This post isn’t really about Rick Santorum
But let’s look at him for a moment:
- He’s probably the country’s best-known homophobe. (Seriously he thinks about gay sex a lot, for a straight guy.)
- He’s against abortion even in cases of rape and incest (women should “make the best of a bad situation“.) He’s even against The Pill. Scratch that; he’s against ALL contraceptives.
- He thinks climate change is a hoax and based on “phony theology”.
- He opposes the EPA because it’s anti-human and anti- blue-collar. (Yes, I can see how keeping kids from being exposed to mercury, for example, is anti-human. Wait, what?)
- Government, he says, should be run on Christian principles like the founding fathers intended. He disagrees with Thomas Jefferson and with Kennedy’s speech on separation of church and state.
- Because the US is under attack by Satan…
- He doesn’t accept evolution as the guiding principle in biology. Never mind the scientific evidence or consensus
- Government should be small. It should get out of education at both the state and federal level.
- Kids should stop going to college because they will learn anti-biblical things there.
- In fact, Government should make sure there’s a mix of liberal and Certified Conservative™ professors in colleges.
I could go on – seriously. His weird view of the French Revolution, his assertion that John McCain doesn’t know from torture… the guy’s a nut; roll story and cut to commercial. Except for one thing: he’s the Republican party’s frontrunner in the current primaries. And his immediate competitor isn’t much better. So I’m going to make a modest proposal here:
“Insanity at the national level is bad for the country.”
It’s radical, I know. But hear me out: Santorum is only a symptom. The disease is that Conservatives are actually taking people like him seriously. Or to put it another way, people like him are pushing the Overton Window away from reality-based policy making in the direction of weapons-grade crazy.
Case in point: the Republicans had one candidate who could at least accept that scientists are right about climate change and evolution, but he’s trailing in sixth place. If you’re a Republican and you believe rational things, you can’t get anyone to return your calls.
This isn’t just bad for the Republican party; it’s bad for the Democratic party too. Once upon a time if a Democratic candidate was a real halfwit, people would go vote Republican because it was a realistic alternative. Now, the choice would be between halfwit and all-crazy. A Democratic candidate need be only rational enough to be the nose-holding choice over the crazy alternative. Over time – a relatively short time – this means the Democratic party degrades as well.
And it isn’t just bad for the country; it’s bad for the world. The US is in a position to exert tremendous global economic, environmental and human-rights leadership. We are heading into several bottlenecks at once: peak oil, economic collapse, fisheries (and oceanic ecosystems) collapsing, population (exponential not linear) growth, and the big one, climate change. We can’t afford to dither now, because Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn about our precious national borders. Unless of course, homosexuals got to marry or something.
But how to push that Overton Window back towards reality-based policy-making? The floor is open to suggestions, folks. Any ideas?
NOTES and updates
- My favorite example is Eisenhower vs Stevenson – what a nice problem that must have been to have.
- I’m defining “insanity” and “crazy” here as; “Stubbornly clinging to beliefs and actions that are contrary to evidence and the best current scientific consensus”. Scientists have a good track record of getting things right because they are relatively quick to weed out mistakes and errors. This is something that religions and cults of personality, never do.
- What’s an “Overton Window“? It’s a political frame for the desirability of an idea, and a technique for moving the range of what is acceptable.
- This post is inspired by a tweet from @polerin: