Republican Political Philosophy

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Plenty has been written about the correlation between Republicanism and authoritarianism; I'm going to take a different (though compatible) tack, and put it in less technical terms based on my own observations:

In short, Republicans don't see politics the way rational people do.

Rational people living in a free society see politics as the process of arriving at policies that work as well as possible for the most people. We may have disagreements about the best policies, but they're based on honest beliefs about what the known evidence suggests. Any discussion should be about sharing evidence to minimize disagreement, and working out compromises until we arrive at a position that most participants agree is at least acceptable.

Yes, we recognize that in reality things often don't work this way -- but it bothers us when they don't. We see mudslinging as a failure in our representatives, and we'll tend to vote against someone who uses personal attacks to overcome an opponent's position.

Republicans, however, see politics as being more like an Olympic gladiatorial mud-slinging contest, a team sport, where the key criterion for a good leader is that they defeat the other candidates, by any means necessary -- not that they have the first clue about running a government.

Republicans will cheer when one of their representatives manages to change a civilized discussion of relevant issues into a brawl, if that's what it takes to get people to overlook the fact that their position has no merit. The guy won, didn't he? So what's the problem?

In Republican politics there's absolutely nothing wrong with lying to the public, even if it causes harm to your constituents (present or future). All that matters is whether it will help advance your (and by extension the Party's) position and whether you can get away with it. Having won, the winner will naturally be the candidate best qualified for the job -- never mind that the contest filters for qualities almost completely unrelated to job performance.[1]

Likewise, the only bad thing about accepting a bribe is the risk of your enemies finding out and using it against you; there's not actually anything wrong with it, in the Republican worldview. It helps fund the Party -- and the Party's ideology thus becomes, over time, the ideology of those with extra money and a shortage of scruples.

To a Republican, positions of power are rewards to be given out for loyalty -- not important work to be done by those best capable of using it, and certainly not implying any kind of responsibility or duty to those underneath or to those supposedly being served.

It is by this irresponsible and underhanded ethos -- victory at any cost, we're always right, suppress any information that shows we might be wrong, destroy public understanding of government and democracy -- that Republicanism has not only thrived but remade much of American culture in its own image: violent, hateful, narrow-minded, dishonest, ignorant, superstitious, paranoid, blindly loyal to the undeserving and trusting of the untrustworthy.

Put more simply: Republican ideology has made us gullible and stupid.

Or, rather, it has made you stupid. Yes, you out there -- railing about how terrible Donald Trump is while preparing to vote for Ted Cruz. Cruz's policies are, on the whole, no better than those proposed by Trump; the only difference is that Cruz is constrained by the needs of the Party establishment, and will backtrack when he accidentally carries Party beliefs to their logical conclusions in public. Trump is that logical conclusion; he is everything the Party wants to say but is afraid to; he is everything that right-wing voters have come to believe because Republicans have led them to believe it. (Listen to Cruz's dad sometime if you want to understand better where Cruz is really coming from.)

What this really comes down to, though, is that the Republican base represents people who don't care enough about the facts to bother checking them, and probably don't have a clue about how to do so. They'll blindly go along with whatever false beliefs their trusted leaders present to them -- and savagely defend those beliefs against any evidence they encounter, no matter how compelling.

  • Scientific method: collect evidence, make guesses, and test those guesses against reality to see if they hold up
  • Republican method: believe what you're told, look for evidence to prop it up

This is not a noble thing, but they seem to think it is. The Republican idea of "how we decide which things are true and which things are false" is basically 100% inverted from the scientific method: instead of collecting evidence, making guesses, and testing those guesses against reality to see if they hold up, Republicans take the truth they are handed and look for evidence to prop it up -- and the only reason they bother looking for evidence is with the hope of convincing us heathens that there is something to their beliefs; they'd be just as happy closing their eyes and ears and just Believing.

This is an absolutely terrible way to attempt to understand the universe, much less run a government. It's the opposite of what works.

If you can't be bothered to check the facts your leaders are giving you -- to research the issues you're voting on, whether or not they affect you personally -- to understand what the other side is arguing, and why -- then ask an informed Democrat or independent[2] to explain them to you, or to offer suggestions on how to vote. If you're the sort of person who prefers to let others make the big decisions, then try trusting your informed neighbor instead of the megacorporate news or "conservative" web sites and blogs.

Footnotes

  1. This is an example of another common Republican belief: the "just world" fallacy, where virtue is dependably rewarded and lack of reward is a reliable signal of non-virtue. I'll discuss this more later.
  2. I can't recommend asking a Libertarian, unfortunately. They make sense on some issues, but on too many others their beliefs are similarly based on bad logic and sophistry.