Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Are Republicans Really Dumber Than Democrats?


Max Boot is a prominent and much-published right-wing military historian who was early and consistent in his loud denunciations of Trump and Trumpism. Over the weekend in a NY Times OpEd, How the 'Stupid Party' Created Donald Trump-- but without any reference to the ample evidence of the intellectual dwarfism demonstrated by Democratic leaders like Steve Israel, Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi-- he further ratcheted up the pressure from the right against Republican hacks like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the now completely laughable Peince Priebus.

He defends the early leaders of his party-- Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root and Charles Evans Hughes-- and tries to pinpoint when the Republican Party became the home of morons and the severely ignorant the way it is today, pointing out that by the 1960s, "rather than run away from the anti-intellectual label, Republicans embraced it for their own political purposes," citing Reagan, Nixon, Spiro Agnew, William F. Buckley and, obviously, George W. Bush, who "joked at a Yale commencement: 'To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students I say, you, too, can be president of the United States.'" Boot claims, though, that until now, the GOP embrace of anti-intellectualism was mostly a put on and that "there is no evidence that Republican leaders have been demonstrably dumber than their Democratic counterparts."

Boot clings to the Beltway trope, though, that a well-scrubbed intellectual lightweight and hack like Paul Ryan is somehow superior to an obvious moron like Donald Trump. Ryan knows the lingo; Trump doesn't. Both of them are all about the same things though-- the same kind of elite reactionary policy agenda that animates Boot himself. Ironically, Trump, a narcissist with no political ideologies he's wedded to, is less doctrinaire about it than either of them!

In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington.

There are still some thoughtful Republican leaders exemplified by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who devised an impressive new budget plan for his party. But the primary vibe from the G.O.P. has become one of indiscriminate, unthinking, all-consuming anger.

The trend has now culminated in the nomination of Donald J. Trump, a presidential candidate who truly is the know-nothing his Republican predecessors only pretended to be.

Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He uses the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller The Art of the Deal, say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

Mr. Trump even appears proud of his lack of learning. He told the Washington Post that he reached decisions “with very little knowledge,” but on the strength of his “common sense” and his “business ability.” Reading long documents is a waste of time because of his rapid ability to get to the gist of an issue, he said: “I’m a very efficient guy.” What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”

Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars. He called for tariff increases that experts warn will cost millions of jobs and plunge the country into a recession. He claimed that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” even though research consistently shows that immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born. He promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall, even though no regional expert thinks that will ever happen.

Mr. Trump also proposed barring Muslims from entering the country despite terrorism researchers, myself included, warning that his plan would likely backfire, feeding the Islamic State’s narrative that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam. He has since revised that proposal and would now bar visitors from countries that have a “proven history of terrorism”-- overlooking that pretty much every country, including every major American ally, has a history of terrorism.

Recently, he declared that he would not necessarily come to the aid of the Baltic republics if they were attacked by Russia, apparently not knowing or caring that Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty obliges the United States to defend any NATO member under attack. Last week, Mr. Trump even invited Russia’s intelligence agencies to hack the emails of a former secretary of state-- something impossible to imagine any previous presidential nominee doing. It is genuinely terrifying that someone who advances such offensive and ridiculous proposals could win the nomination of a party once led by Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote more books than Mr. Trump has probably read. It’s one thing to appeal to voters by pretending to be an average guy. It’s another to be an average guy who doesn’t know the first thing about governing or public policy.

The Trump acolytes claim it doesn’t matter; he can hire experts to advise him. But experts always disagree with one another and it is the president alone who must make the most difficult decisions in the world. That’s not something he can do since he lacks the most basic grounding in the issues and is prey to fundamental misconceptions.

In a way, the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter.

Even if we can avoid the calamity of a Trump presidency, however, the G.O.P. still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.

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At 2:16 PM, Anonymous dameocrat said...

I can't feel any sympathy for Max Boot and his support of Clinton, only makes me distrust her more. Bill Kristol picked the stupids in the GOP. He picked Palin, and Quayle. It wasn't some other element of the Republicans that did it. It was the neocons themselves. Screw them.

Trump is not an aberration. He is planned. Ater the George W Bush debacle, the neocon warmongers, like Robert Kagan, Max Boot, & Bill Kristol, wanted someone to make them look competent, so they encouraged Trump to win the GOP nomination, and backed Clinton, so they could kill leftwing causes, that conflict with their agenda, like reversing climatechange, a strong middle class and peace, and not look dumb anymore because Trumpster was worse. Yet they will continue their warmongering agenda through neocon Hillary Cliton. They'll pick another monster in 4 to 8 years after they make more trouble in the middle east. People like you are enabling it, because you care about your pet causes more than democracy itself.

I won't hold my nose. I am voting for Jill Stein. Wake up!

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous wjbill said...

Scar would be right there with the worst of them if he were still running for public office. His hate is just better masked.


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