Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
The war for the world's future -- pitting people anchored in reality against others free-floating in make-believe -- appears to have begun in earnest with the rationalists scoring some surprising early victories in what is sure to be a long and ugly fight.
In Israel's recent election, Yesh Atid, a new party of secularists, surged to a second-place finish on a platform that challenged the power of the ultra-Orthodox who have sought to impose a fundamentalist version of Judaism on large swaths of the country, including forcing women to sit at the back of buses and driving secular Jews out of some neighborhoods.
These various moves suggest some new respect for the real world. But the ugliness of what lies ahead was underscored at a legislative hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, on Monday when Neil Heslin, the parent of a child massacred in Newtown on Dec. 14, was heckled by pro-gun activists who claimed, falsely, that the Second Amendment guaranteed them the right to own assault weapons. (Not even today's right-wing-controlled U.S. Supreme Court says that.)
Republicans also haven't given up on their racist arguments about the need to rig election rules in ways to devalue or suppress the votes of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and other urban dwellers and to exaggerate the value of ballots cast by rural whites. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Return of "Three-Fifths' of a Person."]
There is also no indication as yet that the Republicans will budge on other key elements of their "stupid" agenda, including their denial of the science on global warming, their pandering to pro-gun extremists and their resistance to pretty much anything that President Barack Obama is for.
Still, pro-rationalists have to take some encouragement from small signs that the anti-rationalism of the Republican Party is beginning to crack. Fox News parted ways with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a commentator. The GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2008 -- known for her know-nothingism -- went the way of the crazy Glenn Beck. It seems that even right-wing propaganda on Fox has its limits.
The even faster disappearance of the GOP's chameleon-like 2012 standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, is another sign that Republicans want to forget the clown show of their last presidential selection process. It culminated in a national convention built on taking Obama's "you didn't build that" quote out of context. Any thinking person knew that Obama was referring to the broader national infrastructure of roads, bridges, etc., not to some individual's small business, but Romney pretended otherwise.
The Republican Party had reached a point where it seemed to relish the process of ginning up its idiotic "base" around outright lies. If it wasn't Palin yelling about non-existent "death panels," it was mogul Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio questioning the Hawaiian birth records proving that Barack Obama was born in the United States.
Treating Americans as Simpletons
Of course, the GOP's decoupling from reality can be traced back many more years, at least several decades to the emergence of former actor Ronald Reagan who demonstrated how a casual relationship with the truth could work wonders politically. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "America's War for Reality."]
But the substitution of right-wing ideology for reason advanced dramatically last decade under the presidency of George W. Bush, who empowered a clique of clever intellectuals known as the neoconservatives. The neocons treated the American people as simpletons easily manipulated through techniques of "perception management."
Aided by Fox News and abetted by a careerist mainstream news media, the neocons felt free to push any hot buttons that worked, scaring Americans with exaggerated stories of foreign threats and impugning the patriotism of anyone who got in the way. The invasion of Iraq to find non-existent WMD was one result.
Similarly, Republican presidents -- from Reagan through the two Bushes -- stocked the U.S. Supreme Court with ideologues who pretended to be "strict constructionists" on the Constitution but actually applied shoddy scholarship to reach rulings in line with their political preferences.
For instance, Antonin Scalia and the three other right-wing justices, in an angry dissent regarding the Affordable Care Act, cited constitutional Framer Alexander Hamilton in support of their concern about the alleged overreach of Congress in regulating commerce.
In their dissent on June 28, 2012, they wrote: "If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power, or in Hamilton's words, 'the hideous monster whose devouring jaws ... spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.'" They footnoted Hamilton's Federalist Paper No. 33.
That sounded pretty authoritative. After all, Hamilton was one of the strongest advocates for the federal powers in the Constitution and here he was offering a prescient warning about "Obamacare" from the distant past of 1788. The only problem was that Scalia and his cohorts were turning Hamilton's words inside out.
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