Monday, June 20, 2011

Why academics tend to be Democrats

Jason Rosenhouse discusses the simple reasons that academics tend to be liberal and eschew the Republican Party for its "war on expertise":

The power brokers in the Republican party are primarily Wall Street barons and other members of the super rich. On domestic policy they care almost exclusively about redistributing wealth upwards and in creating an entirely unregulated
environment for corporations. The flip side is that anything that might benefit
poor or middle class people they oppose. That is why they will fight tooth and
nail to oppose the tiniest tax increase on millionaires, but will then turn
around and accuse schoolteachers (!!) of being greedy
It is why they openly
the public schools, and propose ludicrous, unworkable tax schemesthat
overwhelmingly benefit
the super rich. It's why they are so horrified by the
idea that the health care system might be reformed to make it possible for
millions of uninsured to obtain insurance. (It's certainly not that they had a
better idea for reforming the system. And notice that when they controlled both
Congress and the Presidency from 2000-2006, they never even mentioned the health care crisis. As far as they are concerned, forty million people without health
insurance simply isn't a problem.)

The trouble is that if they actually said any of this clearly and publicly then no
one would vote for them. So instead they throw around incendiary decoy issues.
Behind closed doors they are perfectly happy to laugh at evangelical Christians,
but in public they will toss them a little red meat, say by appointing a crazy
judge or by cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood
. (After all, it's mostly poor
women who are hurt by such cuts, and who cares about them?) Or they produce an
endless string of boogeymen only they can protect us from. (It's the gays! It's
the Muslims! It's the illegal immigrants!)

On the issues where they openly defy the scientific consensus, it is easy to see
why they do so. The sorts of things we would do combat global warming might hurt
certain corporate interests, so they have to oppose global warming. Evolution is
quite correctly seen as menacing to religious belief, which means they must
oppose it too. The power brokers couldn't care less about science education or
whether homosexual couples are given the benefits of civil marriage, but their
religious supporters do, so they pretend to care when speaking publicl

They tend to have success with these approaches first because there is a very large
moron vote in this country (the technical term is “low-information voters”) that
is easily scared and doesn't actually know anything about anything. But they are
also successful because on these issues they are largely telling people what
they want to hear.
If liberals were selling the message that you can eat ice
cream all day long without getting fat, then all the right-wing think tanks in
the world would not be able to defeat them.
It's just that, on the issues where
science and politics tend to meet, the right-wingers are defending the more
pleasant position. Liberals are the ones saying our way of life is
unsustainable, conservatives are saying we can just keep doing what we're doing.
Liberals are the ones saying that we evolved from lower orders of animals,
conservatives are saying the local preacher understands these subjects better
than the eggheads. Liberals are saying that gay couples should have the same
rights as straight ones, conservatives are saying homosexuality is icky and
unnatural. In each case they are affirming what large segments of the population
already want to believe.

[Emphases mine] There was a time not too long ago that Republicans could be intellectually honest and not kow-tow to the extreme right-wing. Bill Buckley dressing down the John Birchers comes to mind, something that would never happen today. Rather, we have Newt ostracized because he got lax on message discipline and stated the facts about the unworkability of Paul Ryan's fantasy Medicare fix.

Remember when Nixon signed the EPA into existence? Something else that would never happen today. The GOP has moved into the farthest corner of silliness and the power brokers are laughing all the way to the bank. But the corollary effect is that the Democratic Party, while marginally better, has also moved further toward silliness. After all, they only need to appease enough of the middle to get re-elected while still remaining loyal to the plutocrats, therefore we still have "health reform" written by insurance companies, endless wars that enrich defense contractors, and bailouts that protect Wall Street bonuses while we tear apart our social safety nets-- and there are no checks on the power (Why that is is another issue, but see Jon Stewart's interview with Chris Wallace for a clue.).

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