Wow. The Republican National Convention is finally over. I can’t say I’m in shock, because I predicted that the Republicans would lie about everything under the sun in order to slander Obama and win this election, but it does represent something significant. This convention represents a frame shift for the party, and it can be summarized quite simply: anything said in the service of the party is good and right, regardless of whether it is actually true.
The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower is dead. The Republicans are now the party of Reagan and George W. Bush. Even more so, they are a party that lauds the interests of big business, to the point where outsourcing, union busting, monopolization, and wage suppression—all at the expense of U.S. workers—are justified. See, the Republican Party doesn’t believe, frankly, in paying taxes to run the government—especially if you’re a millionaire collecting dividends on a yacht that flies the flag of the Cayman islands (Romney). Worse, Republicans don’t even want massive corporations to pay taxes. Take for example Big Oil, which still receives government subsidies and yet pays almost nothing in taxes, while reaping some of the largest corporate profits in history. This isn’t hyperbole—if you don’t believe me, go read the GOP House Plan.
Anyway, I’ve said this all before—what’s different is that the Republican Party, in this convention, made it perfectly clear that it has absolutely no regard for the truth. None whatsoever. Consider Paul Ryan’s speech for example, which is being hailed by the media as one of the most dishonest ever. Even a Fox News columnist called it: “dazzling, deceiving, and distracting.” But perhaps it’s unfair to single out Ryan—indeed, most of the speakers at the convention lied to their patrons as well as the American people (note that the link is to Politifact 8/31/12).
It’s interesting, in this sense, that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Now, look, so far, I’ve stayed away from criticizing the man’s faith—there are plenty of other, more substantive problems with his policies, or at least, what we vaguely know of them. I don’t however, as many liberals believe, think it’s below the belt; as the Republicans have clearly demonstrated, in today’s political climate, there is no honor—only winning.
Still, the reason I bring up Romney’s Mormonism is not to lie about him, or to libel his religion, but to point out an interesting coincidence. You see, in Mormonism, there is a religious statute to the effect that it is OK to lie, as long as the lie serves the purposes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That’s right: lying is A-OK in Mormonism—it’s not a sin as long as it’s self-serving. Indeed, it’s a distinct part of the churches evangelical mission. If you want more information, look it up—there’s actually a large group of ex-Mormons who are spilling the beans on lying in the name of their former religion (please excuse the strangeness of the video’s beginning).
So I guess here’s the question: are Republicans becoming Mormons? Have Mitt Romney and other Republican Mormons secretly influenced the GOP to become a party where it’s OK to lie as long as it serves their purposes? Will a President Romney, once he gains power, forcibly convert every single one of us to the LDS on inauguration day?
Ha! No, it’s no more than an organizational coincidence. For those who know about the concept of group narcissism, in which a group of people will justify or endorse the actions of members—even blatantly immoral actions—in order to promote or preserve the group’s status, it’s not so terribly surprising. However, it’s frightening, primarily because it is a process that causes morality to become arbitrary and ultimately, meaningless, but also because its consequences are so dire.
Consider for instance, that by lying so often about almost everything, Republicans have completely discredited our political system. There’s a saying teachers have: “getting into an argument with a student is like wrestling a pig—you both end up dirty and the pig loves it.” It is a perfect analogy for how the Republicans have tactically muddied the world of American politics. From afar, it is a world with two polarized parties, irreconcilable philosophies, and facts, figures, and arguments that are completely at odds. Both sides are liars, and both are equally responsible for our country’s problems.
Only, they’re not. While human error and political ambition will cause any politician to sometimes run astray of the truth, the Democratic Party still bases its political philosophy in science, facts, and an educated understanding of the world humans experience. That doesn’t mean everyone agrees with their ideas or policies, but at least they are logical and coherent. For my part, I provide links to my sources of information, and rest assured, I’ll correct any statement made on this blog that can be proven false or inaccurate. The Republican Party, on the other hand, makes no such promise, nor does it apologize for the constant lies of its members—their tactics are purely rhetorical, bereft of any allegiance to what is real, tangible, or provable. Their policies and ideas are incoherent and illogical. But they won’t let that stop them; one of Mitt Romney’s spokesman even said recently, “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
The consequences of this chronic lying, beyond the inherent loss of morality, are threefold:
1) The Democratic Party, instead of promoting or creating policies that would address the issues our nation faces, is stuck playing defense, forced by political reality to act as the watchdog instead of the alpha. Unlike the classroom teacher, the Democrats have no choice but to wrestle the pig.
2) The general public is saddled with the impossible job of becoming policy wonks in order to discover the truth. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to perform such an undertaking, and thus, end up voting without a clear understanding of what’s at stake.
3) The Republican Party becomes completely ineffective at governing. They, having become, in essence, lawyers for the bourgeoisie, and have no interest in compromises where everyone can win. Either they win, and everyone deals with the consequences, or they block compromise and refuse to deal with the other side until they get their way.
Tragically, because of this, we have lost the Republican Party our nation needs—we have lost the rational, thoughtful, fact-based conservative. In other words, there are no intellectual Republicans, even though we desperately need them. There are certain issues the Democratic Party needs to rethink, and still others where they would benefit tremendously from cooperation, collaboration, and compromise with principled conservatives. We need to fix Medicare. We need to fix Social Security. We need to fix our tax code. We need to reform our union system, especially teacher’s unions. And most of all, we need rational conservative voices to be a part of those conversations and those reforms.
But Republicans today aren’t rational, and they aren’t interested in reform, compromise, collaboration, or cooperation. On Social Security, Medicare, and unions, two words sum up their position: annihilation and privatization. Like the Mormon Church and most religions, they are interested exclusively in self-promotion, and in promoting the most powerful interests of their organization.
We need a rational conservative party to help solve our nation’s problems; unfortunately, the Republican Party isn’t the answer. And, like wrestling with the pig, as long as people vote for them it’s going to be the same thing: we all get dirty, and the Republicans love it.