You don't need to go to the frustrated hard-core base of the Republican Party, busy disrupting town hall meetings to prevent discussion of health care reform, for evidence of the Party's intellectual poverty. In fact, you don't need to go any further than college teacher, ex congressman, Newt Gingrich, probably seen as the intellectual giant of Republican thought.
In June, for example, addressing congressional republicans, Professor Gingrich said the following:
"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous."
Linda Milazzo, on these pages, and others, made the point that Republican exceptionalism, exemplified by this comment, reflects the mean spirited and parochial vision of the present Republican party. I would add to that analysis, that the comment also reflects a dishonest rhetoric. Gingrich did not choose to be an American; he was born an American. To say that he is not a citizen of the world is to say that his favored status as an American, achieved through an accident of birth, is somehow to his credit and to the discredit of those who were born elsewhere. Whatever else the remark is, it is rhetorically absurd.
Then, this past Sunday, in a dual interview with Howard Dean, Gingrich offered this justification for the Palinesque "death panel" rhetoric opposing health reform:
"You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there are clearly people in American who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards."
Again, the rhetoric of this comment is dishonest. Even if one agreed that there is danger in "turning power over to the government," it does not follow that the cause of that concern is that "there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards." Linking two assertions that are not causally related as if they were is disingenuous or manipulative. What it is not is intellectually honest.
Or perhaps Gingrich actually meant what he said Sunday. If "communal standards historically is a very dangerous concept," and if we can't "trust turning power over to the government," then Gingrich actually and accurately is framing his, and his party's perspective. The question then is how in the world, given those parameters, do you come up with a definition of democracy?