How the Gop Became the Stupid Party

Scott Horton wrote a great post about Republicans called "The Stupid Party":

How do Americans view Barack Obama and his relationship with the Republican minority? Nearly 80 percent say that Obama is outstripping their expectations as a President; nearly 70 percent say he is delivering on his promises; roughly two-thirds of Americans approve his performance. Republicans do not fare so well. Their approval numbers come in at half or less of Obama’s, and the public believes, also by a large margin, that Obama has stretched out a hand of cooperation to the Congressional G.O.P., and they have responded by spurning him. The public, it seems, is forming a very harsh judgment on the performance of the Republican leadership, which in time of crisis has reduced itself to a simple mantra: just say “no.”

lns="">The poll also offers us a chance to understand how Republicans view the world. The Washington Post reports: “74 percent of Republicans in the new poll expressed grave worry about the deficit, 29 points higher than in December when George W. Bush held the reins.” Nothing has changed about the deficit—it is still a deficit that George W. Bush created. But the Republican Party’s attitude has been dramatically transformed. Telling indeed.

lns="">My theory is that the American public would be happy with an opposition party that plays a constructive role in governance by forcing the exploration of the government’s proposals and putting forward its own alternatives. Our experience as a democracy is that such a process of lively public debate helps us move to correct answers. But the Republicans are not behaving as a responsible opposition party. Their behavior reminds us of John Stuart Mill’s label for the unconstructive Tories: he called them the “stupid party.”

lns="">Moreover, the hallmark of contemporary Republican thinking really is stupidity. Consider Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, who responded to a question about whether Obama was a legitimate president with this blather “Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate… You have to be born in America to be president.” Shelby, of course, supported John McCain, and there’s no dispute as to where McCain was born: in Coco Solo, Colón Province, Panama. Shelby is apparently vying to become a leader of the party’s rampant Neoconfederate bloc.

lns="">Or Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning who told a gathering how excited he was by news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had pancreatic cancer. She would be dead in nine months, he said, because it was a disease you just don’t survive. Bunning later issued an “apology” that implied that Ginsburg was making a big deal out of his remarks (she never made a comment on them) and in the process misspelled her name.

lns="">Or consider South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, whose recent efforts to attack the Obama stimulus package consisted of a stream of nonsense. In a rapid-fire series of remarks, Sanford compared the stimulus to “Weimar Germany” and “the Soviet grain quotas of Stalin’s time.” He reminded us that “people who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and then drew on comparisons closer to home. “The Golden Gate Bridge was a Hoover-era infrastructure project designed to get the economy going,” he said. “The Hoover Dam was a Depression-era, you know, project designed to get the economy going.” But Sanford wants to condemn the country to a G.O.P. Groundhog Day—his comparisons are not just wrong, they are nutty. Start with the facts that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam are pre-Depression era projects.

lns="">And of course there was the recent historical excursion of Ohio Republican Congressman Steve Austria:


“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

lns="">Except of course that Roosevelt became president in 1933 and the Great Depression started in 1929 in the presidency of Republican Herbert Hoover.

lns="">How does this play to the voters? In an intriguing article in the current National Journal, Ronald Brownstein and David Wasserman take a look at how Republicans are doing with educated voters. Their view: Democrats are scoring “dramatic gains” among better educated voters, namely those who hold college diplomas. They bore into a number of sample counties, like Oakland County, Michigan, which was once reliably Republican—and where well-educated voters now feel the G.O.P. is just too stupid to earn their vote.

lns="">The Stupid Party may have appointed Michael Steele as its chairman, but it’s still represented by aging white southern men who seem to have a hankering for re-fighting the Civil War and who emit an unending stream of idiocies when they connect with the media. They lecture us about history and prove in the process that they are schooled on prejudice and venom. They believe that opposing the president in a time of crisis without proposing any credible alternatives of their own is a virtue and that debate is best conducted with fear and superstition and not reason and facts, yet every time they raise their voices they raise the same question: “How did the country come to the domestic and foreign policy mess it now faces?” We don’t have to look far.

