This is the last of my series of posts on the most significant areas where the Democratic and Republican parties will fail us over the next four years – contributing to human misery rather than preventing it.
I have given three areas where the Democrats will fail us: school choice, health care, energy policy, and international trade. I have given three areas where the Republicans will fail us: economic justice, the rule of law, and President Palin.
The fourth and most significant failure in the Republican party is, of course, its decision to build its party on a foundation of myth and superstition – a base that is seriously disconnected from reality.
Unfortunately, reality is unconcerned with our beliefs and attitudes towards us. Think of reality as being like a bus that is speeding down the highway, and you are a pedestrian that wants to cross the street. If you want, you can deny that the bus exists because you have checked your sacred texts and they say nothing about a bus. You can rewrite the reports to say that the fact that you see a bus and hear a bus should not be interpreted as implying that there is a bus. You can pray for God to intervene and stop the bus. But, if you step out onto the street in front of the bus, the bus will not swerve. It will not even slow down. It will swat you out of the way and keep on going.
The Republican Party has, for the past several decades, whenever it has gained power at the federal level, has used that power to lead the nation time and time again into the path of the upcoming bus of reality. And even though we have been smashed up to the tune of trillions of dollars in expenses and countless lives, the Republicans continue to insist that there is no bus, and promises to step boldly out into the street to get to the other side.
Part of the Republican presidential campaign this year is that the Republicans are ready to lead. However, being ready to lead is only a part of the equation. Where are they going to lead us?
We are standing at the street corner with our Republican leadership telling us that he is ready to march across the street. When people point out the oncoming Reality bus, the Republicans continue to protest that real leaders are not intimidated by trivial little things like reality. Some Republicans have argued that true leaders make their own reality. So, here we go again, stepping out into the street, only to be splatted against the pavement again by yet another Reality bus.
What Republicans need to do to quit being a threat to the quality of life for the American people is to stop, look, and listen.
When peer-reviewed scientific reports come in that say that a particular course of action will lead to trillions of dollars in avoidable costs and claim tens of thousands of American lives, (and tens to hundreds of millions of lives around the world), it does no good to rewrite the report so as to deny these findings. The Reality bus will still hit us, taking those trillions of dollars and countless lives.
And while we stand among the economic and physical carnage, it does no good to whine, "But scripture did not mention that this result," or "God did not tell me through revelation and prophesy that we would suffer this way," or "But I prayed for God to clear the path and prevent these consequences." None of these things are going to prevent the loss of trillions of dollars, and countless lives.
These laws of nature are going to keep coming at us. They are going to keep hitting us. They are going to keep knocking us down. Our only recourse is to stop, look, listen, and learn how to predict and control these forces, so that we cross the street safely and actually make it to the other side.
Republicans need to admit that faith-based street crossings are orders of magnitude more dangerous than stop-look-listen street crossings. They need to abandon myth-based laws and social policies, and start building their platform on a foundation that is firmly attached to reality.
It needs to start rejecting the sophistry of the anti-reality crowd.
"Okay, I admit that it looks like there is a bus coming down the street. However, you have to admit that it is at least possible that the bus is a holographic projection created by a group of college students pulling a prank. Therefore, there is no bus, and it is perfectly safe to cross the street. Until we know with absolute certainty that there is a bus, we should not suffer the expense of waiting to cross the street. We should cross the street anyway – unless and until the scientists can prove beyond all possible doubt that a bus is coming."
We'll learn the 'absolute certainty' that the Reality Bus is coming in this case when we are splattered all over the pavement (again).
"Yes, there is a Reality Bus coming. I agree with it. However, just maybe when the Bus hits us, it will hit us in such a way that we will go flying to the other end of the street, landing unharmed in the grass, and ending up better off as a result. What you are doing in suggesting that we not step out in front of the Reality Bus is you are denying us this opportunity. So, I am going to lead us out in front of this Reality Bus, come what may."
Of course, "come what may" includes being splattered all over the pavement by a reality bus that we could have avoided.
Or (one of my personal favorites):
"Okay, the Reality Bus is going to splatter us all over the pavement. However, science can’t tell us everything. It says in scripture that our role in life is to be splattered all over the pavement. Being splattered all over the pavement allows us to demonstrate our virtues as we turn to each other for care. It strengthens us as we recover from our injuries. And those who die, well, God has decided that it is their time to leave us. We should not be playing God by deciding not to step in front of the Reality Bus and avoiding the carnage that results. We should be stepping out in front of the Reality Bus and letting God decide who lives and who dies – who is mangled and who escapes unscathed. We must not deny God the opportunity to express his mercy by saving some of us. We must not deny those few citizens the opportunity to proclaim, 'I thank God for his mercy because, while he decided to bless others with the opportunity to exhibit such great inner strength, 'He has decided to spare me any harm at all.'"
Ultimately, I would say that if any person wants to step in front of the Reality Bus and take his chances that books written by ignorant tribesmen 2000 years ago contain all of the truth about reality, or that they can stop the bus through prayer, or that being splattered by the reality bus is a good thing that gives God a chance to show his mercy and gives humans the chance to grow stronger through adversity, they can go ahead and do so.
The problem with the Republican Party is that they demand that the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, go with them. They demand (through legislation) that the whole nation step in front of the Reality Bus. There are no provisions for opting out. There is no option for saying, "No thank you. You go ahead. I’m not really into being splattered all over the pavement yet again by yet another reckless collision with reality."
Stop. Look. Listen.
The very model of evidence-based decision making that every child learns before he is allowed to walk to school on his own, is too heavily disregarded within huge sections of the Republican Party. It is not that those Republicans have forgotten this piece of wisdom. They hold it in contempt and express proudly that their form of decision making scoffs at the use of evidence. They use it as a point of ridicule that others actually pay attention to the evidence and try to discover the truth of a matter before acting – looking for the Reality Bus so that they will not end up in front of it.
Until the Republican Party learns to respect and use evidence in decision-making, it would be as unwise to vote them into office as it would be to blindfold your child and send him out to find his way to school.
It’s not a smart thing to do.