GOP: “The Stupid Party”

by Ben Hoffman

When Rick Perry’s brain froze at last Wednesday’s GOP debate—leaving him unable to name the third of three federal departments he proposes to shut down—it wasn’t like someone setting up a joke and then forgetting the punchline. He was reciting something straight out of his standard stump speech: shutter the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy. I know that Meat Loaf says two out of three ain’t bad, but in this case it was disastrous.

How did we devolve to the point where a leading Republican candidate for the presidency can’t count to three? Whatever happened to conservative intellectuals?

John Stuart Mill famously dismissed mid-19th-century British conservatives as the “stupid party.” But in the America of my youth, it wasn’t true. Conservatives looked up to intellectuals. William F. Buckley set the tone with his sesquipedalian erudition. George F. Will was a must-read, and my conservative classmates at the University of Texas in the Age of Reagan could all quote Milton Friedman.

No more. Today’s conservatives are more likely to mimic Rush Limbaugh than Buckley, and they probably know more of the work of Salma Hayek than Friedrich Hayek. To be sure, Will still commands respect, and intellectuals like David Frum and Bill Kristol carry the torch ably. But today’s Republican Party is more the party of Sarah Palin’s defiant know-nothingness than the brainy conservatism of Bill Bennett. The GOP is a party of ideologues, not ideas.

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16 Comments to “GOP: “The Stupid Party””

  1. Don’t know if Perry’s a “pathological” liar or not, but he certainly seems to be at least moderately allergic to the truth. He also seems to have the same public speaking affliction as George Dubya, and Sarah What’s-Her-Name (what is it with the GOP, can’t they find anyone articulate anymore?) Policy question for you: let’s say he was actually able to spit it out and say, “We should abolish the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy.” Would you agree or disagree with that? Just curious. I’ve been wondering if these departments serve a worthy function, or make good use of the dollars they spend, but I don’t have enough information. What do you think?

    • It makes sense that the “stupid party” would want to eliminate the Dept. of Education. Republicans don’t want people to get educated since the more educated you become, the less likely you are to vote Republican. Most people don’t know what the dept of ed does and what their budget is. From Wikipedia:

      The primary functions of the Department of Education are to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.The Department of Education does not establish schools or colleges.

      Under President George W. Bush, the Department primarily focused on elementary and secondary education, expanding its reach through the “No Child Left Behind” law. The Department’s budget increased by $14B between 2002 and 2004, from $46B to $60B.

      • So I was under the impression that the argument in favor of abolishing had in part to do with saving tax dollars. In other words, why collect money at the federal level and then redistribute, why not decentralize (rallying cry of the right, I know), and let states collect taxes to fund education. I do see the argument in favor of policy at the federal level and of course, enforcing privacy and civil rights laws. If each state decided what school students would learn, they’d all be reading the Bible in science class in Texas. Probably in history and English too for that matter. I think that last sentence about budget increases is what everyone is so upset about. BTW, what do you think IS the best way to collect and distriute taxes for public education?

  2. Leila,

    The Department of Education is a no brainer. 100% elimination is the only hope. Commerce and Energy are more complicated . You can’t totally eliminate the Energy Department because they have responsibility for nuclear weapons and the Navy’s nuclear reactors . You could definitely shrink the rest of it down . The Department of Commerce also has some useful parts that should be saved, yet it could be pruned or have some parts sent elsewhere . Tell me why NOAA is part of the Commerce Department and not under the EPA ?

    • Hi Alan,

      Always looking for more information and trying to understand other’s points of view. Please read my comment above and let me have your thoughts. You say it’s a no brainer. Why? So I understand what you’re saying about Energy, although, couldn’t those programs you mention be sent to the DOD? Just asking. The parts that could be shrunk down, what are they? Ditto the question for Commerce. Why is NOAA under Commerce and not the EPA? Beats the heck out of me. Is it intended to protect the environment, or do they just try to make it sound that way? Is it’s real job to promote commerce? I’m thinking of the BLM, which I used to think was to preserve, protect and manage our national forests, until I met a hydrologist with the BLM who informed me that “manage” meant sell to private lumber companies at a HUGE discount.

  3. Leila,

    You will have to forgive me, I am not used to conversing with rational people here. Give me a moment to collect my thoughts.

    ” If each state decided what school students would learn, they’d all be reading the Bible in science class in Texas. ”

    Perhaps they would, but living in Pennsylvania, what right do I or some faceless bureaucrat in Washington have to tell Texas how to run their schools ?

    ” In other words, why collect money at the federal level and then redistribute, why not decentralize (rallying cry of the right, I know), and let states collect taxes to fund education. I do see the argument in favor of policy at the federal level and of course, enforcing privacy and civil rights laws. ”

    Civil rights reminds me of safety as defined by OSHA . It is a huge tent by which our overlords and masters in Washington seek to write rules to micromanage our lives. It assumes, making an ass of you and me, that our overlords and masters are smarter and more honest than we are . The skills that enable one to become an elected official or land a secure paycheck working in the bureau of Technocrats do not qualify that person to tell me how to run my life . As far as honesty, most of the rules in Washington are written by lobbyists to protect their paymasters .

