Today is one of those news days when one will hear perhaps the most frightening sentence ever uttered on cable television: Voters go to the polls today in Mississippi and Alabama. Were Alabama vs. Western Civilization merely this Saturday’s game, so much safer we could all feel.
I vociferously reject the argument that one can make too much of the fact that only 12% of voters in Mississippi know that our current president is a Christian, and 52% say he is a Muslim, or that only 14% in Alabama know President Obama is a Christian, 45% believe he is a Muslim and 41% aren’t sure. Such sweeping ignorance would be disconcerting even in a third world country, so what numbered world Alabama is in I frankly fear to speculate.
These are not simply the sort of low-information voters who typically have been Republicans’ bread and butter. These are citizens now so estranged from human knowledge or so deeply buried under myth, superstition and propaganda that decency requires we have a funeral for them.
One shouldn’t kid oneself that this brain-crippling virus is somehow quarantined in the Deep South. Something very debilitating to the human brain is in the water in Oklahoma. The state persistently elects Jim Inhofe to the United States Senate, who recently said, “Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” I fully recognize that it is grossly, unforgivably unfair to blame an entire state for the election of Jim Inhofe. But I’m doing it anyhow. This is the same James Inhofe who once defended Ivory Coast dictator and mass-murdered Laurent Gbago of Ivory Coast as a Christian, putting up a smiling picture of him on the Senate floor, saying, “This is the happy face of President Gbagbo. This is the face I know. This is the president he’s been president since 2000.” This is on you, Oklahoma.
Of course these Tales of Horror from the Republican Base would be incomplete without the latest from Republicans in the 9th congressional district of Ohio. They just made Joe the Plumber their primary victor and the Republican candidate for a seat in congress. Joe, when challenged on why one should consider him qualified for congress says, “What qualifies me, one, I’m an American citizen.” That may be setting the bar lower than many of us would prefer, but there is little doubt Joe has the right stuff to be a Republican candidate for office these days. If you’re asking how it is possible the Republican base could adore Sarah Palin ask no more. The woman who didn’t know the Prime Minister and not the Queen governs modern England, or what the Federal Reserve could possibly be is downright professorial in this crowd.
Immersed in it as we are, we may sometimes take for granted that we are enjoying the golden age of Republican anti-intellectualism. One doesn’t argue with Republicans over the implications of facts. One argues with them over whether such a thing as facts exist. To put it gently, this is not a sanguine development for a major power or modern post-industrial nation.
America has always had its strata of know-nothings, bigots, idiots and peckerwoods. It has always had its strains of populism seeking to appeal to wretched prejudice and plain stupidity. But no political party has ever acceded to the whims of such a benighted base to the degree the current Republican Party does. Or, going at it from the other direction, no base has even been so benighted. And of course, never has any media and political axis ever existed in America as it does today for the sole purpose of alienating a base from reason, knowledge and modern reality. Worse, the Republican Party now is drawing its elected officials from this very pool of imbeciles.
The Inhofe-Plumber ticket for President and Vice-President is coming, Alabamans not the rearguard but the vanguard.