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Aug 26

Parade of Fools

A new nationwide Gallup poll provides insight about who the current frontrunners are for the GOP nomination. As you can see in the figure below, the only candidates I would ever support—Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman—didn’t even crack the top four. These two didn’t even make a respectable showing.

 

Now, I don’t think Gingrich and Huntsman are the best choices because I completely agree with them. Rather, I think they would be the most responsible candidates of those available and are clearly the most qualified. This is simply based on evaluating them against their peers.

I’ve hesitated to comment on the Republican proceedings so far (other than to point out a few contradictory positions). There are so many people making the same comments, it seems unnecessary. All that being said, I do feel inspired to make at least this one post on the subject. I want to briefly explain why the potential of any of these four candidates being elected should scare any reasonable person shitless. Let’s begin.

 

Rick Perry

Perry is either incredibly dim-witted or incredibly conniving—neither of which are admirable traits. His constant barrage of anti-science comments show an incredible lack of awareness for the most basic of concepts. His prayer rally, which was promoted to help with the problems beyond our control, shows a real lack of governance and essentially is on par with rain dances. These things don’t work; a smart person would already know that. And when you consider the caliber of people attending and speaking at the rally, you just spiral into the blackest hole of stupidity ever produced by humans. But possibly worse than stupidity is delusion. A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence. This describes Perry incredibly well. He does not let scientific results or actual research dissuade him from opinions. These positions include abstinence-only sex education (an oxymoron, I know), climate change, and evolution. You can’t brush this off by saying particular science beliefs are unimportant to the office of the President. A delusion will affect any area that runs counter to prior beliefs. This is a character trait that can affect legislation, economic strategies, international affairs, and many other important aspects of the job.

If, on the other hand, this is all just playing to the Evangelical base and he doesn’t really believe it, then we know that he will deceive the citizenry in order to gain power. Either option is troubling.

 

Mitt Romney

If Romney actually ran the country like he ran Massachusetts, it wouldn’t be all that bad. It certainly wouldn’t be bad enough to qualify as scary. But the demographics of people he was trying to please in Massachusetts is markedly different from the national landscape that includes fundamentalist Evangelicals and today’s Tea Party. You can look at his positions and clearly see that he is bending to the will of the common folk. He has gone from fairly moderate to espousing more and more highly conservative opinions. We don’t need an ideologue in office while the country is so divided, and we certainly don’t need a fake one. I doubt he believes a lot of what he says and I think that lack of true conviction (see entry on Bachmann) is hurting him in the polls. So, we have a candidate who very likely disagrees with many Tea Party principles, yet tries to please them for votes while completely ignoring the half of this country that is fairly liberal. That is not a good sign.

In addition, Romney is a Mormon. Anyone who adheres to a religion that is obviously false should have their critical thinking skills seriously questioned. Maybe in the end they will show they do value critical thinking and don’t let religion get in the way (like Huntsman to an extent), but most do not. Mormonism, Scientology, Heaven’s Gate—these are not religions worth even entertaining as moderately convincing. They have been empirically disproven, making any long-term adherents either ignorant or delusional (this is a recurring theme).

 

Ron Paul

Paul is the political equivalent of a butterface. There are some things you may really like about him, but they are ultimately outweighed by the statements that sound eerily similar to things your crazy uncle says. Therein lies the problem. As much as I may like a few of his opinions, we have to be cautious of catastrophe. Whatever people think of him, it is not reasonable to expect him to make any sweeping changes for the better. Instead he will cut a number of things and then sit back and try to do as little as possible. That is essentially what he proposes. The outcomes to be expected from this in the short term will either be marginal improvements from reduced government spending and gained state freedom or a downward spiral into Hell. We would have even worse unemployment than we do now by slicing up the Federal government, and he has many ideas that are viewed as crazy nonsense by markets around the world, which could scare things into a sharp fall. These are just the tip of the iceberg of how things could potentially go wrong. The potential gain is not nearly worth the risk. You might argue that some of these policies are better for the long term, but we are not currently in a strong enough position as a country to take that gamble.

 

Michele Bachmann

The thing about Bachmann is that she is actually crazy. There is nothing about her that indicates she is a sane person—nothing. Her history of statements that take the most nonsensical positions, her version of religion, her belief in the LaHayes’ end times bullshit, her methods for curing homosexuality…do I really need to keep going? She is nuts. This is not about attacking her because she is a woman or because she is a Christian. She is actually bat shit crazy. I would seriously consider moving to Canada if she were nominated. The fact that she has already held office in this country should be considered a blight on our reputation.

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6 comments

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  1. Ryan

    We’re in agreement about almost everything here. It’s a terrible shame that the likes of Bachmann, Perry, and even Santorum can beat Huntsman–and certainly a shame that any of them has any political power in the first place.

    Some further commentary:

    Perry – I posted this on the Facebook page for Foxhole Atheism, but I’ll post it here too:

    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fact-sheet-gov-rick-perry%E2%80%99s-extremist-allies

    If these are the people with whom he associates, it’s pretty clear that he’s crazy as well. In any case, I fail to see his appeal to anyone who isn’t far right. Some reference a “Texas economic miracle” as evidence that he would be able to solve our country’s fiscal and economic problems, but there is much to be said about that supposed miracle that isn’t so positive. For how much is Rick Perry responsible? How did he get those results? Are the results really as good as they’re made out to be? How does Texas rank in other measures, such as education? The answers to these questions are out there. They paint a rather ugly picture of this man and his accomplishments.

