Andrew Sullivan: “How Loony is the Right?”

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    Over at The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan wonders, “How Loony is the Right?” Sullivan’s question is prompted by Newt Gingrich’s latest outburst, this time that America is somehow facing – get this now – the danger of “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” Sullivan has great fun mocking Gingrich, and indeed it’s fun:

    …this, I think, is where Gingrich gets his otherwise absurd reputation for being an intellectual.

    What he does is grasp constantly for huge, world-historical theories and systems in order to situate himself in the present. Doubt rattles him; moderation befuddles him; pragmatism offends him. Only Great Ideas appeal. But he is too emotional to separate his feelings from his thoughts in all this (a human failing but one to be resisted as best one can). And so the content of the ideas becomes secondary to their political usefulness. Only then – when Gingrich sees himself as utterly right and, duh, winning – does he feel comfortable.

    Yes, it’s fun to mock these loons and their bizarre/ultra-paranoid John Birch Society ideas, but it’s also frightening how many of them there are – Donald Trump the “Birther” being the latest – and how many of their voters buy into this lunacy.

    For instance, check out this new CNN poll, which has only 20% of Republicans “definitely” believing that Barack Obama was born in the United States (43% say he was “definitely” or “probably born in another country”). How can you even reason with people who “believe” something that’s categorically, factually, demonstrably (and has been so demonstrated) false? And it’s not just on this issue, either. On anthropogenic climate change, about which there is voluminous, overwhelming scientific (e.g., NOT partisan or ideological in any way) evidence, only 36% acknowledge the scientifically correct answer, that the “rise in earth’s temperatures [is] due to pollution from human activities.” In contrast, 71% of Democrats  and 51% of Independents (both numbers should be 100%, of course) acknowledge reality.

    We could do this on issue after issue, where it’s not just a matter of having differing opinions, it’s a matter of Republicans believing – against all evidence to the contrary – a completely different set of facts. Again, how does one reason or work with someone who operates off a completely non-fact-based set of assumptions about the world? At best, it’s not going to be easy.

    • NotJohnSMosby

      How can you be a radical Islamist and an atheist?  A secular athiest – instead of the garden variety religous one – to boot?  

      Nevermind, this is the same crew that brought you cries of “he’s a fascist communist” and the rest.

    • aznew

      I started following the links in this post, and eventually wound up a right wing Bizzaro world. Reading posts there is like passing a major wreck on the freeway – you just can’t believe what you are seeing. It is both fascinating and disturbing.

      I’m thinking we are in a period of realignment for America’s political parties, and the emergence and dominance of these fringe groups is simply one symptom. The pressure has been building for some time in both parties, and while the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010 was the first major tremor, it is probably neither the last nor the most severe, for the GOP.

      In the short term, in the absence of the emergence of a uniting national figure in the GOP — if one is even possible anymore — the wingiest of the wingers will splinter off into smaller parties whose, for lack of a better word, ideological purity will afford them more temporary influence than their actual numbers deserve. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.

      Incidentally, I don’t think the Democrats will escape this realignment, either. The Tea Party phenomenon appears in the short term to have served as a rallying point for both the left and left-center wings of the party for the meantime, but the emergence of a more centrist GOP could begin to generate the same fissures among Democrats. Progressives, of course, have their share of extremists as well, but for the time being they don;t seem to have gained the same level of support or tolerance in Democratic circles that some of the more right wing extremists have in GOP ones.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      If Gingrich ever had a soul, he would have just lost it.  But this kind of stuff (quoted in the Sullivan article you linked) shows he has sunk to new depths.  In the course of my lifetime, pols who used to be a lot more subtle in their  statements have gone right into the looney bin.  They will say absolutely anything.  And their followers let them get away with it.