Republicans, Religion and the Triumph of Unreason

I hate to keep flogging a dead horse, especially as I think 99% of you already agree with me on this, but I just have to share this article in the UK Independent by Johann Hari. It’s absolutely brilliant. Here’s how it begins:

Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarised by the comedian Bill Maher: “The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital.”

The election of Obama – a black man with an anti-conservative message – as a successor to George W. Bush has scrambled the core American right’s view of their country. In their gut, they saw the US as a white-skinned, right-wing nation forever shaped like Sarah Palin.

When this image was repudiated by a majority of Americans in a massive landslide, it simply didn’t compute. How could this have happened? How could the cry of “Drill, baby, drill” have been beaten by a supposedly big government black guy? So a streak that has always been there in the American right’s world-view – to deny reality, and argue against a demonic phantasm of their own creation – has swollen. Now it is all they can see.

Since Obama’s rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and – at the same time – that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue that he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. So he is ineligible to rule and the office of President should pass to… the Republican runner-up, John McCain.

These aren’t fringe phenomena: a Research 200 poll found that a majority of Republicans and Southerners say Obama wasn’t born in the US, or aren’t sure. A steady steam of Republican congressmen have been jabbering that Obama has “questions to answer”. No amount of hard evidence – here’s his birth certificate, here’s a picture of his mother heavily pregnant in Hawaii, here’s the announcement of his birth in the local Hawaiian paper – can pierce this conviction.

This trend has reached its apotheosis this summer with the Republican Party now claiming en masse that Obama wants to set up “death panels” to euthanise the old and disabled. Yes: Sarah Palin really has claimed – with a straight face – that Barack Obama wants to kill her baby.

You have to admire the audacity of the right. Here’s what’s actually happening. The US is the only major industrialised country that does not provide regular healthcare to all its citizens. Instead, they are required to provide for themselves – and 50 million people can’t afford the insurance. As a result, 18,000 US citizens die every year needlessly, because they can’t access the care they require. That’s equivalent to six 9/11s, every year, year on year. Yet the Republicans have accused the Democrats who are trying to stop all this death by extending healthcare of being “killers” – and they have successfully managed to put them on the defensive…

If you could, I’ve got a favor to ask of you. If you’re near a printer, could you print a copy of this article out? And then, tomorrow, could you maybe stick it somewhere, like in a copy of the Detroit News at your local 7-11? I don’t know that it’ll change anyone’s mind, but I don’t see how it could hurt.

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  1. Carl
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Or, better than leaving it in a copy of a conservative newspaper, why not wrap the article around a hefty rock and through it through the window of a car with a Bush bumper sticker?

  2. Posted August 21, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    As an FYI – the republican party doesn’t do anything “en masse,” and no one (other than Johann Hari and perhaps Bill Maher) is so ignorant of the Constitution as to argue that if Barack Obama is somehow ineligible to serve as President then the job would fall to…John McCain?

    No sane republican wants to see Barack Obama leave office at this point – then Joe Biden would become President! (shudder)

    Get a grip, folks.

  3. kjc
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    “No sane republican”

    ay, there’s the rub.

  4. dragon
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    DesignatedLiar says:”As an FYI – the republican party doesn’t do anything “en masse,”


    Posted: 06/15/09 08:21 PM [ET]
    House Republicans are preparing to vote en bloc against the $106 billion war-spending bill, a position once unthinkable for the party that characterized the money as support for the troops.

    The House of Representatives passed a budget resolution yesterday which closely tracks the $3.6 trillion spending plan submitted by President Barack Obama. But that victory was tempered by Republicans in both chambers, who united to vote unanimously against both bills.

    At the beginning of the year, House Republicans twice united to vote unanimously against the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill.

  5. Kevin
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    If we do make it through this as a nation, it’s going to be an incredible story. I’m envious of kids in the future who will get to read this stuff and imagine, from the safety of their futuristic classroom, what it might have been like to live through this.

