Saturday, July 02, 2016

Did The GOP's War On Science Make Trump Inevitable For Them?


I readily admit that I don't know what transpired when then-Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided who to put on the House Science and Technology Committee. But when names of rabid, crackpot science deniers like Mo Brooks (R-AL), Steve Knight (R-CA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Randy Weber (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL)--the Obama-must-provide-his-birth-certificate guy who authored H.R. 5801, a bill to privatize asteroids for the mining companies-- Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Ralph Abraham (R-LA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) show up on the list of committee members, there's no getting around that there were people giggling sardonically how the whole concept of a science committee is just a farce.

Long gone are the days when New York's respected Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican environmental realist, ran the show at that committee. Boehlert used his position to combat acid rain, to urge his party to wake up to the realities of Climate Change and to increase CAFE standards for fuel consumption in autos and trucks. Now, instead of Boehlert, the chair is a notorious hyper-partisan science denier from Texas named Lamar Smith, who uses crucial science-related issues to push far right agenda items. Instead of dealing with the Zika virus crisis, for example, he decided to scapegoat immigrants. And the Science Committee isn't going to get any saner with Paul Ryan as Speaker. The newest committee appointee-- his-- is the lunatic fringe teabagger who replaced Boehner as the Representative from Ohio's Butler County, Warren Davidson, who seems to think Science is part of the insidious liberal agenda against his beloved creed: Greed and Avarice.

Astronomer Phil Plait has a different take on the GOP war against Science-- it's what prepared their hollowed out party for Trump and Trumpism. The GOP has recognized critical thinking as an existential enemy for quote some time-- and now they're stuck with Trump. "We are awash in that miasma," he wrote about climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, supporters of abstinence-only education and young-Earth creationists, "where people can say almost anything, no matter how ridiculous, and not be confronted, not be challenged. Many of these purveyors of poppycock wind up surrounding themselves with throngs of people willing and eager to suspend their disbelief and support the foolishness. Cults certainly can form in such an atmosphere … and when the person spouting the nonsense is a politician, that’s when things get very sticky indeed. And now here we are, with Donald Trump the nearly inevitable champion of the Republican Party."
This is no coincidence. An interesting if infuriating article in New Republic very clearly lays out how the GOP has spent decades paving the road for Trump by attacking the science that goes against their prejudicial ideology. I strongly urge you to read it, but one section jumped out at me in particular:
There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.
Yes, precisely. This is exactly what I have been saying for years now. When we erode away at people’s ability to reason their way through a situation, then unreason will rule. And not just abut scientific topics, but any topics. We see nonsense passed off as fact all the time by politicians, including attacks by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, claims by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that there’s been a pause in global warming, the GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood, and more. People will still believe what these politicians say, long, long after the claims have been shown to be completely false.

...The GOP isn’t to blame for Trump existing-- we can lay that at his own feet-- but the path he’s taking was certainly smoothed by them.

The fact is, this is the candidate the Republicans have sown, and so shall they reap. My hope is that the majority of the electorate will see through the nonsense, the distortions, the lies, and use their critical thinking skills on Nov. 8. Reality doesn’t give a damn about our beliefs, and so we must instead give a damn about reality.

One of the first House committee chairs to back Trump's bid for the presidency was Lamar Smith, who represents a district that is less militantly right-wing than much of Republican Texas. The 21st district includes northeast San Antonio and nearby neighborhoods like Fort Sam Houston, Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Castle Hills and Hollywood Park and a corridor through New Braunfels and San Marcos up to downtown Austin right to the border of the University of Texas as well as the Texas Hill Country off to the west, including Fredericksburg, Boerne. Bandera, and Kerrville. If the Democrats are ever going to really make a play to start taking back Texas, TX-21 is ground zero, but that won't come while visionless hacks like Pelosi and Hoyer are still calling the shots at the DCCC.

Progressive Democrat Tom Wakely won his primary against a conservative Democrat. The DCCC response was to refuse to take his phone calls or work with him to win back the district. Typical of how Pelosi and Hoyer abuse the committee charged with winning back Congress. Wakely, who supported Bernie for president and is running on his platform is a perfect opponent for the clueless and out-of-touch Lamar Smith. "It seems par for the course for Republicans," he told us, "to do the opposite of what's reasonable or logical. Who better to head the House Science committee than a man who's firmly opposed to objective data? Who better to be the champion of science in our House than a man who thinks NOAA scientists are part of some liberal cabal out to trick the people of this planet? Lamar Smith was one of the first congressional leaders to endorse Trump while plenty of Republicans found zero political gains in siding with the presumptive nominee. If there's hardly a reason for members of Smith's own party to endorse their candidate for president than what could possibly be the reason for this alliance?

Goal Thermometer"With my opponent, I feel there's a bit of a difference. We definitely haven't heard anything of a Lamar Smith cabinet offer. Personally, it's hard to see it any other way than an alliance of policy and personality. And while it's certainly possible Congressman Smith is simply placing party for before country, his rhetoric and actions don't fall far from the Trump tree. Smith wants to build a wall around himself to block out the facts on immigration. He's not that far from agreeing with The Donald that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Trump's words and Lamar's votes both demean women. Sure he's been in Congress for nearly 30 years, and he definitely helped pave the way for a nominee like Trump, but in my opinion they're two peas in a frightening pod."

See that thermometer on the right? If you click on it, you can contribute to Tom Wakely's grassroots campaign and help him accomplish what the DCCC refuses to do-- start the process of winning vulnerable red seats in Texas. We owe it to our friends in Austin!

UPDATE: About Those Asteroids Mentioned Above

Since 1990 mining companies have contributed $55,630,070 to congressional candidates, $44,587,120 of that to Republicans, of course. Science Committee chair Lamar Smith was so happy to see a "bipartisan" variation of Posey's bill-- by mining company shill Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and reactionary New Dem Derek Kilmer (WA)-- that he boasted that "The natural resources of our Solar System have great potential to facilitate and support our human endeavors, both in outer space and on Earth. Commercial space companies in the United States are making significant investments to develop technical capabilities that will allow us to explore and use outer space resources. This bill enables this new industry and provides guidance for future entrepreneurs." He forgot to add-- "and to hell with the American taxpayers who have spent millions on space exploration and technologies." Posey was wagging his tail too: "Asteroids and other objects in space are excellent potential sources of rare minerals and other resources that can be used to manufacture a wide range of products here on Earth and to support future space exploration missions. Americans willing to invest in space mining operations need legal certainty that they can keep the fruits of their labor, and this bill provides that certainty." And, apparently, the fruits of the rest of our labor as well.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For many of our fellow citizens, civilization is only a thin veneer of pretension they cling to in order to maintain a sheen of respectability and functionality in the modern world. Give most of them a chance and an excuse to revert to skull-crushing knuckle-dragging thinking and behavior, and there's extremely little they have to give up in order to do so. Their civilness has been a mere requirement, an enforced code that goes against nearly everything they cravenly feel and believe. The Republican Party doesn't symbolize the de-evolution of humanity. It EMBODIES and PROSELYTIZES for de-evolution.


Post a Comment

<< Home