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 07:49:17

    The GOP has done a fine job of shooing the center-right out of the tent. It will take a long time for me to forgive my own party for paying sarah´s legal bill.

    If Bachmann is on the Republican ticket, I will vote for President Obama.

    If Bachmann is not on the Republican ticket, I will vote for President Obama.


  9. AFM
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 09:34:22

    This world seems upside down. It seems bad behaviour is just fine with some people. Ignorance is bliss and that is the way they want to keep it. How sad when people who are actually intelligent pretend to be stupid all for the dumb down vote. Look around just recently Casey Anthony got away with child abuse of neglect and gets away with murder. Then you have the Jersey Shore showing our finest young adults acting like teens. Now the peach of all you have Quitter Palin’s daughter getting paid for her bad behaviour having a baby, getting on DWTS and now another show. I guess sleeping around and screw up the ladder of success is just fine example for people. I don’t get it. America is in a downward spiral.


  10. akbagirly
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 14:13:49

    I can only hope that the dearth of “normal” candidates being put forward by the Republicans is due to the assumption that Obama is just too difficult to beat, and nobody wants to waste the money.


  11. Syrin
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 14:16:30

    Thank you everyone for the excellent comments and thoughtful debate.

    I’m for life, arn’t we all? The solution to abortion is to make them few and un neccessary by education and lower the rhetoric so people can discuss this issue. Safe sex my friends…… is NO sex! Until the responsibility that comes along with that is recognized the chances are people will use the option of aborting their child as birth control.. This greives my heart. I recognize that this comes with responsable parenting instilling values and virtues. But, in my opinion we need a little cultural modesty! But, when sex is inevitable a (choice) has been made and pregnancy occurs the other choices I pray would be considered before the finality of abortion.
    It’s not that I’m against taxes or social welfare programs for the poor, it’s that I’m against looking past the waste when legislators and state leaders come unapologetically to the taxpayers with their hands out at the same time they are creating bad policy and living it up! This seems to me a reasonable view. Unfortunately, Conservatives are often attacked based on the ideology of controlling spending and managing debt. Why should I vote to pump more money into programs, sometimes failed programs, when our government spends more to create long term problems than long term solutions! The government is NOT the solution!

    In other words, it’s a debate over necessity versus practicality. I’m not against expanding state services to help the needy, ensuring that the education at all levels is properly funded or expanding food and nutrition programs. The Republican motto of personal accountability and self-reliance will only go so far. I don’t believe everyone can survive without a hand up. It would be ridiculous to say that we should forget the needs of these individuals.
    The idea that if you feed a man a fish everyday. he will learn to depend on you ( the government) to feed him. (the compassionate left) But, If you teach a man to fish ( the compassionate right) he will than learn to feed himself and become self-reliant, not depending on the government.


  12. Mo Inkslinger
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 15:40:48

    I am not pro-life or pro-choice, but I am pro-child. I believe every child should have the opportunity to be born/raised in a loving family free from physical and verbal child abuse. Right to life is more concerned about bring the child in to the world rather than seeing this child has a loving and nurturing family. Like many women, I have had to make the decision on abortion. When a woman decides on an abortion, there are no winners. That said, there are many reasons why a woman may seek an abortion and I am thankful that women do not have to seek out back alley doctors like they did one time in this country.


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