As America completes an eventful political year, it’s increasingly apparent that many members of the Republican Party have lost their senses. December 4th brought PPP polling that revealed, “49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama,” despite the fact ACORN disbanded in 2010. That same day 38 Republican Senators blocked passage of the “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities,” erroneously believing the treaty would allow the UN to dictate US law.
Why do Republicans say and do things that make no sense?
For a decade I’ve assumed the Republican Party had four wings: the sincere, saintly, sinister, and stupid. The sincere includes folks like William F. Buckley, David Brooks, and in 2012, John Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty. They’ve read Edmund Burke and honestly believe the fundamental conservative tenets. The saintly includes folks like James Dobson and Pat Robertson, and in 2012, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum. In the dogmatic pursuit of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs they want the US to become a Christian nation. The sinister includes folks like Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and Mitt Romney who use the Republican Party to pursue their own agenda. Finally, there are the stupid, whom Tom Frank described in his classic, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America; Republicans who have renounced “our middle-American prosperity in pursuit of a crimson fantasy of middle-American righteousness.” In 2012, Michele Bachman represents this wing of the GOP.
There’s only a fine line between stupid and sick. In September of 2011, Congresswoman Bachman linked childhood inoculations and mental retardation. Herman Caine quipped, “Obama intentionally wants to destroy capitalism.” Rick Santorum observed, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.” And Mitt Romney argued, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people.”
But are these statements a sign of diminished capacity or collective insanity?
The Law Dictionary defines insanity as “mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.”
1. Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Despite polls to the contrary, many Republicans thought Mitt Romney would win the 2012 presidential election. Now they argue that Obama won by cheating. Many will fall back upon the GOP shibboleths, “He isn’t a citizen,” or “He’s a Muslim who advocates Sharia Law.”
On December 9th, former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum appeared on Meet the Press and quipped, “You haven’t heard [President Obama] condemn Sharia law or radical Islam.” It was a factually untrue statement but one that fed the collective GOP delusion that Obama is a Muslim.
2. Cannot conduct his/her affairs due to psychosis. While Republicans rail against big government, what has become obvious is that they enjoy most Federal services; they just don’t want to pay for them. Underpinning this paradoxical behavior are the crazy economic theories espoused by Ronald Reagan: helping the rich get richer will inevitably help everyone else; markets are inherently self correcting and therefore there’s no need for government regulation; and the US does not need an economic strategy because that’s a natural consequence of the free market.
We have to look no further than the George W. Bush presidency to understand that Republicans can’t manage national affairs: the Bush Administration turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit, started two ill-considered wars, and facilitated the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis.
3. Subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. We see so many examples of rash GOP actions that they’ve become commonplace. On October 25th Republican candidate Mitt Romney told an Ohio crowd that Chrysler was thinking of moving Jeep production to China. The Chrysler CEO repudiated the claim. Nonetheless, the Romney campaign ran a TV commercial repeating the claim. Romney blurted out an accusation, was told it was false, and then doubled down, showing terrible judgment.
Because Republicans control the House of Representatives until 2015, no Federal legislation can pass without negotiating with them. It is possible to bargain with a lawmaker who is either dogmatically conservative or stupid. Unfortunately, it is infinitely more difficult to negotiate with a lawmaker who is insane; who cannot differentiate fantasy from reality – who believes that Barack Obama is the Antichrist or that Obamacare is a socialist mind-control program or that Global Climate Change is a hoax.
Welcome to the new Washington reality. As he attempts to lead the United States, President Obama is forced to negotiate with crazies. Good luck Barack and good luck America!
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org