    Washington is where money goes to be directed elsewhere. The surrounding communities where all of the faceless trolls working in Washington live, did not suffer to the same extent that say Detroit suffered during this recession . Money spigots never slow to that part of the country .

    Think of Washington DC as Washington INC . It wants to grow it’s revenues, crush it’s competition for money and power, namely the private sector and the States, and serve it’s customers as a monopoly . But we are not just customers, as citizens we are owner stockholders . Every election is a board meeting and our chance to throw out our oppressors .

    ” I’m thinking of the BLM, which I used to think was to preserve, protect and manage our national forests, until I met a hydrologist with the BLM who informed me that “manage” meant sell to private lumber companies at a HUGE discount. ”

    I have two takes on that . Our public land should sometimes be lumbered off. The environmentalists have caused damage to the forests themselves by blocking it. Also that produces jobs and spurs economic activity . If this is done where some lumber companies have gotten sweetheart deals, that is wrong for us taxpayers and wrong to the competitor lumber companies.

    • Thanks Alan. It’s true, I am one of the approximately seventy-three people in the blogosphere in search of civilized discourse! And happy to have met you. I think we agree wholeheartedly (or almost). To whit:

      “Perhaps they would, but living in Pennsylvania, what right do I or some faceless bureaucrat in Washington have to tell Texas how to run their schools ?”

      Well, this is where I believe there needs to be federal standards. We as a nation might feel that there should be certain standards in education. We may believe that all students in all states, for instance, should be given a thorough education about the constitution and should be required to read and discuss the Federalist Papers. Of course, people disagree about the balance of states rights vs federal power, but maybe, as we see the current relevance of this issue today, we might ALL agree that we’d like ALL our citizens to have a thorough understanding of the arguments and the ability to express an informed opinion about this issue. That’s just one example. I do however, STRONGLY disagree with the idea that teachers should be REQUIRED to teach in certain ways. Individual school districts and individual teachers should have standards to meet within the school year, but should be free to design curricula as they see fit. Also, bad teachers (or bad anything else) should be fired. And the unions should support this.

      “In other words, why collect money at the federal level and then redistribute, why not decentralize (rallying cry of the right, I know), and let states collect taxes to fund education. I do see the argument in favor of policy at the federal level and of course, enforcing privacy and civil rights laws.”

      I agree. I don’t see the benefit of gathering money across the states, sending it to Washington and having it redistributed back to the states. I agree completely. I would go so far as to say that anytime money (taxes) is collected for any domestic programs, federal or otherwise, they should be collected at the state level. Why complicate things. I think that the only taxes the Federal government should collect should be applied to stuff ONLY the Fed can do, like pay the army, or the President or Congressmen or the Supreme Court. Maybe NASA. Stuff like that. Even things like the EPA don’t need to be funded at the federal level. Policy can be set at that level, but carried out and funded at the state level.

      “Civil rights reminds me of safety as defined by OSHA . It is a huge tent by which our overlords and masters in Washington seek to write rules to micromanage our lives.”

      We-e-e-e-e-ell . . . I guess it depends to which “civil rights” you refer. There are several civil rights that the Federal government has granted that probably wouldn’t have been adopted by all the states, but which I believe are truly “human rights,” and thus should be applied to all. However, it also seems clear to me that the government has gone overboard, especially in recent years. But that doesn’t argue against federal policy, it rather suggests that further consideration of policy is needed.

      “Washington is where money goes to be directed elsewhere.”

      Yes. Clearly. Sadly. Tragically, even. And generally, to the people who control policy: corporate CEOs, billionaires, defense contractors, agribusiness, energy and oil companies, the healthcare industry, the banking industry, insurance, multinational conglomerates, etc., etc. etc.

      “It wants to grow it’s revenues, crush it’s competition for money and power, namely the private sector…”

      I would only say here, that the largest of the large in the private sector seem to benefit the most from federal policy. They send their lobbyists to Washington to make sure that policy favors them. And pay to do it. The people we elect by voting are handed to us by the people who have bought and paid for them. And thus, “every election is” NOT “a board meeting and our chance to throw out our oppressors,” because our oppressors are the people buying the candidates. Throw em ALL out and elect ALL new people, total newbies, and they become part of a SYSTEM that is not so easily dismantled. And the people who created this system by manipulating laws through the decades are not so easily displaced.

      “I have two takes on that . Our public land should sometimes be lumbered off. The environmentalists have caused damage to the forests themselves by blocking it.”

      I agree.

      “Also that produces jobs and spurs economic activity.”

      I agree.

      “If this is done where some lumber companies have gotten sweetheart deals, that is wrong for us taxpayers and wrong to the competitor lumber companies.”

      I agree.

    • Perhaps they would, but living in Pennsylvania, what right do I or some faceless bureaucrat in Washington have to tell Texas how to run their schools ?

      What about the rights of the children? How much chance is a child going to have if the only thing he or she learned in school is the bible? You think children are just property and the parents should be able to put the kid to work at age 13. How about parents who want to prostitute their children? Is that okay with you? Or how about other religious cults besides Christianity? Should the parents be allowed to have sex with their children if their religion says it’s okay?

