Tag Archives: GOP

By George…He’s Right

George Lakoff is probably best known for his book, Don’t Think of An Elephant, but he has produced a steady stream of significant articles and books throughout his academic career. ( He was the   Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley from 1972 until he retired a few years ago. He currently serves as Director of the Center for the Neural Mind and Society.)

Lakoff’s abiding interest has been identification of the cognitive differences between Progressives and Conservatives, and his blog frequently applies the results of his research to contemporary political puzzles. A recent post considered two questions about Donald Trump and Republicans that Lakoff says tend to stump Progressives.

1) Why don’t Trump supporters turn against Trump even though he is doing things that hurt them? (like taking away their healthcare)

2) Why do Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act, and why are they so transparently acting to give wealthy people a tax break funded by making healthcare unaffordable?

The short answer? Voters don’t vote their interests. They vote their values.

The longer answer? According to Lakoff,

Most thought (as much as 98% by some accounts) is unconscious. It is carried out by neural circuitry in our brains. We have no conscious access to this circuitry, but it’s there. This is basic neuroscience.

When it comes to politics, progressives and conservatives essentially have different brains. The unconscious beliefs conditioned in their brains are nearly exact opposites.

Lakoff describes conservative morality as a “Strict Father” worldview, and progressive morality as a “nurturant parent” paradigm.

Conservative moral values arise from what I call the Strict Father Family.

In this family model, father knows best. He decides right and wrong. He has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, because what he says is right. Many conservative spouses accept this worldview, uphold the father’s authority, and are strict in those realms of family life that they control.

In this moral worldview, it is his moral duty to punish his children painfully when they disobey. Harsh punishment is necessary to ensure that they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world.

What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. In this conservative view, the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving while the rich deserve their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility, not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you, not society. You are responsible for yourself, not for others.

Lakoff then outlines the conservative “moral hierarchy.”

• God above Man
• Man above Nature
• The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak)
• The Rich above the Poor
• Employers above Employees
• Adults above Children
• Western culture above other cultures
• America above other countries
• Men above Women
• Whites above Nonwhites
• Christians above non-Christians
• Straights above Gays

You can almost hear Mike Pence talking about how he is a Christian first….

Lakoff wants us to understand the differences in worldviews, so that we can better understand the genesis of conservative Republican policy prescriptions.

Understanding is well and good, but what Lakoff doesn’t tell us is whether it is possible to reason with–or failing that, neuter– Dear Old Strict Dad.

Corruption By The Numbers

Although I often use materials I’ve read in journals and other publications as the starting point for blog posts, I rarely reproduce an entire article or commentary. When I received the following analysis in an email, however, I asked for permission to do just that.

There is a widespread impression that Democrats are less upstanding and law-abiding than Republicans. That may be a side effect of the excessive public piety affected by so many Republican officeholders, or the belief that a willingness to compromise on matters of policy (a willingness today’s GOP evidently considers unprincipled) signifies a corrupt “wheeler/dealer” mentality.

Until I read this, my own impression had been that there isn’t much difference between the parties when it comes to bad behavior, so I was pretty surprised by this data. (Honesty also compels me to admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude–I am deathly tired of the incessant moral/religious posturing that has come to characterize the GOP.)

Here it is, unaltered:

“I made a comment recently where I claimed that Republican
administrations had been much more criminally corrupt over the last 50
plus years than the Democrats. I was challenged (dared actually) to
prove it. So I did a bit of research and when I say a bit I mean it
didn’t take long and there is no comparison.

When comparing criminal indictments of those serving in the executive
branch of presidential administrations, it’s so lopsided as to be
ridiculous. Yet all I ever hear about is how supposedly “corrupt” the
Democrats are. So why don’t we break it down by president and the
numbers?

Obama (D) – 8 yrs in office. Zero criminal indictments, zero
convictions and zero prison sentences. So the next time somebody
describes the Obama administration as “scandal free” they aren’t
speaking wishfully, they’re simply telling the truth.

Bush, George W. (R) – 8 yrs in office. 16 criminal indictments. 16
convictions. 9 prison sentences.

Clinton (D) – 8 yrs in office. 2 criminal indictments. One conviction.
One prison sentence. That’s right nearly 8 yrs of investigations. Tens
of millions spent and 30 yrs of claiming them the most corrupt ever
and there was exactly one person convicted of a crime.

Bush, George H. W. (R) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment. One
conviction. One prison sentence.

Reagan (R) – 8 yrs in office. 26 criminal indictments. 16 convictions.
8 prison sentences.

Carter (D) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment. Zero convictions and
zero prison sentences.

Ford (R) – 4 yrs in office. One indictment and one conviction. One
prison sentence.

Nixon (R) – 6 yrs in office. 76 criminal indictments. 55 convictions.
15 prison sentences.

Johnson (D) – 5 yrs in office. Zero indictments. Zero convictions.
Zero prison sentences.

