The fundamental craziness of the GOP

Have reporters started to notice? Jacob Weisberg has.

Jacob Weisberg calls out the craziness:

Like the White Queen in her youth, the contemporary Republican politician must be capable of believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Weisberg goes on to cite chapter and verse.

This is the fundamental fact of contemporary U.S. politics: one of the major national parties has been taken over by its lunatic fringe. So far – by contrast to, for example, 1964 or 1972 – “extremism” has not be come the sort of “issue” discussed by mainstream “objective” reporters. But that could change.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

19 thoughts on “The fundamental craziness of the GOP”

  1. The fundamental fact of American politics: One of the nation’s major parties has been taken over by people morally convinced that anybody who disagrees with them is insane. This does not bode well.

  2. Brett, the opinion of the Democrats is beside the point. The beliefs of the Republicans regarding evolution, global warming, Obama’s place of birth, balancing the budget without new taxes, and so forth, would be insane even if the Democrats agreed with them.

  3. An example of an insane belief that is held by Democrats and Republicans alike is that invading other countries and killing their civilians will reduce terrorism by the citizens of those other countries. Another insane belief that is held by Democrats and Republicans alike is that invading other countries and killing their civilians is not terrorism, because we are the ones doing it.

  4. Unsurprisingly, Bux doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The precipitating incident here is about whether Chris Christie would disavow the teaching of creationism, not whether he would “affirm evolution”, and Christie said he would not disavow the teaching of creationism, that it’s a matter of local control. Let us remember, creationism isn’t just the effort to find flaws in the theory of evolution, it’s the claim that a specific deity made the universe at a specific time in a specific manner. This isn’t a question of whether one “affirms evolution”, it’s a question about whether one tolerates religious indoctrination in the public schools.

    Still, since Bux raised the topic, must one “affirm evolution” to be counted as sane? Well, I would say there’s a little bit of a definition issue here. Evolution is supported by the evidence about as well as anything can possibly be. There simply is no way a rational, informed individual can say evolution isn’t happening. The very origins of life aren’t as clear cut – which doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to tell kids the Christian God done it – and, of course, all of the evidence could be a test of our faith concocted by a rather obnoxious deity. Heck, as Brett was fond of pointing out to us with respect to the place of Obama’s birth, we can only prove our own existence and the world around us could be entirely an illusion, leaving the evidence for evolution as much a fantasy as the evidence that Barack Obama was born at all. Still, there’s a big difference between, on the one hand, telling kids that we are still seeking answers about the origins of life and, on the other, waving around a Bible.

  5. Yes, the landscape has changed, “the lunatic fringe” is no longer just a fringe group, and, “if you’re one of the conservatives who had the misfortune to accept science during the pre-Tea Party era,” what can you do?

    It beggars belief, that only a minority of Republicans, 49%, according to Gallup, believe that Obama was defintely born or probably born in the US, despite Obama, with an avalanche of publicity, releasing his short-hand then long-hand birth certificate.

  6. (Warren): “…must one ‘affirm evolution’ to be counted as sane? Well, I would say there’s a little bit of a definition issue here. Evolution is supported by the evidence about as well as anything can possibly be…there’s a big difference between, on the one hand, telling kids that we are still seeking answers about the origins of life and, on the other, waving around a Bible
    Complete agreement. I’d extend that argument as well to economics and suggest that comparisons between Western Europe on the one hand, and the Warsaw Pact countries, on the other, between North Korea, on the one hand, and South Korea, on the other, between Mainland China on the one hand and Hong Kong and Taiwan, on the other, make waving __Das Kapital__ or __The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money__ equally “insane”. Attachment to long-held belief and indifference to evidence are quite common

  7. Prof. Kleiman -“This is the fundamental fact of contemporary U.S. politics: one of the major national parties has been taken over by its lunatic fringe.”

    Frankly, this is a bit naive. It may be lunacy, but a lot of people believe it … which is, of course, why the politicians echo it. More to the point, this sort of mass belief in lunatic ideas is hardly a new phenomenon. A few examples:

    1940s … F D Roosevelt’s Democratic administration fought World War II with a racially-segrated military
    1950s … Mainstream Republicans suspected Secretary of State Dean Acheson of being a Communist tool
    1950s … D D Eisenhower’s Republican administration believed in the “domino theory” … that a Communist takeover in one part of Asia would ripple across countries
    1960s … J F Kennedy’s Democratic administration successfully campaigned on the idea of a “missile gap” that favored the Soviet Union
    1960s … L B Johnson’s Democratic administration bought the “Domino theory”, and plunged headlong into the Vietnam war (with Eisenhower’s support)
    1970s … The Team B grossly-inflated assessement of Soviet capabilties and intentions led to a massive UXS arms build-up
    1980s … R W Reagan’s Republican administration believed in the “Laffer curve” … cutting tax rates would raise more revenue

    And we won’t even get into the crazed mass beliefs that led to the Civil War, back in the 1850s/1860s.

  8. Brett, that’s a cute comeback, but you’re confusing “the liberal blogosphere” with “the Democratic party” — the first hasn’t taken over the second, despite what it may feel like online. Actual Democratic office-holders and prospective office-holders do not feel electorally obliged, for their own survival, to assert that Republicans are literally insane — as opposed to being wrong, of course, but everyone says their opponents are wrong.

