The Republican Anti-Enlightenment Express Rolls On In Another Goofy Debate

So, another Republican presidential debate brings more confirmation of what the Republican Party has become. It's probably the most reactionary major conservative party of any in the advanced industrial world.

It can't be a coincidence that the two most aggressive know-nothings in the race, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, are the two leaders in the polls. The Republican Party has become the anti-Enlightenment party, extremely antithetical to the Enlightenment ethic of expanding knowledge which animated the founders of this nation.

Half of Republican voters don't believe in evolution; only 37 percent believe in this long settled matter of how life on Earth exists. And until very recently, most Republicans were climate change deniers. Only recent developments, such as the Pope's intervention and major new alarums from nearly all scientists involved have altered that. Without, of course, altering the insistence by the fossil fuel funders of the Republican Party that nothing is to be done.

As I noted three months ago, whatever happens to Trump -- and right now he is still at least a co-frontrunner for the nomination -- Trumpism, like the Palinism which preceded it, is well established. Few if any candidates will disagree with the core tenets of know-nothingism. They're afraid to.

If there are Republican candidates who stand up for evolution and climate science -- which is to say, for science and knowledge in general -- they sure aren't establishing any profiles in courage on the Republican debate stage. What is standard in most civilized circles on the planet is rare to vanishing in the Republican presidential race.

The silence of the disappointing Jeb Bush and supposedly rising Marco Rubio -- candidates arguably in hailing distance of the top tier, and supposedly at least halfway educated -- speaks volumes.

Rubio seemed deft on the Milwaukee stage, but it's all relative. Rubio needs to beware the fate of the chameleon on plaid.

Elected to the U.S. Senate just five years ago as a Tea Party fave rave, he's now seen as the smart choice of establishment "moderate" conservatives who throw up their hands at the poor performance of Jeb Bush. He sure doesn't want to talk about his "furriner friendly," and corporate friendly immigration plan any more than he wants to talk about evolution. But before he embraced reactionary populism to win high office he has done nothing with, Rubio was a good ole boy down Tallahassee way as the Bush-mentored speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

I think of Rubio as an Obama ultra-light. He may take flight, but he has the same sort of preparedness problems Obama had, only more intensely so.

A state legislator just a few years before he began running for president. A one-term U.S. senator even less engaged than Obama, who never held a meeting of the the important subcommittee he chaired. A personable person of color with the difference being that his actual constituency, Cuban-Americans, is a very small and atypical minority of Latinos. And his origin story is false. His family didn't flee Castro's Cuba, as Rubio long claimed, they moved to Miami years before the Communist revolution.

Rubio is a would-be Republican Obama who went to lesser universities and can give a pleasant talk but not a great speech. (Obama's 2004 Democratic convention keynote address, the making of his national reputation, is one of the classic speeches of the modern era.)

But to consider Rubio is to consider a future that might never arrive. Not if honorary Bush 'bro Mike Murphy and his massively-funded LA-based super PAC Right To Rise has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, we have the frontrunners, the know-nothingism they reflect, and the, er, message discipline that imposes on the rest of the field.

Trump, who until recently didn't know the difference between the Kurds and the Quds Force, recouped from recent slides Tuesday night with a more coherent form of bombast. His highlight? There will be a "deportation force" to round up and expel 11 million illegal immigrants now part of the mosaic of American life.

Let's see, what color shirts should this force deputized to round up brown people wear? Let's think ...

And then there was Dr. Carson.

For a party supposedly so opposed to affirmative action, the latter-day Republican Party sure seems to practice it with regard to African American presidential candidates. So long as they push a far right political agenda, that is.

How else to explain how in two straight election cycles two absolute ignoramuses have gotten their turns as Republican presidential frontrunner?

In 2012, it was Herman Cain, the fast food mogul and inspirational speaker who insisted that the People's Republic of China should be prevented from getting nuclear weapons. Sure, Herman. Let's send a mission back in time and stop that from happening, you know, over 50 years ago.

Now we have Dr. Ben Carson, whose frequently hateful ignorance had already been on ample display, attacking Islam, calling Obamacare "slavery," claiming that Jews in World War II could have avoided the SS round-ups for death camps if they carried handguns, saying that gay marriage causes bestiality.

On Tuesday night, he hit new heights of errant nonsense.

Consider this Carson gem about how to defeat Isis:

We're talking about global jihadists. And their desire is to destroy us and to destroy our way of life. So we have to be saying, how do we make them look like losers? Because that's the way that they're able to gather a lot of influence.

And I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that? It would be in Iraq. And if -- outside of Anbar in Iraq, there's a big energy field. Take that from them. Take all of that land from them. We could do that, I believe, fairly easily, I've learned from talking to several generals, and then you move on from there.

This is just witless gibberish. It's not only very stupid, it's obviously dishonest. There isn't a general in the world who would say that.

Carson should stay away from all military-related topics, since he really doesn't have a clue. Despite having been Detroit's top Junior ROTC cadet as a teenager. Which means precisely squat in terms of actual military experience.

A publication recently shot down Carson's long-standing claim in his biography and lectures of having turned down a "full scholarship" to West Point. Which supposedly had been arranged after he met with General William Westmoreland, our unsuccessful commander in the Vietnam War. Except Westmoreland wasn't in Detroit when Carson claims they met. And Westmoreland, not incidentally a terrible general, wasn't in a position to offer a full scholarship. Having gotten into West Point myself, I know that it doesn't give out full scholarships, it admits people who win appointments from members of Congress, the Senate, and the Executive Branch. You're not "on scholarship" at West Point, you are being paid as a member of the U.S. Army.

Carson doesn't even know the right terminology to tell the fake story he has now backed away from. One wonders, too, about the folks who have been reading this nonsense and sitting through it in his lectures over the years as well. Are they that ignorant about the military, too? Or do they not care because he's mouthing the platitudes they long to hear?

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