None So Blind: The Republicans’ Beliefs
WC was saddened but unsurprised to read recently that 63% of Republicans still believe President Obama was born in another country. And 63% of Republicans believe Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. A recent poll by YouGov provides these dismaying tidbits.
The same poll shows Republicans to be much more hawkish, ready to involve the U.S. in yet more land wars in Asia. And strongly committed to a stronger national defense. But utterly unwilling to agree to higher taxes to pay for it.
How can you debate, how can you have an intelligent conversation with citizens whose beliefs are false in fact? How can you argue that facts with someone for whom facts don’t matter? How can the truth make you free if you are incapable of recognizing the truth?
It’s a low point for our country. Thomas Paine believed that,
[M]an can infuse and draw out the good of fellow men in society in theatres of political participation by using his conscience and his reason. Society arose because men needed one another, and is a workshop for its citizens to experiment and self-correct. As nature created him for social life, she fitted him for the station she intended. In all cases she made his natural wants greater than his individual powers; thus the need for a natural reciprocity recognizing our moral and societal interdependence. It is through our sociability that we can expand our perspectives to greater mutual understanding and more inclusive, universal thought. In the process of reasoning with each other, we can view our own limitations, those of others, and correct our errors in thinking.
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, p. 187
But if our fellow citizens are incapable of reason, if their prejudices and their ignorance blind them to facts, Paine’s system breaks down. If nearly two-thids of Republicans believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when the Bush administration, with every motivation to find them, purely could not, how can Paine’s theory of a republic work?
James Madison, 4th President and the principle author of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The Republican party, it would appear, is unarmed.