They’re engineering journalism over at Politico again. The power brokers of the internet morning, having won their positions running campaigns of Beltway bother and gossip, have taken up this morning with something unconventional, for them:
The GOP’s clueless caucus
By ALEXANDER BURNS and JAKE SHERMAN
They’ve waxed philosophic about “legitimate rape,” reflected on the economic role of “wetbacks” and denounced the actions of “brazen, self-described illegal aliens.” They’ve lamented that “mom got in the workplace” and called out the United States attorney general for casting “aspersions on my asparagus.”
Call them the clueless caucus of the Republican Party.
Facts. Admitting Republicans are dumbasses. That’s not likely to thrill the center-right leaning cocktail party circuit, and it’s hardly headline news to Americans. But let’s afford credit where credit is due: It is one of the most enduring political stories over the last 50 years. So bravo, Politico, for managing to notice the whaleshark in the thimble.
It all got started last fall when two Senate candidates — Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock — blew up their campaigns with offensive remarks about rape. But the trend of self-destructive, largely marginal Republicans seizing the spotlight has only continued in 2013.
No. It got started, only in recent memory, when conservatives everywhere bet that the fight over civil rights needed to be opposed on moral and Christian grounds, as well as the fragile greatness of America. The National Review for instance were a monolith of intellectual, moral and religious opposition to Dr. King and whatever crap he was trying to pull. It turned out that equality and the Constitution were even greater than Bill Buckley. Oops.
But the stoopid really got its champion when Ronald Reagan took up the cause. Here was the rare actor who could take to the silver screen opposite a chimpanzee and get outclassed. Here was a president who gave up giving press conferences, in his first year I think, because he always became too confused to answer even reporters’ simplest questions. The nation serially cringed. We know now he was already deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s and had no business being Commander-in-Chief. But he went on swearing that trees caused pollution. He slashed federal social services budgets and drove the mentally ill into the streets.
“What we have found in this country, and maybe we’re more aware of it now, is one problem that we’ve had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice.”
He sold missiles to Iranians terrorists, then used the cash to illegally fund the Contra war in Nicaragua, calling the right-wing death squads “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers.” When Congress investigated, he said he couldn’t remember doing any of it. He was one stupid asshole.
America loved him, of course.
In January, it was Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey trying to explain how Akin was “partly right” about rape and pregnancy, after all. In March, it was Alaska Rep. Don Young referring to immigrant farm laborers as “wetbacks” on a radio show. The first week in June saw Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant blaming the decline in American education on the advent of “both parents … working.”
So these current Republicans feel perfectly at home telling you that carbon dioxide is good for you, or that women’s bodies come equipped with emergency embryo management functions.
The parade of face-plants only goes on. Last week, Iowa Rep. Steve King announced on Twitter that “illegal aliens have invaded my D.C. office,” while Arizona Rep. Trent Franks suggested — in a mangled comment he rapidly walked back — that relatively few pregnancies result from rape. (Franks’s misfire prompted the GOP Senate candidate in Massachusetts, Gabriel Gomez, to quip, “These kinds of comments only come from a moron,” and: “He proves that stupid has no specific affiliation.”)
There are three problems here. One: These ‘traditionalists’ don’t want to know the truth about anything, because it is ‘new.’ The biology of pregnancy, for one example. They prefer the colloquial and timeless, or whatever hooley Grampa told them waxing poetical next to the family still and slugging white lightning on a Hekatombaion night. Two: A number of Americans feel the same way. So the Republicans have a built-in base. Of morons, but they’ve been an ever-present and reliably gullible demographic in American politics forever [see The Gipper, above]. Three: The world keeps spinning faster and faster. More of my everyday is already brand-spanking new. More of America, especially businesses, which rely more and more on evolving technologies, gets renewed every couple of years, or every couple of months.
This leaves the Republicans with a problem. They must decide if they can continue to rely on the politics of ignorance. I implore them to run this bold experiment for another 50 years, or until it finally works.