As a former Republican I have often bemoaned the decline of the GOP and its embrace of ignorance - something that directly traces to the rise of Donald Trump. An op-ed in the New York Times looks at the GOP's shift from intellectual presidents like Teddy Roosevelt to today's horrid GOP presidential nominee. While the piece correctly references the so-called "Tea Party" what it fails to do in my view is call out the number one force behind the GOP's embrace of ignorance: conservative/evangelical Christians. Only with the rise of those in the party who believe in a literal reading of the Bible - and all the rejection of science and knowledge that are a prerequisite could the part reach a nadir represented by an nominee like Trump. I view conservative/evangelical Christians to be a clear and present danger to America and it is far past time that Americans begin to see them for the toxic danger that they are. Here are op-ed highlights:
In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington.[T]he primary vibe from the G.O.P. has become one of indiscriminate, unthinking, all-consuming anger.
The trend has now culminated in the nomination of Donald J. Trump, a presidential candidate who truly is the know-nothing his Republican predecessors only pretended to be.
Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He uses the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”
Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars. He called for tariff increases that experts warn will cost millions of jobs and plunge the country into a recession. He claimed that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” even though research consistently shows that immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born. He promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall, even though no regional expert thinks that will ever happen.
Mr. Trump also proposed barring Muslims from entering the country despite terrorism researchers, myself included, warning that his plan would likely backfire, feeding the Islamic State’s narrative that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam.
Recently, he declared that he would not necessarily come to the aid of the Baltic republics if they were attacked by Russia, apparently not knowing or caring that Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty obliges the United States to defend any NATO member under attack. Last week, Mr. Trump even invited Russia’s intelligence agencies to hack the emails of a former secretary of state — something impossible to imagine any previous presidential nominee doing. It is genuinely terrifying that someone who advances such offensive and ridiculous proposals could win the nomination of a party once led by Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote more books than Mr. Trump has probably read.
In a way, the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter.
Even if we can avoid the calamity of a Trump presidency, however, the G.O.P. still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.