Monday, November 16, 2015

Race to be right's anti-intellectual champion

Sure, it seems like the race for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination has been going on since lily pads were green. However, let's acknowledge that it was just June 16 when the starter's gun fired.

Or, when Donald Trump first shot off his mouth.

Trump registered in decibels and kinship with xenophobes the moment he accused Mexico of shipping rapists and murderers our way.

For a fifth of Republicans polled, he had them at "hello," and they haven't budged.

Seeing which way the derby flags were flying, the field began to bunch almost immediately at the wind of his tail in a quest to be the contender who most deftly defied logic.

Well, it's neck-and-neck now, with Trump astride Sea Bigot while Ben Carson applies the whip to a steed named Mythmaker.

It doesn't matter to about a fifth of Republicans that the "bio" part of Carson's biography is flickering up there with the Marfa Lights. The man's an "X Files" episode that TV found too bizarre to air.

It doesn't matter that he's explained away basic history (Egypt's Pyramids were constructed by Joseph to store grain) and basic science (The Big Bang is a "fairy tale," and evolution theory is promoted by the devil).

No, these things aren't campaign problems for Carson at this point. They're precisely why for about a fifth of Republicans polled, he had them at "hello."

On the right – where else would he be? Ted Cruz, well, let's see: He made a point to be at a particularly significant event the other day, a homophobe conference in Des Moines, hosted by a particularly odious preacher named Kevin Swanson.

Swanson has made a name for himself with anti-gay remarks that make the beyond-venomous Westboro Baptist Church seem – what? -- Christlike?

Swanson has said that people should attend gay weddings and hold up signs saying the happy couple should be put to death.

Cruz was in the audience in Des Moines and took the microphone to mighty applause at a conference at which Swanson said parents should drown their children rather than let them read Harry Potter.

Yes, it's one thing to appeal to conservative Christians, Sen. Cruz. It's another to sing "Kumbaya" with one who supports, as Swanson does, legislation in Uganda to make homosexuality a criminal offense.

But let's understand that this race is all about appealing to the hardest of the hard right, the encrusted core of a political party that once could be described as pragmatic and centrist at its center.

People like Dwight Eisenhower and Everett Dirksen, and later people like Bob Dole and Alan Simpson, once were nominate-able in their party. No way today, Dole will be the first to tell you.

For generations, the GOP was smart enough, by and large, to nominate people who would appeal to the political center. That's called political survival. What to call it now? It's a plunge into the tar pit.

Carson is a particularly curious case: a man of letters, and presumably of science as a surgeon — yet his proclamations are those of a traveling medicine show.

Homosexuality? He asserts it to be choice, because — look at what happens to people behind bars. That's some scientific study, Doctor.

Lack of governing experience? Carson has a lyrical way to dismiss people who know what they are doing. "The Ark was built by amateurs," he told a Colorado audience. "The Titanic was built by professionals."

Yes, he got an "amen" to that. That's called giving the people – at least one fifth of those who call themselves Republicans — what they want.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


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