Rachel Maddow commenting Wednesday night on MSNBC on the new Gallup Poll that showed the Republican Party’s approval rating plummeting to 28%, the lowest for either party since pollsters first began asking the question:
“That apparently is the reward that you get if you can stretch your government shutdown to be longer than Hanukkah. It is more than eight crazy nights now. We are into Day 9.”
Maddow links the Republicans’ collapse in public opinion to the growing phenomenon of default denial — that is, the surge in GOP lawmakers publicly declaring that the debt ceiling is no big deal, or even that it’s something Democrats made up to scare them, and that crashing it won’t make a difference. Or in extreme cases, like Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, say things like hitting the debt limit “would bring stability to the world markets.” Yoho’s district, incidentally, includes the University of Florida in Gainesville, ranked 14th among America’s public universities.
What’s scariest about this talk is not simply that the American and world economies are being held hostage by a group of extremists who are willing to take us all to the brink in order to achieve a policy goal that they couldn’t win at the ballot box. It’s that the American government, and through it the welfare of the developed world, are at the mercy of a group of profoundly uncurious ignoramuses, elected by a larger group of ignoramuses, who fundamentally don’t believe in knowledge.
It’s not just that they don’t understand global market economics—it’s that they don’t think there’s anything to understand, and they neither believe nor trust educated people like economists who try and explain the ramifications of these decisions that they’ve been entrusted with. We’ve seen this same attitude in action over the past few years in their contempt for climate science.
It seemed for a long time that they were simply in thrall to the energy industry. But now it’s becoming evident that it’s much deeper. They’re openly contemptuous of the very idea that there is something to understand. They think the global system over which they hold the levers is a child’s toy, and they suspect that eggheads who tell them these things are complicated and delicate are trying to pull one over on them. We’re living in a bad rerun of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
The poster boy for all this is probably Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who was quoted in Tuesday’s New York Times dismissing the debt ceiling, saying “[t]here are a lot of things that are going to affect our economy.”
“The greatest threat right now is Obamacare. It’s already destroyed jobs, it’s already destroyed our economy, and if it stays in place as it is now, it’s going to destroy America.”
Broun, you’ll recall, is the congressman who told a church dinner in his district in September 2012 that evolution, embryology and the big bang theory “is [sic] lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” said Broun, who is an MD. “It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” He continued: “You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”
Broun is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, including the subcommittee on energy and environment. He’s also a member of the Homeland Security Committee, where he’e vice-chairman of the subcommittee on counter-terrorism and—get this—intelligence. He was reelected to the House unopposed last year. He’s currently running for U.S. Senate. His district includes the University of Georgia at Athens. Socrates must be rolling over in his grave.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).