  9. > Brett Bellmore says:May 22, 2011 at 9:21 am
    >
    > The fundamental fact of American politics: One of the nation’s
    > major parties has been taken over by people morally convinced
    > that anybody who disagrees with them is insane. This does not
    > bode well.

    Brett – you have been visiting the rural and semi-rural Midwest? You should have let me know; I would have introduced you to some of my relatives and let them talk to you about birth certificates, raptures, sharia law in the White House, and other topics favored by the party that considers those to disagree with them to be evil, immoral, and (probably) insane.

    Cranky

  10. “balancing the budget without new taxes”

    Henry, it’s easy enough to take a graph of revenues and expenditures, (You can even adjust them for inflation and population growth.) and draw a horizontal line across it. You’ll perhaps notice that, on average, the revenues of only a few years later would suffice to pay for the spending of any given date. I think it would thus be fair to say that balancing the budget without new taxes is simply a matter of spending only what we spent a few years earlier. Is it insane to think that we could survive the government spending only what it spent four or five years ago? On the contrary, I’d say that the liberal conviction that simply not increasing spending for a few years is madness, is itself madness.

  11. “Brett – you have been visiting the rural and semi-rural Midwest?”

    That’s where I grew up: The “thumb” area of Michigan. When they searched Nichol’s farm, the traffic was backed up past my town… (And we all had a laugh over the breathless reports of fertilizer residue being found in a farmer’s barn.)

  12. Brett, a few points:
    1) If you click the link, you will discover that the points about taxes are explicitly made with respect to percentages of GDP.
    2) It has become a Republican dogma that reducing taxes increases revenue, with a fallback position that it doesn’t significantly reduce revenues. Ample evidence shows neither is true.
    3) The Ryan plan would require government spending to decline not to a point seen four or five years ago, but instead eighty or more years ago. The government does a few things now that it didn’t then, many of which I don’t think you’d like to see eliminated.
    4) It’s especially unfair to look “four or five years ago” because tax revenue is high when the economy is humming along, and the government’s spending obligations are reduced (a lot fewer people need Medicaid or unemployment insurance, for example, and that’s leaving aside the occasional massive bailout for Wall Street). This gives misleading impressions both of revenue and of spending. This is why, at least until we’ve retired a lot of debt, we should be running big surpluses in the good years, to prepare ourselves for he bad ones. Amazingly, we found ourselves in precisely this position in 2001. And then Dubya and the rest of your friends happened.

  13. Your point 4 makes me suspect that you didn’t bother to look at a graph. It’s not just *today* that spending equals revenues of a few years ago. It’s practically every year. Both numbers have been trending up, it’s just that the spending level is always a few years ahead of the revenues.

  14. Malcolm, if you think Keynes and Marx had anything to do with one another you must be … a Republican. These are facts, Malcolm. Look them up.

  15. Mark,

    I would say this is a case of established politicians trying to hold onto their changing base. There is nothing crazy about governor Christie trying to deny evolution or Pawlenty changing his views on Climate Change. The Republican party is, like the Democratic party, a coalition. That coalition is changing. They all do. The Democratic party is changing too. The Republican party is trying to expel people from the party, to remove the RINOs. I remember in the 90s the Republicans had a “big tent” idea but that has changed. What you have to look at is the party leadership. Who is moving the Republican party this way? After all, political parties are like glaciers. Certainly Dick Armey is an influential party leader making the shift in the party.

    I would think that, as a Democrat (you are a Democrat aren’t you?), that you would be happy about this. I think that the demographic that the Republicans have targeted is a short term ticket. I don’t seem the current demographic having as much electoral power after 2012 or 2016. The demographic tides are shifting.

    It isn’t crazy to say you believe in creationism, deny global warming, are a birther, and think tax cuts pay for themselves to your constituents who believe these things. I think the crazy part is pushing your party in this direction when the long term prospects are dim. That would suggest that the leadership think it will be really easy to reinvent the party in 2016 when the current coalition falls apart. But maybe they are right.

  16. Except for “The Republican party is trying to expel people from the party, to remove the RINOs”, I agree with Benny. Parties are coalitions. The leadership of both parties consists of insiders whose interests more closely align them with the leadership of the other party than with the activists of their own party. Establishment insiders may start as ideologically driven but evolve into opportunists as they ascend. They use activists to ascend the hierarchy. Activists burn out and are discarded like burnt-out lightbulbs. Successful activists (anti-Vietnam war, pro-abortion, pro-gay rights) became the establishment of the Democratic Party and drove Christian social conservatives (who used to vote reliably Democrat) into the Republican party. Now the Republican Party consists of an uncertain coalition between social conservative activists, fiscal conservative activists, and non-ideological opportunists.
    There’s my exception to Benny’s comment: instead of “The Republican party is trying to expel…”, I’d say we currently observe a three-cornered contest between established players, fiscal conservatives, and social conservatives within the Republican Party, each trying to expel one other faction. Most people have divided loyalties, and select from among likely paths the one that promises the least discomfort.

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