“A slob always believes that if you are in his sect, somehow you are a good person… which means that, ‘If he believes the way I believe, then he’s a good person, basically.'”
— Jean Shepherd, WWOR radio, New York, August 8, 1964
In very recent times, the endemic anti-intellectual stance among the American right wing has become rather pronounced and quite strident. For example, Ohio legislator John Becker, amid introducing a bill that would ban any health insurance plan in his constituent state from covering abortion and intrauterine devices, insisted that IUDs cause abortion, as he is under the impression that they kill fertilized eggs, when in fact they block the sperm from reaching the egg. When this was brought to his attention, he replied, “This is just a personal view,” he said. “I’m not a medical doctor.”
The article observes that this institutional mentality is left over from the George Walker Bush administration, citing an incident in which an an unnamed Bush official, while being interviewed for the New York Times by Ron Suskind in 2004, for all intents and purposes stated that the notion that solutions come from a judicious study of discernible reality was obsolete as the United States during George W. Bush’s tenure as President had become, in his words, an empire whose key players create their own reality. The trend continues unabated, what with the misinformation casually spread by former Veep wannabee Sarah Palin and Florida Representative Jeff Miller’s stubborn denial of climate change, despite the fact that this dangerous phenomenon has been recorded by scientists using actual instruments.
However, the Republican party has spent decades appealing to the U.S.A.’s lowest common denominator, perhaps ever since Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon used the Southern strategy in the 1960s to appeal to racist whites from below the Mason-Dixon line, who felt betrayed by the Democrats after Presidents John F. Kennedy and later Lyndon Baines Johnson, under pressure from Martin Luther King Jr., took up the cause of integration. Subsequently, the Democrats in the southern U.S. who favored segregation, particularly Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, would switch sides and join the Republican party.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan, with the help of the so-called “Moral Majority,” co-opted the religious beliefs of evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians while Jerry Falwell purchased $10 million in advertising to run a smear campaign against then-incumbent President Jimmy Carter, as the latter, despite his evangelical Christian background, did not actively oppose the Democrats’ pro-choice stance on abortion and was staunch in his belief in the separation of church and state, whereas Falwell and his cohorts sought to fuse religion and government, as they knew that co-opting fundamentalists’ creed would get the Reagan the votes to defeat Carter in the 1980 election. However, Barry Goldwater, despite having appealed to racist Southerners while running against LBJ in 1964 and having opined that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” was horrified at the notion of the Republican party being overrun by religious fanatics and even stated as far back as 1981 that “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.”
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem,” said Goldwater in 1994. “Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”
Doubtlessly, his words were prophetic, what with numerous Republican politicians and legislators devising bills that manipulate the legal definition of rape to make it that much harder for women who have been impregnated through sexual assault to have access to sanitary abortions; the spurious teaching of creationism as part of science curriculum in public schools, and the prohibition of same-sex marriage that lingers in 41 of the 50 states.
Indeed, for at least the last fifty years, the Republican party has established its ideological foundation on a blind and visceral opposition to any cause to which the Democrats would align themselves. To this end, they have more or less preyed on the ignorance of voters who view the world through the lens of the false binary, want the law to conform to their emotions and wish that currency and human history would stand still, thus turning what was once the Grand Old Party into an outmoded hate group. However, as people throughout society are becoming more enlightened about social issues, particularly the Federal judges declaring the prohibition of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, the Republicans perhaps ought to change tactics, lest they become the political equivalent of the Chicago Cubs.