With the right wing being dominated by people who express views which are ignorant at best and often morally repugnant, it is hard to believe that any educated, intelligent people would actually believe what the right wingers say. It is often suspected that many right wing politicians and pundits are too intelligent to believe the right wing talking points. They continue to use them as they excite the ignorant masses (including Tea Party members) help elect them them to office and provide a source of income. Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have provided reasons to question whether they actually believe the nonsense they say, or if they are primarily saying what works best to build an audience. Over the last few days we have now had a couple additional reasons to question whether right wingers really believe their own nonsense.
The Des Moines Register recently reported on a Republican inadvertently saying what he really thinks about a gun law he is supporting when he didn’t realize a microphone was live:
A snafu during a legislative debate where a microphone was turned on captured banter between two Iowa GOP leaders, who also joked about a “give-a-handgun-to-a-schizophrenic bill.”
Republicans this week revived a proposal that would allow Iowans to carry weapons in public without permission from a sheriff, without background checks and without training requirements.
The legislation, House Study bill 219, is known as “Alaska carry,” which is law in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. Rep. Erik Helland, R-Johnston, is listed as one of the three legislators on a subcommittee assigned the bill.
We see here how a Republican will back a bill that they realize is insane, presumably to both receive the votes of right wingers and to receive contributions from the NRA.
During the 2008 campaign, and even into last year’s midterm elections, most conservatives acted as if Sarah Palin was a legitimate conservative voice. Most ignored all the evidence that Palin is ignorant of the basic facts underlying public policy, and lacks the intelligence to utilize the limited information she is aware of. If the base, which thrives on such ignorance, was supporting her, conservative leaders were generally willing to go along. Now, as it appears she might be planning to run for the 2012 nomination, many conservatives are expressing their fears both that she would be a disaster to the country if elected, and a disaster to the conservative movement if she continues to open their mouths.
There have been many conservatives criticizing Palin over the past few weeks. Daniel Larison summarized the more honest conservative view of Palin which as been emerging at The American Conservative, also conceding that the conservative movement has become more interested in shallow talking points than in being the “party of ideas.”
It’s true that Palin relies on shallow talking points, but where do these come from? They come from the institutions and leaders of the movement that is supposedly so concerned with ideas. Palin is disinterested in ideas, and she has flourished in the conservative media for years. She does rely on shallow talking points, and legions of conservative pundits have repeatedly defended her against charges that she is ignorant and incurious. Everything about her public persona since she received the VP nomination has been built up around tapping into resentment, grievance, and identity politics, all of which are in one way or another antithetical to critical thinking and substantive discussion of policy, and for a while most of her new detractors said nothing or gushed about how wonderful she was.
As long as she was useful prior to the midterms, the institutions, magazines, and leaders of the movement not only tolerated her, but actively promoted her and gave her typically glowing coverage. Those that couldn’t bring themselves to praise her went out of their way not to criticize her. Now that Palin may represent a political threat to Republican chances of regaining the White House, they are suddenly very concerned about her impact on the quality of conservative argument. Their concern would be interesting if it weren’t so belated and narrowly focused on Palin. When Moynihan made that statement about Republicans 30 years ago, it was true. Thirty years later, the label “party of ideas” has simply become another slogan that Republicans trot out in lieu of any policy ideas.