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Have eight years of Bush made the GOP stupid?

It wasn't that long ago that I was in the heyday of my Republicanism, engrossed in books by the likes of Michael Savage and Ann Coulter.  In these books, the Republican authors discussed the idiocy of the Democratic Party and their liberalism.  Particularly Coulter, who wrote the book Slander, which talked of the inability of liberals to argue past childish name-calling, celebrated the intellect of her Republican comrades. 

Now, nearing eight years of President George Bush's term in office, one has to wonder if Republicans still hold their "monopoly" on intelligence? 

For years, Republicans touted their ability to argue above the "feel-good" politics of their liberal counterparts.  Republicans, who argued economic theory and frequently pointed to the proven incompetence of government to solve even the most basic problems, easily flouted arguments of liberals that were based on emotional appeal and listed government intervention as solution. 

Then, September 11 changed the world, and consequently, solidified the downward spiral of the Republican Party into the pit of intellectual bankruptcy. 

Most Republicans will deny that they have lost their superiority in political discourse.  This, of course, is because liberals have not regained it; therefore, in comparison (which is how Republicans now view reality) Republicans believe they couldn't have possibly fallen to the same level as liberals.

However, since 9/11, the GOP has been reduced to an Orwellian style of political debate, devoid of the objectiveness that it once used to defend capitalism and the necessity to shrink government.  Using the same style of debate common to those of Democrats, Republicans now go straight for the emotional appeal, taking the easier route than formulating reasoned arguments for what they are demanding.  Lacking any sort of intelligence, the overall impression of Republican debate in a post-9/11 society is that of a screaming child—irrational and nonsensical.  

It has become impossible to debate with Republicans on issues, especially any of those relating to terrorism.  Given that Republicans claim this issue has significant impetus for the presidential election, one would think debate on this issue would have a similar importance.  Not so, according to Republicans, who have tried to claim the moral high ground in the debate without even providing concrete evidence for their positions. 

During the mid-90s budget debate, Congressional Democrats painted their Republican colleagues as "greedy" when Republicans refused to cooperate in approving Clinton's budget.  Republicans, failing to provide any sort of rebuttal, never regained the moral authority in the debate.  A decade later, Republicans are now doing the same to their opponents, and though the issues may have changed, the unprincipled debate method is still the same.

Sean Hannity lambastes those who disapprove of the ongoing occupation of Iraq as being "un-American," or "not supporting the troops," and the debate stops at these petty barbs without further elaboration of how exactly not supporting intervention in foreign nations is un-American, or not in support of the troops.  For all he cares, and apparently truly believes, the argument has already been won. 

This is just the surface of the Republican slip into intellectual dishonesty. 

A common theme in George Orwell's allegorical novels of authoritarianism is the breakdown of reason among the general population. The societies in Orwell's novel abandon rational thinking, instead believing whatever the government spoon-feeds them.  Misinformation is so common it becomes like a daily exercise in loyalty to the state by a population so brainless they act like organic robots. 

There are many parallels to the societies in Orwell's book and the current state of the Republican Party. 

Republicans today regurgitate party talking points like human-loudspeakers, unable to differentiate spin from reality. Truth is irrelevant, and if the facts differ from the party line, there is surely some nefarious entity behind the discrepancy.  Their arguments are not even consistent, often changing with the Party's political strategy.

Iraq began as a crusade against a dictator who represented an "imminent threat" against U.S. interests.  Then, the war quickly became a humanitarian mission to remove an evil dictator who oppressed his people.  The transition was seamless, and quickly forgotten.  Those that fervently believed in the national security argument just as fervently believed in the humanitarian side of it.  Although George Bush had not but three years prior said he would never use U.S. troops in nation building, the GOP dictated to Republicans that this was right, and they swallowed it whole.

The denial of reality; abandonment of logic; willingness to accept data as fact so long as it came from a familiar source; and their sincere belief said data is fact, without even so much as considering it to be untrue, are all signs of a GOP growing dumber by the day. 

How did the GOP end up in this pathetic state?

Following the 9/11 terror attacks, the American people from all political backgrounds rallied behind the president to rebuild and strike back against the enemies of freedom.  In this rapidly changing atmosphere, our guard against authority was temporarily let down.  When Americans finally woke from the coma of nationalism, many realized the dangerous path down which the country was headed. 

The resistance thereafter turned into a partisan fight, with one side fighting against a new war and a new breed of conservatives that were deadset on expanding government power, and the other side desperate to ride the wave of nationalism until it finally broke.

What first turned out to be a clever strategy playing to patriotism and the necessity for security became a war of propaganda and spin.  The Bush administration's agitprop became more prevalent, and the need to believe those lies more profound.  If you supported the government, you were a patriot.  Should you oppose it, you were un-American. 

As more time passed, the propaganda war became a fact of life, and Republicans who were consistently fed all the right lines remained hooked on the machine.  It was far easier (and far more successful) to toe the line than swim against the current.  Reasoned discourse was substituted for emotion-fueled debates over national security and "staying the course."

'We must win the war in Iraq!' What constitutes a victory? Few Republicans can define it.  'Without the amendments to FISA, New York will cease to exist.' (Yes, this was an actual argument made from a very prominent writer in the conservative movement) How will giving government this power protect Americans?  No one knows.  'The sacrifices we've made to civil liberties have prevented another terror attack.'  Can this be proven? No, you're just supposed to believe it—that is, unless you don't want America to be safe. 

Republicans became what they always hated: Unfiltered vessels willing to be filled with whatever was dumped into their hollowness.

Fortunately, this era of stupidity can only last so long before the arguments become so absurd they begin to lose their effectiveness.  The steady decline of the Bush administration's approval ratings clearly illustrate that such conditions can only be tolerated so much.

Until then, the debates between Republicans and Democrats will be much as they are today: Lots of talking points and little substance.  Candidates would rather talk about scandal than real policy, and Americans will suffer as a result. 

Should real debate once again emerge in American politics, it will be the result of a social change that finally rejects the pathetic and childish barbs as a substitute for discourse.