So, let’s see where that leaves us. In the last 53 years, Democrats
have been in the Oval Office for 25 of those years, while Republicans
held it for 28. In their 25 yrs in office Democrats had a total of
three executive branch officials indicted with one conviction and one
prison sentence. That’s one whole executive branch official convicted
of a crime in two and a half decades of Democrat leadership.

In the 28 yrs that Republicans have held office over the last 53 yrs
they have had a total of (a drum roll would be more than appropriate),
120 criminal indictments of executive branch officials. 89 criminal
convictions and 34 prison sentences handed down. That’s more prison
sentences than years in office since 1968 for Republicans. If you want
to count articles of impeachment as indictments (they aren’t really
but we can count them as an action), both sides get one more. However,
Clinton wasn’t found guilty while Nixon resigned and was pardoned by
Ford (and a pardon carries with it a legal admission of guilt on the
part of the pardoned). So those only serve to make Republicans look
even worse.

With everything going on with Trump and his people right now, it’s a
safe bet Republicans are gonna be padding their numbers a bit real
soon.

So let’s just go over the numbers one more time, shall we? 120
indictments for Republicans. 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences.
Those aren’t “feelings” or “alternate facts.” Those are simply the
stats by the numbers. Republicans are, and have been for my entire
lifetime, the most criminally corrupt party to hold the office of the
presidency.

So those are the actual numbers. Feel free to copy and paste!” – Kevin
G Shinnick

Wow. Just wow.

Bruce Bartlett Nails It

A number of my posts have emphasized the ways in which today’s GOP is dramatically different from the party I used to belong to. (To echo a number of other defectors, I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.)

Bruce Bartlett is one of the more prominent of those defectors. He was a domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, and a Treasury official during the tenure of George H.W. Bush– in other words, a professional Republican. In recent years, he has consistently pointed to the radicalization of the party he served for so many years, and recently, he wrote a scathing article on that subject for Politico.

Bartlett began by admitting that–even though he’d chronicled the rightward lurch of the party–he was astounded and disheartened when Trump won, and even more appalled since.

Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme. Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Scott Pruitt proudly denies the existence of climate change, and is doing his best to implement every item Big Oil has had on its wish list since the agency was established by Richard Nixon. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is actively hostile to the very concept of public education and is doing her best to abolish it. Every day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions institutes some new policy to take incarceration and law enforcement back to the Dark Ages. Trump’s proposed budget would eviscerate the social safety net for the sole purpose of giving huge tax cuts to the ultrawealthy.

Bartlett points to additional positions Trump has taken that should be anathema to genuine conservatives, and then underlines a point that so many ex-Republicans have made:

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.

Bartlett’s article–which I encourage you to read in its entirety–then goes on to catalogue the party history to which he alludes, from Goldwater through Reagan.

When I became active in the Republican Party in the mid-1970s, it was the party of thoughtful men and women who were transforming America’s domestic policies while strengthening its moral leadership on the global stage. As Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in a July 1980 New York Times article, “the GOP has become a party of ideas.”

And then, everything began to change.

Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 after nationalizing the election into broad themes and catchphrases. Newt Gingrich, the marshal of these efforts, even released a list of words Republican candidates should use to glorify themselves (common sense, prosperity, empower) and hammer their opponents (liberal, pathetic, traitors); soon, every Republican in Congress spoke the same language, using words carefully run through focus groups by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Budgets for House committees were cut, bleeding away policy experts, and GOP committee chairs were selected based on loyalty to the party and how much money they could raise. Gone were the days when members were incentivized to speak with nuance, or hone a policy expertise (especially as committee chairs could now serve for only six years). In power, Republicans decided they didn’t need any more research or analysis; they had their agenda, and just needed to get it enacted. ..

In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points.

Bartlett concludes that America needs a responsible, adult GOP, and that won’t happen without what he calls a “crushing Republican defeat—Goldwater plus Watergate rolled into one. A defeat so massive there can be no doubt about the message it sends.”

What Bartlett and others have described is the devolution of a once-respectable political party into a cult built on seething anti-intellectualism and racial resentment. The loss of one of America’s two major political parties has had grave consequences for the nation–and those consequences go well beyond the election of a dangerous and totally unfit President.

These are perilous times.

 

About That Partisan Divide

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall makes a point I have often made: partisanship today is different than it used to be, not just in intensity, but in kind.

Marshall’s essay was focused on what he sees as inadequacies in media coverage of the GOP’s “health care” bill, but in the course of that discussion, he made the following observation.

.. coverage of national health care policy is fundamentally distorted by the imperatives of false balance or forced balance coverage. The idea here is that the two parties are so set in their ideological corners that they can’t constructively come together and find points of compromise to address issues of great public concern. But this sentiment only makes sense if you think both parties are trying to accomplish something approaching the same thing, albeit perhaps with very different strategies. That is simply not true….