      You right-wingers have some f*cked up morals.

      • Hi Ben,

        I’m not sure that Alan was intending to say that he thinks children are just property etc. I do agree with you that the rights of children must be considered, and we as a nation, have decided that there is a fundamental right to a basic education. As to parents’ rights, the government must, of course, tread lightly when decided to abridge the rights of a parent to make decisions for their children. And I do, of course, agree with you that parents should not be allowed to prostitute their children, or have sex with their children. I think that Alan, as well as everyone everywhere who isn’t actual a pedophile, would agree with you.

      • Leila, I’m just using right-wing tactics on Alan. Right-wingers always make over-generalizations and oversimplifications because they’re too lazy to get informed. Conservatives brains are physically different than normal brains, as shown in scientific studies. They lack the ability to handle ambiguity, which is why they see everything in black-and-white. So the only way to argue with a right-winger is to use the same tactics they use, albeit just for sport.

  4. Mr. Hoffman,

    Children do not just get taught the Bible. As always you oversimplify. Plus children are not property of your Atheist State . They are not some lab experiment for your left wing teachers and professors . Which by the way, have infected even Catholic Universities . Having kids work a paper route, baby sitting, or other appropriate work is great for a 13 year old . It teaches them how the real world works. It teaches them the virtues of capitalism. So they do not come out into the world like those poor unprepared college kids who took basket weaving, English lit, or whatever useless courses their overpriced professors taught them, and now come out of college with worthless pieces of paper and $100,000 debts, and camp out in our cities demanding that the taxpayers bail them out .

    ” Should the parents be allowed to have sex with their children if their religion says it’s okay? ”

    No legitimate Churches say that is okay.

    Leila,

    Perhaps you see why I said rational? I agree with your take on standards. I believe federal control goes far beyond that . The federal education establishment has been lobbied to death by the teachers unions . They protect their own. Also at the State level they block any reforms, like getting rid of poor teachers. All of us have had bad teachers growing up or had to deal with our kids teachers, who were substandard. And they get as much money as the good teachers .

    Federal control goes far beyond enforcing standards of math , reading, and science on local schools. In fact they do a horrible job of that.

    • Alan, your idol Newt Gringrich said he wants to use high school students as janitors. What’s next? Coal miners? Your “lab experiment” has failed. Indoctrinating children into bizarre religious cults is bad for the children, as we’ve seen over and over. And what exactly is a “legitimate” church? The Christian church is full of pedophile priests, so is that legitimate in your eyes? The church in illegitimate by nature. They teach belief in the supernatural, which is no different than teaching witchcraft or Satanism. They are bizarre cults, which is why you find so many acts of child molestation by Christians.

      So they do not come out into the world like those poor unprepared college kids who took basket weaving, English lit, or whatever useless courses their overpriced professors taught them, and now come out of college with worthless pieces of paper and $100,000 debts, and camp out in our cities demanding that the taxpayers bail them out .

      Nope, most of them are employed. Many of them are Iraq war veterans. Your simpleton attitude is typical for a “conservative” radical, since you see everything in black-and-white. The kids protesting have no future, thanks to “conservative” policies. You’ve destroyed our economy, got us involved in two unwinnable wars at a cost of trillions of dollars, and built up a debt of $15 trillion dollars because you welfare queens don’t want to have to pay for government.

      What I want to know is: how do you live with yourself after what you and your kind have done to our country? How exactly do you sleep at night?

  5. Mr. Hoffman ,

    ” What I want to know is: how do you live with yourself after what you and your kind have done to our country? How exactly do you sleep at night?”

    What keeps me up at night is my prostate, but a few beers take care of that . Did you see that Spain finally kicked out the green socialists that have ruined their country ? It took them all of 7 years with their windmills, solar cells, and eat the rich slogans. Your hero Obama did it in 3 years, congratulations.

    You are right, kids who can’t clean their rooms are not going to make it as janitors. You know coal miners make a good buck nowadays. At least the ones Obama hasn’t put on unemployment with his green jobs policies .

    • What keeps me up at night is my prostate

      So you don’t care about your country. Doesn’t surprise me. You right-wingers are completely self-centered, just like little school girls.

      Did you see that Spain finally kicked out the green socialists that have ruined their country ?

      No, the deregulation in the U.S. destroyed the world economy, and now we’re seeing the repercussions: the creation of scapegoats, extreme nationalism, xenophobia… And you uninformed right-wingers are enabling the rise of fascism around the world. Spain elected a Francisco Franco disciple. Spain is heading towards fascism, as is Russia. Time will tell with the U.S. You should be proud of yourself for supporting such an abomination.

  6. Mr. Hoffman,

    I am the most caring person you will ever know. Why are you so upset ? Your guy Obama has been royally shafting my side for 3 miserable years . Much of the damage, wait I mean progress from your point of view, has been so severe that it can’t be reversed .

    Spain is a disaster that anyone with a brain could have seen coming . Funny you brought up Russia. The Russians are threatening to aim their missiles at Nato’s missile shield bases . If I was less self centered I might be concerned. Oh. well screw the Poles, right ?

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