  6. Kevin
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Finishing my thought…

    It’ll be like when we were young, reading about the Salem Witch Trials.

  7. Scott K
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Is there a way to be “conservative” yet not be identified as the right or Republican? I’m hanging onto the Blue Dog Democrat idea. Where does a moderate fit in? I agree all of these left field accusations against Obama are ridiculous and embarrassing….but I am firmly against his healthcare reform ideas, the only reason I didn’t vote for him. What is a conservative Democrat in Ypsi to do?

  8. Oliva
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Q: “What is a conservative Democrat in Ypsi to do?”
    A: Pray for enlightenment. Dip your poor hound dog in blue dye?

    (Ha ha. No offense, just being silly. Your post sounds sincere. Most progressives and liberals would say Obama is also a moderate Democrat, if that helps. Bayh and the others seem less moderate than hellbent on getting attention. Just as I see it.)

  9. dragon
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Is there a way to be “conservative” yet not be identified as the right or Republican?

    Democrats have enough problems of their own without being infected by the shamed and embarrassed. Work to bring some sanity to your own party. Just because your dog has shit on every square inch of your yard doesn’t mean you just start using your neighbors.

  10. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Scott K, that’s really the bitch of all this, isn’t it? Here you are BEGGING to have a reasonable discussion about an idea with which you disagree – an extremely reasonable thing to do, yet there is no safe, sane outlet for that conversation. You might be right. You might be the smartest person in the whole damn world for all we know, but we will never hear your voice. Certain people, unable to form a good argument and realizing that they can’t win this fight, have hijacked the conversation and turned it into a shouting match. It’s an attempt at minority rule. Fun, ain’t it?

    All these labels fail us in times like this – democrat, republican, liberal, conservative, left, right. None of it makes a lick of sense any more. This Blue Dog Democrat thing is probably the most ridiculous manifestation of it all. There are a group of people out there who are not so open-minded, yet the crazy assholes in the Republican party are so unacceptable to them that they have found refuge in the “liberal” party.

    It’s a strange world where the only reasonable place to discuss “conservative” idea is in the “liberal” political party.

  11. Posted August 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Scott K, I am registered as republican and conservative in my political outlook, but I am always looking to vote for the best candidates, regardless of party. At the local level, I campaigned for and voted for fiscally conservative democrats because they were the best people for the jobs. If you follow your conservative principles, regardless of party, you will do fine. Having said that, you will find a comfortable home in the republican party when you’re ready.

  12. Posted August 22, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Yea :) I loved this article. But sadly, I’m sure the Palin-supporters will be unfazed by the liberal bias baby-killing Nazi media.

  13. Posted August 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “All these labels fail us in times like this…”

    All but one – independent.

  14. Holly
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    It is a shame he felt the need to ruin a perfectly good argument with this attack of faith:

    “Indeed, they are taught that faith is the highest aspiration and most noble cause. Is it any surprise this then percolates into their political views? Faith-based thinking spreads and contaminates the rational.” -Johann Hari, UK Independent

    I had wanted to forward the article to my conservative cousin, she and I are engaged in a friendly debate and parts of this article are so on point, but as a smart girl that does her research she would find this and use it to disqualify the whole argument.

    Throwing the word “THEY” around can be lots of fun when your pissed off and I am really pissed off about the senseless lies that so easily take hold of the American public surrounding the issue of Obama and health care……

    But seriously folks leave God out of it he didn’t start the rumors and like Hari I’m sure he wanted to cry more than laugh when the injured Republican protester admitted to not having health care.

  15. kjc
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    isn’t that in fact Hari’s criticism–that one should “leave God out of it”?

  16. Smyth
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I agree that there’s a certain amount of contempt for religion thrown in at the end, but I don’t know that it’s altogether undeserved. The religious community, in my humble opinion, has done a dismal job of embracing reality.

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