GOP: stuck on stupid?

Political candidates often make gaffes, or mistakes, on the campaign trail, which is understandable as they are, in fact, human. However, lately many Republicans have gone from making simple gaffes to saying things that are outright ridiculous.

When speaking of the ridiculous, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin seems to be a great place to start. She is currently on a Sarah PAC “One Nation” bus tour on the East Coast visiting historical spots. In Boston, visiting sights along the Freedom Trail, a reporter asked her about what she had seen that day. She responded that she had seen the early home of Paul Revere and then went on to stunning historical inaccuracies. According to Palin, Revere “who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.” She later doubled down on that falsehood when called out by Fox News’s Chris Wallace, stating that she knows her American history.

This isn’t the first time (or likely, the last) that Palin has been (extremely) factually inaccurate. Back in January, Palin attacked President Obama’s State of the Union address on Fox’s “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren. Taking issue with Obama’s use of the phrase “Sputnik moment,” Palin went on a tirade, calling it “one of those WTF moments,” stating that Sputnik, launched by the USSR in 1957, caused the USSR to go massively into debt and collapse, and inquiring as to why Obama would want to follow that path.  In fact, the USSR survived another 38 years following the launch of the satellite.  Besides wondering if Palin knows the meaning of “WTF,” it would be nice to know where she took sixth grade history.

Not to be outdone, Congresswoman and Tea Party Caucus founder Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has a few historical inaccuracies of her own. Bill Maher, on his HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher” sarcastically endorsed her saying she is “for those who think that Sarah Palin is too intellectual.”

While visiting New Hampshire in March, Bachmann remarked that it was the state “where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord,” ignoring the fact that those skirmishes took place in Massachusetts. Even more embarrassing: she repeated it in two different speeches.

Among other things, Bachmann has said there is no scientific backing to claim that carbon monoxide is a harmful gas, the message of “Lion King” is that gays can do things better because it happened to be written by a gay man, and hundreds of Nobel-Prize-winning scientists believe in intelligent design. She also said, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, that the media should investigate whether members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”

However, the fact that these two Republican politicians have such fervent tea party support isn’t that surprising when one considers the nature of the tea party rallies. These rallies started coming into prominence around 2009 after the inauguration of Barack Obama. At one rally in Washington last year, two-thirds said they believed that their taxes had been increased, even though taxes were lowered under Obama’s stimulus program. Yes, that’s right, a group founded around the issue of taxes had little knowledge of taxes. Looks like Palin and Bachmann will do fine with this group.  

Add this to the list of things Rick Santorum has said about lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender people and Muslims, the claim by Congressman Joe Barton, R-Texas, that CO2 cannot be regulated because “you can’t regulate God,” and the Republican-controlled Texas Board of Education allowing Master’s degrees to be granted in “creation science,” and you see that this party has its fair share of questionable intelligence – or at least pandering to the ignorant.

Perhaps the scary thing is that often these people have electoral success. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Joe Barton (not to mention George W. Bush) have all been elected in spite of the jaw-droppingly ignorant nature of many of their comments.

Among the GOP base, many of these characters have, at least, a moderate level of support. A recent Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa of presidential candidates found that Sarah Palin came in second with 15 percent and Bachmann was fifth with 11 percent among likely GOP voters. A May 26 Gallup poll among GOP voters found that Palin came in second to Mitt Romney for presidential preference, while Bachmann and Santorum polled 5 percent and 2 percent respectively.

This may be related to the findings of a University of Maryland study, which concluded that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed group among consumers of news outlets. The study found that watching the channel, often accused of being a GOP mouthpiece, made viewers more likely to believe false statements such as that their income taxes have gone up (14 percent more likely to believe), or that most scientists do not support the notion of climate change (30 percent more likely).

Overall, it seems the GOP has embraced some of its most uninformed politicians as they gather to try to retake the White House in 2012.

Image: Mike Licht, CC 2.0


Ryan C. Ebersole
Ryan C. Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole is a mental health counselor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having finished his Masters degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, his undergraduate degree at the University of Evansville in Indiana, high school in the Fort Worth area of Texas and pre-K in Puerto Rico, and having been born in Florida, he has experienced several areas of the county.

While in Indiana, he worked at a social work agency for HIV+ clients, as well as a low-income community drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility - both of which caused him to take a great interest in the stigmatized and the disadvantaged in our society. Now as a mental health professional, he hopes to serve these groups, as well as continue political activism, especially for LGBT and health care rights, on the side.