Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has famously stated that the Republican Party has to stop being “the Stupid Party.” This was a surprisingly astute observation for someone who recently suggested raising his state’s sales taxes so as to get rid of property taxes. I don’t think “the Stupid Party” is going to change or be replaced by another more reality-based party any time soon, so we need to figure out what makes its members the way they are.
Some think that the election of any Democrat to the White House causes them to go berserk. During Bill Clinton’s first term, the Republican Congress stupidly shut down the government – that’s why the current Republican efforts to constantly hold the budget hostage are so scary. During Clinton’s second term, the Republicans stupidly wasted 60 million tax dollars to find some excuse to impeach him!
However, even recent Republican administrations have had to put up with their own extremists whom they called the “Crazies.” President George H. W. Bush and his defense secretary Colin Powell feared the war-loving neo-cons who wanted an invasion of Iraq. Those “Crazies” finally took control of our government under Bush-Cheney and gave us tax cuts for the rich, the Afghan and Iraq Wars, and a massive debt.
Bush-Cheney and “Bush’s Brain” Karl Rove had to contend with another faction that even they called the “Crazies.” The “Crazies” in this case were the religious fundamentalists that are such an important voting bloc for Republicans. This helps explain the relentless war against women’s rights with countless anti-abortion laws being promoted around the nation where Republicans control the legislatures. Arkansas’s new Republican legislature has over-ridden Gov. Mike Beebe’s vetoes and passed the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation. Because they are clearly unconstitutional, these laws will be contested. That means that Arkansas’s attorney general may have to waste thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible.
President Barack Obama said that dealing with Republicans might require his performing a “Jedi mind-meld.” His mixing Star Wars and Star Trek concepts outraged fanatics of both science fiction series: Jedi mind tricks and Vulcan mind-melds are not the same things. However, it didn’t seem to bother George Takei, Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu. He said that something of their nature might be the only way to work with Republicans. Ed Shultz, a liberal pundit, pressed him on whether they could be used with Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor or Michelle Bachman. Mr. Takei conceded it wasn’t possible because they are “pure Klingons.”
Thom Hartmann, another liberal pundit, had fun with Paul Ryan’s frequent water guzzling during the vice presidential debate and Marco Rubio’s hilarious water bottle incident during his Republican rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union Address. Mr. Hartmann suggested that all Republicans might be addicted to ibogaine. Not only does ibogaine contain hallucinogenic properties, it also causes dry mouth.
More seriously, Mr. Hartmann has compared Republicans to the Afghan Taliban in a recent column, “Conservatives: The New Taliban.” They both “festishize guns” and use religion to deny rights to women and to control education. They believe they can maintain power “when the people are kept poor and stupid.”
Schizophrenia is another explanation for Republicans’ bizarre behavior. They do appear to live in their own private universe, totally detached from the real world the rest of us inhabit. However, they all share the same universe created by their collective minds. One schizophrenic does not share the same visions as another. This is unfortunate since schizophrenia can often be medically controlled. Nevertheless, I would love for a sample group from the Fox-Republican-TEA Party to be placed under such supervision. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Michelle Bachman were treated for schizophrenia and began to think rationally? Maybe we could then recommend it for the rest of them!
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has often referred to the Republican Party as being just plain “nuts,” and he recently toyed with the idea that Republican politicians and pundits may be zombies. After the colossal failures of trickle-down economics under Hoover, Reagan, and W. Bush, you would expect trickle-down to be dead. After the Great Depression and the Great Recession, you would think the bad ideas that caused them would be laid to rest. The voters in the Election of 2012 rejected returning to those eras. But, like zombies, the extreme right-wingers, the radical-reactionaries, keep coming back from the dead and are still promoting tax cuts for the rich dismantling Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and cutting spending on everything except the military.
My own explanation for why the “Stupid Party” is the way it is has been documented in two studies. Joe Brewer of Cognitive Policy Works wrote an article titled “How will the 99 % Deal with the 70 Million Psychopaths?” In it, he contends there is currently 1 % of the world’s population that can be clinically classified as having psychopathic tendencies. Dr. Martha Stout, who wrote “The Sociopath Next Door,” contends that 4 % is more likely – that would mean there are 280 million psychopaths on the planet!
The ranking members of the “Stupid Party” consist of followers of Leo Strauss, Ayn Rand, and billionaires’ think tanks. Leo Strauss believed conservatives could achieve and keep power by using the Big Lie, perpetual warfare, and religion. Ayn Rand claimed in her novels that greed is good and government regulation is bad. Billionaires, like the Koch brothers, have created numerous think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, to promote voter acceptance of the laissez-faire policies of the Gilded Age – an era of government handouts to Big Business with a hands-off policy.
Justice can be defined as having the ability to achieve what you want or need as long as no harm is done to others. Sociopaths are willing to do anything to get what they want or need regardless of who gets hurt. The concepts of right and wrong or doing what is best for all do not concern them. The major players in the “Stupid Party” probably are not legally insane – no matter how crazy they act. Nor are they Klingons, ibogaine addicts, Taliban affiliates, schizophrenics, or zombies. They are sociopaths.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published in a March 2013 edition of the Arkansas Times.