Being a Republican Intellectual has the furious sound and ironic meaning of an oxymoron. Looking at the Republican record for intellectual analysis let alone free speech is shuddering:
1)the GOP must answer to such idol-savants as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Bill OReilly with an acrid chorus of Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann among others. Having embraced Wedge and one-issue supporters of no gun controls, gay intolerants, Christian prayers only in schools among a litany of deeply divisive wedge issues; the GOP must play second fiddle to the demagogues on ever wider substantive policy questions. Even worse no one GOP dares to moderate or balance the shrill and mocking screeds of these character assassination “mechanics”. And then a Gabrielle Gifford event occurs but lo and behold this was not triggered by any of the chorus of idiot savants and their hate-mongering;
2)the GOP are constantly attacking intellectuals and “liberal elites” as those who “think they know better” and “those who want to impose on you” – championing a victimization viewpoint where the GOP is the only party that responds to the victims causes;
3)the GOP are taking blatantly populist stances on complex issues such as birth control, immigration policy, gay marriage or global warming. The GOP rule is to take simple populist and lobby friendly stands and mock those that would urge caution and study, investigate,and attempt to delineate the scope of the problem and range of options. These are labelled as “liberal elites again trying to tell you what to do”. Thus populist or lobbyist stands such as “lift all limits to drilling offshore or for domestics gas ” are advanced as solutions to complex energy problems while deeply unsettling environmental problems are scorned;
4)the GOP are sponsoring their own battery of elitist institutes – having their populist cake but duplicating the liberal [but often non-partisan] think tanks. There are scores of well funded, Republican lobbying groups advancing counter viewpoints to environmental regulation, energy policy,financial regulation etc. Nothing wrong with this until you find that many of these “right” institutes are supporting extreme or denialist views – to such an extent as saying global warming or the extent of the breakdown on transparency and efficiency in financial markets are “fictions” or “no real problem”. These same “institutes” often restrain internal and external dissenting viewpoints or assessments.
5)the GOP are accepting the “fair and balanced” coverage of a national TV network, Fox News, that is anything but. This GOP network harbors not just constantly Democrat bashing commentators and “news” reports but also has been caught dozens of times editing, changing and otherwise manipulating video, audio and the extent of coverage to suit their conservative, rightist and GOP agenda;
6)The GOP is embracing the Bush/Rove policy of “You can fool some of the people all of the time – and those are the ones you have to pay attention to” [it was just a Gridiron Club joke]. The policy of duping the public through smear, fear, outright highpoint deception have been perfected by Republican strategists [think Karl Rove or Lee Atwater];
7)Finally there are the Four GOP Messaging Commandments:
i)Keep it simple, stupid;
ii)Never ever think or depart from the approved message and phrasing;
iii)Never, never credit the opposition;
iv)Never, never, never call into question GOP policy or policymakers.
The messaging commandments have become chillingly 1984-like. GOP Speak is exacting down to the last phrasing and words . This becomes obvious as Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show is able to lampoon Republicans with dozens of skits where GOP speakers use exactly the same phrases to comic effect. Interestingly, the Democrats are done in by Stewart with wimpy and even contradictory remarks. But there is no doubt about it, the GOP have a stunningly fast and comprehensive GOP Approved Messaging Command Post that gets the exact GOP phrasing out to its members – and departures from the script are not sanctioned.
In sum this is a not a milieu for thinking, questioning, or any risk-taking intellectually. So where does that leave such conservative “thought leaders” as David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will ? This is a topic which ye Editor plans to explore in future postings. But the broader question is how can the US afford to have one of only two national parties abandoning any semblance of intellectual and policymaking rigor? The US faces such imposing challenges as not just the loss of economic dominance to China and Asia but also technology and creative advantage that came from a first class now 15th class schooling system . Can the US afford the simple do nothings about dependence on oil, global warming and environmental depredation? Can the US afford a Democracy that currently demands 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation or a Supreme Court that allows special interest groups and organizations which do not reflect the divergent beliefs/voices of their constituents to nonetheless speak with one voice and with no limits to amount of their stakeholders money they want to spend in election campaign financing and lobbying expenditures to advance those limited points of view. But even more important question – can the US function democratically with one of its major parties intellectually neutered?