I am not opposed to a two-party system. In fact, I consider rule by a single party – without an ‘honorable opposition’ to be extremely dangerous. Scientists have a peer-review process to review submissions. Courts have their own adversarial system. Even the Catholic Church knew the value of a ‘devil’s advocate’.
The American people would be well served to have the policies proposed by those in power given a careful review by a group of intelligent and well-meaning individuals who happen not to share the particular prejudices of those in power. These reviewers can perform the service of having those in power give some second thoughts to the policies they enact.
But this service is best performed by what I called intelligent and well-meaning people.
The Republican Party has turned itself into a haven for half-wits, liars, and sophists. It is made up of Republicans like George Bush who is simply too stupid to understand the world in which he lived and who stumbled around the White House like a two-year-old in an exhibit of priceless Chinese artifacts. And it is made up of Republicans like Rush Limbaugh who has absolutely no respect for truth or intellectual integrity, or former Vice President Dick Cheney, who appears to have no moral conscience whatsoever.
Ultimately, the blame rests on the rank-and-file Republicans who have made these people the spokesmen for their party.
There have been a number of news stories recently about Republican attempts to rebuild the party. One faction in this dispute are named ‘big tent’ Republicans who think that Republicans need to broaden their appeal and bring in more people that dogmatic Republicans tend to alienate. It means softening their stand on certain core principles.
These are opposed by the Republican Purists who think that the problem with the Republican Party is that it lost its way. Even though they are party of small government and individual responsibility, they ended up supporting a vast increase in government power and government expenditure.
As I see it, neither option reflects the true problem with the Republican Party. This is the fact that its members have no respect for truth or intellectual integrity.
We can start with the issues of evolution and global warming. We are talking hard science, here, and the scientific facts are in. People who want to deny these facts have to accept greater and greater absurdities. They have to shut their mind to evidence about what the real world is like. To the degree that they are desperate to blind themselves to truths they do not want to see, to that degree they make themselves poor guides of a free people into whatever future is before us.
A leader – or a leading party - must have a respect for the evidence and be willing to follow where the evidence leads.
The main reason why the Bush Administration was such a spectacular failure is because it had absolutely no respect for evidence. Instead of looking at the evidence and drawing the best conclusions, they first adopted a set of conclusions and looked for the evidence to support it. Even if they had to torture people to get them to ‘confess’ to what the Administration knew to be true, the way Inquisitors in the medieval times would get witches and heretics to ‘confess’ to whatever the Inquisitor wanted to hear.
It even went so far as to rewrite scientific publications and manipulate scientific research based on the philosophy that, “If I believe X, then the research must show that X is true.”
The Republicans need to find new leaders. It needs leaders who are honest and who demands honesty from others, even their supporters. It needs leaders who have respect for the evidence and who will adopt a position because the evidence suggests that it is true, rather than adopting evidence because it supports a belief he has already adopted.
Such a leader will have to be somebody who accepts that the earth is round and not flat, that mental illness is a disease and not a sign of demonic possession, that human sacrifice will do nothing to appease the god of volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, or terrorist attacks. It will have to be a leader who can accept the simple scientific fact that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, that over that time life evolved from simple organisms to what we see today. It will have to be a leader who can understand the simple scientific fact that CO2 is transparent to visible light and opaque to infrared radiation and will warm the planet to the degree that we add CO2 to the atmosphere.
If a leader is willing to entertain fantasies when it comes to the hard sciences, we have absolutely no reason to respect his knowledge and understanding of the softer sciences such a economics or moral philosophy. If he is willing to ignore and disregard the hard data where hard data is available, and lie (and torture ‘confessions’ out of people) when it serves a political end, then he is not going to have tight enough grasp of reality to pilot a nation through real-world dangers.
I want to write a series of articles written from a conservative perspective that show that a person does not need to be either a half-wit or a self-serving demagogue to express legitimate conservative concerns. In doing so, I am not going to say anything that I do not believe has merit. There are real issues out there that should be debated. As long as the Republican party is the party of half-wits and self-serving demagogues, there are serious concerns that have no respectable voice to defend them.