Friday, January 22, 2016

Trump and Palin Join Forces in the War Against Reason

As previously noted, conservative columnist Michael Gerson for too long ignored the metastasizing cancer in the Republican Party base evidenced by the rise of Christofascists, Tea Partiers and white supremacists in the party.  Now, Gerson and others are belatedly sending out a clarion call over the results of the GOP establishment's handiwork.  The seeming alliance of Donald Trump and Darah Palin underscores the sickness of today's GOP.  Here are excerpts from Gerson's latest column in the Washington Post:

The arrival of Sarah Palin brings a special something to the 2016 campaign, like a little LSD added to the punch bowl. Are we watching C-SPAN, or a reality TV show, or a “Saturday Night Live” skit? It is impossible to tell without consulting the channel guide. 

Ted Cruz may have secured the coveted “ Duck Dynasty ” blessing. But Palin is the original and best representative of Kardashian conservatism. Her endorsement of Donald Trump was entirely devoid of policy content — a speech that did not even aspire to shallowness. It is enough that Trump is “going rogue” and “ticking people off” and “media heads are spinning.” 

Palin has been entirely consumed and replaced by her own bitterness against a Republican establishment she feels betrayed her and against a media that mocked her. More than anything else, she clings to resentment and rage. And her revolution, over time, has become comprehensive; not just a revolt against elites, but a revolt against syntax and taste and preparation and reason.  

Does populism need to be anti-intellectual? The answer is: No!  . . . . Populism, by definition, is anti-elitist. But that is very different from being anti-intellectual. 

In this vacuity, Palin and Trump are a perfect match. They both embrace a politics of personality, a politics at war with reason. Who would go to either for advice on Medicare reform or Syria policy? In the two-dimensional politics of Palin and Trump, depth is not even a category. There is only establishment vs. anti-establishment, weakness vs. strength.

The danger of an anti-intellectual politics is that it quickly becomes unmoored from real problems and real answers. In U.S. history, anti-intellectual populism has often become conspiratorial, focusing anger against powerful and imaginary enemies: the Masons, the international bankers, the Jesuits, the munitions- makers.

Trump attacks refugees as a serious potential source of terrorism — though the nearly two-year process of being selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, then intensively screened by various U.S. agencies, makes this method of infiltration absurdly difficult. He says many undocumented immigrants are rapists and drug dealers — an absurd claim with no empirical basis. He blames immigrants for depressed wages in the United States — though this effect is small and swamped by other factors such as globalization and technological change.  

Trump is not proposing obnoxious solutions to real challenges; he is promoting obnoxious solutions to fake or wildly exaggerated challenges. His anti-intellectualism is severing the ties between the GOP and reality. If Republicans choose to inhabit the Trump-Palin world, they will offer little of value to our own.

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