We talk a lot about how Republicans real focus is getting the ACA money for a big tax cut, which is unquestionably true. You can only get the tax cut if you get back the money that went toward getting people covered. But at a deeper level this is a philosophical dispute, a basic difference in goals. It’s a difference in desired outcomes, not an ideological dispute over the best way to achieve them. (Emphasis mine.)

Perhaps my memory is faulty, but back when I was a Republican, fiscal conservatism meant crafting more cost-effective policies to achieve goals we held in common with Democrats–policies that would help poor people, for example. We favored programs that would help those who needed that help without inadvertently distorting markets in ways that deepened the original problem.

An example would be rent control. The shared goal was affordable housing for low-income renters; opposition to rent control as a means of accomplishing that was based upon the belief that rent control would deter investment in additional, desperately needed units. You could agree or disagree with that analysis (I agreed), but the opposition wasn’t based on a belief that government shouldn’t help low-income people find decent housing.

We were arguing means, not ends.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats do not share a belief in the nature of the common good. Democrats believe that government has a responsibility to ensure access to healthcare. Republicans don’t. As Marshall says,

When you try three times to ‘repeal and replace’ and each time you come up with something that takes away coverage from almost everyone who got it under Obamacare, that’s not an accident or a goof. That is what you’re trying to do. ‘Repeal and replace’ was a slogan that made up for simple ‘repeal’ not being acceptable to a lot of people. But in reality, it’s still repeal. Claw back the taxes, claw back the coverage.

Pretending that both parties just have very different approaches to solving a commonly agreed upon problem is really just a lie. It’s not true. One side is looking for ways to increase the number of people who have real health insurance and thus reasonable access to health care and the other is trying to get the government out of the health care provision business with the inevitable result that the opposite will be the case.

That difference cannot be bridged with pious calls for “bipartisanship.”

The Piety Police

Those of us who live in Indiana are well aware of Mike Pence’s hostility to the rights of LGBTQ citizens, but the national press is still learning about “Pastor” Pence’s fundamentalist religious views on women and gays. Just a few days ago, a Newslo reporter dug up old Pence speeches and satirized his homophobia. [Sorry the original version of this post didn’t clarify what was real and what was satirical. Mea Culpa]

Digging up Mike Pence’s past political work has become a sport in the brief time since he was named Donald Trump’s running mate. The most recent finding is that Pence penned strong anti-LGBT letters in the 1990s during his time as head of the Indiana Policy Review. In 1993, he attacked gay leadership in the military, claiming: “Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity, which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

Given his long history of calling to violence against members of the LGBT population, it’s no surprise that Pence can’t go long without going back to his hateful ways. In a recent interview with Fox News, following the results of the presidential election in which his running mate Donald Trump triumphed over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Pence issued a call to homosexuals throughout the United States to “voluntarily quit any jobs they might have with God-fearing employers” for the purposes of “avoiding laws that reject gay people from working in such jobs.”

The “God fearing” Republican party of Mike Pence is a far cry from the party of Barry Goldwater, who famously said of gays in the military “You don’t have to be straight; you just have to shoot straight.” In fact, today’s GOP is a far cry from the party of Ronald Reagan, whose “legacy” is piously invoked and routinely misrepresented.

Today’s GOP is a radical cult–much more like a religion than a conventional political party. And that religion’s basic doctrine is becoming clearer every day: it’s the prosperity gospel on steroids. Prosperity gospel, as you probably know, is the belief that financial and physical well-being are evidence of the will of God. If you are poor and sick, well, that’s God’s will, and government has no business interfering.

You only have to look at the GOP’s so-called “health care” bill to see this doctrinal belief in action.   Why eviscerate Medicaid? Well,if God wanted us to keep grandma alive in a nursing home, He would have seen to it that she could afford it.

In fact, there’s a lot that the Republican God doesn’t want. He (their God is definitely a He) also doesn’t want us bothering to combat climate change. Just ask Senator Inhofe, who insists that only God can change the climate, and says the idea that manmade pollution could affect the seasons is “arrogance.”

The theology of today’s GOP may forbid interfering with God’s will by providing government-subsidized health care or a hand up to the poor, but when it comes to issues of gender, the Prosperity Gospel defaults to garden-variety Christian fundamentalism, a la Pence, which teaches that God wants government to ensure that women aren’t allowed to control their own reproduction. God also wants government to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing poor women with breast exams and/or pap smears. (Why an omnipotent God can’t manage this on His own is one of the mysteries of Christian doctrine…)

Bottom line: Today’s GOP is a thoroughly unholy amalgam of prosperity gospel (whose adherents overlooked Donald Trump’s unfitness for office because, hey–he’s rich! God must love him)–and anti-woman, anti-gay Christian fundamentalism. Its members are antagonistic to science, dismissive of evidence, uninterested in policy and the nitty-gritty of governing, and unmoved by the real-world, human consequences of their actions.

They’re only interested in doing the will of the God they’ve created in their own image.