    Romney – I suspect that he would at least be a tolerable president, the sort that takes more moderate positions once in office rather than on the campaign trail. For now, he needs to play politics to get support from the crazies in the Republican base. Given Huntsman’s low popularity, it’s pretty clear that an honest moderate will not get far. I do disagree with you slightly about the Mormon bit because I am inclined to regard it as only barely crazier than other popular religions, though I might not know as much about it as you do.

    Ron Paul – I really wish I could vote for him. There is such an air of sincerity and passion about him that I almost feel guilty for not doing so, but I have to ask: what would he–what COULD he–bring to the table? How much support would he get from Congress if neither side likes his approach? Or how much support would Congress get from him if he doesn’t like either side’s approach? More importantly: are his libertarian economic views based on the reality of the modern world or are they an outdated philosophy that would only work with smaller communities (if they would have ever worked at all)?

    Bachmann – What can I say? “A blight on our reputation” is an understatement, but the real blight is that we have so many people who would vote for her. I didn’t think that we could get this low, but I guess the US still has some surprises up its sleeves for me. Let’s look on the bright side: if elected, she claims, she can easily bring gas down to $2 per gallon!

    Gingrich – I like him for what he contributes to discussions, but he’s too conservative and too associated with the religious right to get my support. I don’t suppose it matters either way; he’s done.

    These Republican candidates, with the exception of Huntsman, have made me grow even more cynical. Apparently you can’t be a moderate Republican anymore without being branded a RINO–and apparently the only creativity “true Republicans” are allowed to have in their policies is cutting spending, taxes, and regulations. Ooh, I’ve never heard that one before! I still have a shred of hope that the majority will be more afraid of a religious lunatic or cookie-cutter Republican than of another 4 years of Obama, but it’s just that: a shred.

  2. Mike

    Ryan, I’ll clarify my position on Mormonism a bit.

    In principle, all religious belief is equal in that I think it’s all false. However, the justifications for belief are obviously false in some cases and less obviously false in others. For example, the foundation of Christianity benefits from the mist of time. The founding of Mormonism, on the other hand (or Scientology), is much more available. I’ll just point out a few problems.

    Joseph Smith was a con man. He used to make money in NY state by telling people he could use seeing stones to find hidden treasure. He couldn’t of course and so he was taken to court and convicted of fraud. We have the documents. He later used the same seeing stones routine to translate the Book of Mormon. Hmmm.

    He made predictions about the future – always a bad idea – that were false.

    His book, which supposedly came right from God, contained passages basically ripped off from the KJV of his day. The funny thing is there were translation errors later found in the KJV. If he got his words right from God, why would they carry over the errors?

    He also said things about America’s past that contradict archeological and other evidence.

    Those are just a few points in a larger cumulative case for why I think it’s indefensible.

  3. Ryan

    A man who makes false predictions about the future, promotes his holy book as God-inspired and inerrant despite problems with it, and contradicts archeological and other scientific evidence has excellent company among Christians and other theists.

    That he was an outright fraud and only developed his religion in fairly recent history are the compelling points here, but what I mean is: if we look at the content of and justifications for Mormon beliefs compared to those of Christians, they are not much different in quality. I imagine that Mormons defend Smith, claiming that the allegations and apparent evidence of Smith’s fraud are lies in much the same way that other theists defend their discredited leaders and idols. I also imagine that they have ways of explaining away the problems of their holy text in the same way that Christians explain away the problems with the history of the books of the Bible, their assembly, their translation, their authorship, and the claims therein. And while I agree that other religions “benefit from the mist of time” in practice, I regard that mist as itself a reason to doubt a text. Obscurity and uncertainty should not lend credence to any claims.

    Ultimately, the same psychological mechanisms–particularly confirmation bias applied to the cherished religion of one’s upbringing–that allow belief in this religion are behind the belief in other religions. That doesn’t mean that all religions are the same (I can’t imagine how anyone believes in Scientology), but, in this case, I find Mormonism and Christianity similar enough that I can understand how one could believe in either. And in the context of the Republican race, let’s bear in mind that Huntsman, the man we both find to be at least somewhat reasonable, describes himself as Mormon as well, even if he downplays its importance to his political behavior.

  4. Mike

    Mormons definitely do deny the fraud charges (I think they say the court documents are forgery or propoganda or something). Most of the Mormon justification, though, comes from reading the Book of Mormon, then praying and seeing if God gives you a swelling in the busom. That’s pretty much it. I’m not saying Christians are justified in their foundation being murky. I’m just saying they benefit from it and use it to their advantage. It’s not that it’s more right; it’s that it is harder to prove wrong.

    Huntsman’s Mormonism bothers me too, but he’s at least said things that lead me to believe his mind can be changed based on evidence, research, etc.

    Also, as you said in your first comment, I don’t think Ron Paul would get any support. So even liking his ideas, his supporters would just elect a lame duck (and it would still probably scare the international and domestic markets). I’m less against Paul than any of the other four, but I still could never vote for him.

  5. Ryan

    On the topic of religion and politics:

    During Thursday’s Republican debate, Herman Cain proposed a 9/9/9 plan (9% corporate, income, and sales taxes). His justification? “If 10% is good enough for God, 9% ought to be good enough for the fellow government.” And Rick Perry seemed to liken himself to Galileo over the issue of climate change.

    Once again, Huntsman emerged as the only reasonable Republican candidate.

  6. Mike

    One of my family members posted that quote on Facebook last night. I reminded her that Jesus asked for everything we owned (100%) so by that reasoning the government should take 90%. No one responded to that.

    I loved that Galileo line. That might just be the most ironic thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t stop thinking about it.

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