Friday, 13 January 2012

Down the Rabbit-hole with the Republicans

The Enlightenment is, for Americans, very much over. Which is a shame, because it was explicitly founded on Enlightenment principles by the Founding Fathers, none of whom would ever survive a primary campaign in this day and age.

Science, rationality, intellectual ability, skepticism, doubt: all negatives in the Republican race (and in the Democratic one, of course). Actually knowing stuff is a deeply suspicious quality when the prime characteristics sought by Republican voters are a) feeling and b) total distrust of Washington, big cities, liberals, atheists, career politicians, foreigners, blacks, books, learning… and languages. Never mind that all the candidates are millionaire career politicians. Except for Romney, who's a billionaire who made his pile in asset-stripping companies and sacking hundreds of thousands of people.

Yes. In a true sign of progress, we've moved on from Republicans accusing Democrat opponents of 'looking French' (John Kerry spoke fluent French), to Republicans accusing each other of speaking French. Never mind that the Founding Fathers all had fluent Latin and most of them could read Ancient Greek too, as well as French…

This is a return to the 'Know-Nothings' and 'Ham and Eggs' populist movements, in which suspicion of outsiders was a mark of authenticity and honesty. A bit weird for a nation founded on immigration, and for one which has a military presence in more than two thirds of the world's countries, but American politics is well beyond logic by now.

To read: Pity the Billionaire, by Thomas Frank, about how struggling Americans have been persuaded that the financial system which ruined us all needs more freedom from government.

No comments: