As a former Republican I frequently bemoan what has become of the Republican Party which once valued learning, logic and objective reasoning. That was all in the past. Today, the more ignorant and bigoted one is, the higher one's standing in the GOP. In retrospect, perhaps it was the moderate Republicans - a group going the way of the dinosaurs - that kept the ugly base under control and out of power. When the GOP establishment allowed the Christofascists into the party, the moderates began to flee and we now all see the horrible consequences. Those who once upon a time would never have risen to positions of power are now in control along with those willing to prostitute themselves and embrace ignorance in their quest for power. How can one explain this decline of the GOP? A piece in Salon
suggests that it is in part the result of how conservatives' brains function (saying that they function may, in my view, be too charitable). Here are excerpts from the article:
When George W. Bush became president in 2001, it marked the first
time in 70 years that conservative Republicans controlled all three
branches of government. By the time Bush left office, we were all
reminded why. The financial crisis and resulting global economic
meltdown Bush left us with were eerily reminiscent of the Great
Depression, but there was also 9/11, the Iraq War and Katrina—a
multifaceted record of spectacular failure so stunning that it should have disqualified conservative Republicans from holding power for at least another seven decades. Yet, the Democrats’ political
response to the many messes Bush left behind has been so spectacularly
inept that they’ve not only lost both houses of Congress, they’ve also
lost more state legislative seats than any time since before the Great Recession.
are many ways one might explain this state of affairs—and certainly the
rise of Wall Street Democrats and the decline of labor played crucial
roles. But beyond any particular issue area, there’s also the matter of
differences in how liberals and conservatives think—and how they act and
organize as a result.
As I’ve written before
a growing body of literature reveals that liberals and conservatives
from one another in ways that can even be traced back,
in part, to the level of instinctual response, reflecting
conservatives’ heightened sensitivity to threat bias.
This work is congruent with an integrated multi-factor account offered
by John Jost and three co-authors in the 2003 meta-analysis “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition
I wanted to check things out with perhaps the world’s leading expert on
incompetence, psychologist David Dunning, the senior researcher in the
team that discovered the Dunning-Kruger effect, which Wikpedepia defines
as “a cognitive bias whereby unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate.” Wikipedia added that “This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”
[I]n reaching out to talk with Dunning, behind any specifics, I had two
questions in mind: Could it apply to groups as well as individuals? And
was it possible to do something about it? In both cases, he answered yes, . . .
An example that came readily to mind was the GOP’s claims to have 46
jobs bills that had passed the House, and were languishing in the
Senate. If only Obama and Harry Reid would act on them! The reality, of
course, is that these bills would not actually do very much in the way
of job creation, as critics have pointed out repeatedly over the past
several years. In late October, the New York Times even interviewed some top GOP economists who admitted as much, along with independent analysts who said it would be hard to measure much impact. In
short, the GOP “jobs bills” aren’t seriously intended to create jobs.
They’re intended to create talking points about creating jobs — and to
counter Democratic talking points (while also doing favors for GOP
donors, of course).
The first is often you have organizations that are well set–you can say
they’re very competent–in their ways. They can have a problem when
conditions on the ground shift, and you could say that in the last 10 or
20 years, the conditions on the grounds shifted demographically, in
terms of the people, for example who vote in the midterm.” Twenty years
ago, these older voters had come of age during the Great Depression, and
leaned Democratic as a result. But older voters now are much more
Republican, which tends to skew the midterms in the opposite direction
from the past. (The age-based difference in participation rates has also
grown over time, as well.) As a result, Dunning said, “You have
Republicans in midterms, and the occasional voters now are the young,
and they’re rather Democratic so there is oscillation between elections
and that’s a changed situation,” which is precisely the first sort of
thing that tends to trip up organizations.
[W]e have conservatives on the one hand acting on their mythos, mistakenly believing it’s true as a matter of logos—which
is one kind of incompetence—and yet, nonetheless reshaping reality
through the power of reflexivity. (Think of how invading Iraq in
response to 9/11 helped bring ISIS into existence, for example.) On the
other hand, we have liberals seeing things only in terms of logos,
who can’t understand how wildly mistaken conservatives can nonetheless
reshape the world to reflect their paranoid fantasies, because they’re
missing the crucial concept of reflexivity (and even the very concept of
missing concepts, the concept of hypocognition)—which is another, very
different, but very real form of incompetence.
I started this article by taking note of the colossal failures of the
Bush administration, in part because they’re so staggering that they’re
impossible to miss. But Dunning cautioned against being misdirected.
“The real effect of suffering from Dunning-Kruger is not that you suffer
obvious losses but that there are so many opportunities you will never
notice, or know about in your life,” Dunning said, “and that’s
absolutely true that the collective level …
The Republicans’ post-2012 autopsy doesn’t exactly look like it meets
these criteria—but the midterm electoral disconnect Dunning mentioned
earlier “saved” them from suffering as a result, which might well only
make it even more difficult for them to change in the long run.
[I]t may be heartening when cognitive research suggests roughly
symmetrical mechanisms and ways of overcoming differences, but that
could be just another example of liberal intellectuals projecting their
framework of assumptions, blinding themselves to more fundamental and
intractable differences, which conservatives are, in their own way,
smart enough to stick with and exploit, while depending on liberals’
relative disorganization, indecision and attraction to ambiguity to
allow them to win the day, even if they can’t win an outright majority
in a presidential election any more.
Yes, the article is very much filled with academic terminologyy, but it may explain why when I talk to conservatives it's often like we are from different planets. I try to focus on logic and objective analysis why they focus on their prejudices, fear of the "other" and , in the case of the religious, their inability to let go of myths and fairy tales.