In his next post, he pointed out that the GOP once had brains:

This weekend I was plowing through a series of speeches and presentations from Robert Taft and Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1950-54 and marveling over how intelligent, even eloquent, they were—especially compared to what passes for thinking in today’s G.O.P. And of course there was also William F. Buckley, Jr., a man who had a limitless capacity to enrage liberals–many of whom would nevertheless concede his wit and erudition. A remembrance of W.F.B. appears today at the Daily Beast by his son, Chris. Reading it, one is reminded–there was a time when the G.O.P., and even National Review, had brains. What happened?

What happened? After 1964, key Republicans won elections by deliberately opposing intelligence. Over the next 44 years, anti-intelligence became the GOP's DNA.

In 1960, Richard Nixon lost to JFK because JFK came across better on TV. After that, Nixon and the Republicans resolved to control TV. Over the next 48 years they succeeded - not by being smarter than Democrats, but by bullying TV executives, producers, and journalists. (See GHWB's interview with Dan Rather, the rise of FOX News, and the Scooter Libby affair.)

In 1968, George Wallace showed Richard Nixon how to appeal to southern Democratic bigots. Nixon's "Southern Strategy" relied on simple coded phrases, not intelligent arguments. Republicans have campaigned on coded phrases ever since.

In 1978, the National Conservative PAC (NCPAC) used the first vicious negative TV ads to beat 5 intelligent Democratic Senators. Ever since then, Republicans have relied on high-wattage negative character attacks, not intelligent arguments.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan combined Nixon's Southern Strategy with the genial style he learned as an actor. Ever since then, Republicans have tried to mask their nasty attacks with a smile. (George Bush could get by with his frat-boy smirk, but John McCain's tight smile was way too forced.)

In 1994, Newt Gingrich led an army of Republican Revolutionaries to victory by having them repeat Frank Lutz's poll-tested talking points. Ever since then, Republicans have simply repeated consultant-fed talking points, even when they had no supporting facts or arguments (like "victory in Iraq").

In 2000, George Bush combined all the elements above with outright contempt towards anyone who exhibited any intelligence, starting with Al Gore. The Corporate Media sided with Bush's sneer over Gore's intelligence during the campaign, and helped Bush steal the election in Florida. Bush then ran the country for 8 years on the basis of willful stupidity. ("I'm the decider." "I go with my gut." "You're either with us or you're against us." "Go shopping.")

Ever since Barry Goldwater left the stage in 1964, the Republican Party has been the Stupid Party. And thanks to the rightwing embrace of Sarah Palin, it doesn't look like it will ever change.

Update 1: House Republicans desperately need to transform themselves from Limbaugh-ites into a responsible opposition. But their leaders just made change impossible by requiring all House Republicans to sign a fundraising contract.

For 2010, GOP leaders have launched the “Patriot Program,” in which members are being asked to sign contracts laying out campaign fundraising goalposts. If they don’t sign the contract, their campaign won’t receive funding from the NRCC down the stretch run. "If you do not participate you will not get help,” Rogers told members.

Where will House Republicans turn for quick and easy money? To the same rightwing donors that put them in the political wilderness. Hahaha! Can you say   STUPID?

JojoWazoo JojoWazoo
46-50, F
3 Responses Feb 25, 2009

1st of all let me state this for the record - i am a moderate democrat from the most democratic state in the union - vermont.<br />
you know - you constantly hear the Bush bashing. not sure about you - but i'm really sick of it. i love being a democrat - but at some point some Dems just really need to stop lashing out at GW Bush. it gets old and proves nothing. if i had the oppurtunity i would tell Keith Olbermann to grow up - enough already. <br />
most of us Dems realize that we held the majority in the Senate and the House most of Bushes terms. we are as responsible as he was. am i wrong? just because he was the pres - we still had power. however, i think a lot of the Dems in the house/senate were doing exactly what Repubs are doing now - which is/was trying our hardest not to be a partisan politician. <br />
my msg to all y'all is to stop the Bush bashing and ask what you can do to improve this great nation. i also ask that we support this president and the lawmakers that are in place.

They are stupid because they violated their own beliefs and then try to blame the Dems for this mess....

Right now, the Republicans are making a very dangerous gamble. To be obstructionist is never good politically. Democrats had to learn that when Bush was President, that it was neither smart to cow-tow, nor obstruct. <br />
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The Republicans right now, don't know what to do with the electorate leaning left. In order to get back in power, they'll have to moderate.