Not only do the conservative movement and the Republican Party hate new knowledge, they hate the people who produce it. The latest maneuver in the House – where the Republicans used an obscene little trick to kill a bill to provide more funding for research and for science education – illustrates the point.
The bill was ready to pass the House when the Republicans offered a “motion to recommit with instructions.” The minority is allowed one such motion per bill. So the Republicans offered a motion that would have gutted the bill by freezing all the increased funding until the Twelfth of Nev – until the Federal budget was balanced. Easy to defeat, no? Not when the Republicans also included a change to fire federal civil servants who view porn “including child pornography” – at work.
Now of course an anti-porn amendment could have been added at any earlier stage. But no such proposal was ever offered. Instead, the Republicans set things up so that to vote for more science funding the Democrats would have had to vote for bureaucrats watching kiddie-porn. So the motion passed, and high-school science teachers will get laid off while university labs have to shed staff: not such a bright idea in a recession, you might have thought.
Obviously, the GOP didn’t want to debate science funding on its merits, so they resorted to a dirty trick. And none of the folks involved seems to want to talk to the press about it. The Democrats pulled the bill, and will try to regroup next week.
One of the odd political disappointments of the Obama Administration has been its failure to notice that the folks in the knowledge business constitute a large, prosperous, and politically active class. (The employees of the University of California gave more money to both the Obama primary campaign and the Obama general campaign in 2008 than the employees of any other employer. The same was true for Kerry in ’04 and Gore in ’00.) “Science” remains a winner in public-opinion terms, while in policy terms the level of support for research in anything except biomedicine remains absurdly low. The Party of Ignorance is making it easy to make an appeal to that group based both on its beliefs and on its interests, if Obama portrays himself as the defender of embattled science against the Forces of Darkness. This is one piece of the base that ought to be easy to mobilize for the Fall.