The GOP, with its reaction to climate Change and Islam, created a Vortex of Stupidity – and was promptly swallowed by it. They were in enough trouble as it was with immigration, gun violence, women, and race. They couldn’t afford this. But they did it anyway.
There was a story, advanced back in July by The Washington Post, that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Donald Trump and told him to “tone it down.” Trump, typically, responded with a denial, saying “Totally false reporting on my call with @Reince Priebus. He called me, ten minutes, said I hit a ‘nerve’, doing well, end!”
What nobody noted at the time is that this was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Priebus is no moderate himself, being the guy who says the Republican Party is a religion. The extremism of the two men is a matter of degree – a very small degree, in fact. How relevant is it how these men respectively see the world if they are both wrong?
Though Matt Taibbi is no doubt correct when he writes at Rolling Stone that it’s “too late to turn off Donald Trump,” the sad truth is, the world is too complicated a place for the Republican Party. Neither its leadership, the so-called establishment, nor its base, be they Tea Partiers or Religious Right or Libertarians, can cope. Paul Krugman was certainly right when he wrote Monday with reference to the Paris Climate talks that “the G.O.P. is spiraling ever deeper into a black hole of denial and anti-science conspiracy theorizing.”
It doesn’t matter if they all agree with Donald Trump or with each other if they are all wrong.
Take Trump’s whole Muslim imbroglio, just to use the most recent example of the conservative difficulty in wrapping their heads around actual facts:
Ross Douthat writes in his column Saturday that,
“Devout Muslims watching the current Western debates…might notice that some of the same cosmopolitan liberals who think of themselves as Benevolent Foes of Islamophobia are also convinced that many conservative Christians are dangerous crypto-theocrats whose institutions and liberties must give way whenever they conflict with liberalism’s vision of enlightenment.”
There are a couple of problems here. To be fair, first of all, the enlightenment is a liberal vision, not a conservative. It wasn’t conservatism’s idea to upset the Old World way of doing things and to vest political power in the hands of the people. That’s history 101.
Another is that we are not just convinced. It is a fact that many conservative Christians are “dangerous theocrats,” and not “crypto-” or “secret” but openly, even proudly. Is Douthat not keeping up with their rhetoric, with their threats and their promises of violence and hellfire if our liberties are not curtailed to keep in line with their visions of the Bible?
It is these conservative Christians who insist OUR institutions and liberties must give way, not the other way around. Douthat has to stop listening to Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz and the right’s other radicalized religious extremists.
Nobody is demanding that Christians give up their institutions and liberties. And that’s the other problem: Because it’s we liberals refusing to let Christians dictate to us what rights we do and do not have. Only the Constitution decides that, not the Bible.
But Douthat is famous for his sweeping mischaracterizations of fact.
It’s funny that conservative Christians can see Islam as incompatible with the ideals of the liberal democratic West even though they themselves are at the same time busily subverting our pluralistic liberal democracy in the name of their religion. It’s funny too that Douthat can’t see it while pretending to look fairly at the situation by blaming both sides.
Douthat seems to give ground when he goes on to say that devout Muslims “also might notice that many of the same conservative Christians who fear that Islam is incompatible with democracy are wrestling with whether their own faith is compatible with the direction of modern liberalism, or whether Christianity needs to enter a kind of internal exile in the West.”
Yet it isn’t the direction of “modern liberalism,” but of the ideals of the Founding Fathers and of the European Enlightenment that gave birth to those ideals. The 18th century’s conservatives were Tories, not patriots. Conservatives don’t launch revolutions; they oppose them. The status quo of conservatism was the King and Parliament.
In fact, when Nicholas Kristof writes in another Saturday op-ed that “more than three-quarters of Republicans said that Islam was incompatible with life in the United States,” that does not mean that their own religion is not incompatible with life in the United States. At least, with the lives of atheists, Muslims, Heathens like me, women, and others.
“Faith is complicated,” as Kristof points out, and yes, “religion is invariably a tangle of contradictory teachings.” Kristof argues that “What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.”
And Donald Trump, as he points out, is a problem because of what is in his heart:
Trump’s bluster reinforces the Islamic State narrative of a clash of civilizations, and undercuts moderates. In my travels in Muslim countries, I’m sometimes asked about Islamophobia. In the past, I’ve been able to say something like: Well, the Rev. Terry Jones may be planning to burn Qurans, but he’s a fringe figure. Alas, Trump can’t be explained away as a fringe figure.
In international relations, extremists on one side empower extremists on the other side. ISIS empowers Trump, who inadvertently empowers ISIS. He’s not confronting a national security threat; he’s creating one.
Kristof preaches to the choir here when he concludes, ultimately, that “Yes, the Islamic world today has a strain of dangerous intolerance. And for all of America’s strengths as a society, as Donald Trump shows, so does America.”
America means getting along in a crowd, a crowd of people who aren’t identical to you. We can’t do that if we’re busy “otherizing” the people around us, demonizing them based on their beliefs or their appearance. It is as easy these days for an African American to assume a white guy wants to gun them down as it is for the white guy to assume the person in the strange clothes has a bomb strapped to his or her chest.
That’s no way to live. And these white people who see terrorists everywhere they see people with brown skin don’t realize that they themselves are terrorists when they act out on that fear, or that their values threaten the values of other white people, including gays, women, atheists, and Heathens like me, to name just a few.
Republicans like to think they speak for us all. Trump’s supporters think they’re a silent majority when, in fact, they’re a radicalized minority.
The problem is that the world is not black and white. It’s complicated, like Kristof says, and Trump and other Republicans are offering us simplistic solutions that don’t match the problem, because they refuse to see the problem in all its complexities; the nuance, the many shades of gray their ideology does not allow.
That Ross Douthat titled his column “The Islamic Dilemma” says it all. That Republicans focus on the idea of an “Islamic problem” shows us how catastrophically insufficient is their understand of the world.
The dilemma is not Islamic at all, and Douthat’s fairness is pretended. One has to conclude that the world has become too complicated for the Republican Party, and by extension, for Donald Trump.
That is not the world’s problem, however Trump may characterize it, but Trump’s, and that of his supporters. Trump calls the rest of us “dumb” but we’re not the dumb ones, Donald. You are.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.