Mike Kueber's Blog

August 28, 2012

The Crackpot Caucus

Filed under: Issues,Politics,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 10:52 am
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A good friend from Austin recently suggested to me that the TEA Party seems to be infused with more than its share of dullards who lack the ability to engage in critical thinking.  I responded in my blog that this perception may have arisen because the TEA Party is decentralized and thus doesn’t have articulate, smooth-talking spokespersons as the face of the party. 

My Austin friend isn’t the only one who thinks conservatives are stupid.  Timothy Egan of the NY Times recently charged that congressional Republicans were “The Crackpot Caucus.”    In his blog to justify his charge, Egan’s exhibit #1 was the “legitimate rape” guy from Missouri, Todd Akin, and he then attempted to show that Akin is not an anomaly.  Among the knuckle-draggers in Congress:

  • Climate change.  We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept.  But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change,  Representative John Shimkus of Illinois is —  you guessed it  — a climate-change denier.  At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length.  It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.
  • Global warning.  On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas.  You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.  Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.”  Clean energy, he said, “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.  “You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.
  • EvolutionThe Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans.  Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House, is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.  In his party, Kingston is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years — a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.
  • AbortionAnother Georgia congressman, Paul Broun, introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House — backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan — that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.  Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.  Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.
  • ScienceRemember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of Michele Bachmann?  A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event.  Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, the American Academy of Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying, “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”  Nor is there reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worse. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.

Egan concluded his posting by noting that at least two Republicans (albeit RINOs) see their party’s mistake:

  • A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”
  • And in an on-air plea for sanity, Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.”  I feel for him.  But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.

In my aforementioned blog posting, I noted that there is a major difference between social conservatives (Moral Majority) and social conservatives (TEA Party), and the core of that difference is fundamentalist Christianity.  As Egan noted, the Catholic Church has made its peace with evolution (as has Mitt Romney), but the Fundamentalists haven’t.  And the Fundamentalists have too much power within the Republican Party because their energy level enables them to dominate the party primaries.  So, much like union power in the Democratic Party, this special interest causes the Republicans to say things and act in ways that are way out of the American mainstream.


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