Elevating Ignorance Comes Back To Bite The GOP

The conservative movement, particularly its modern American element, has celebrated ignorance. From Barry Goldwater’s support for using nuclear weapons in Vietnam to Sarah Palin describing “what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read?” as a “gotcha” question.

The pinnacle of conservative ignorance was, of course, the never-ending support of an obvious moron in the guise of George W. Bush for president. Watching the GOP campaign, they are now realizing they may have gone too far with putting stupid up on a pedestal:

“It is an ‘Animal House.’ It’s a food fight,” said Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. “Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world.”

Even before his “oops” moment in one of the debates last week, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas stumbled his way through an answer about Pakistan and nuclear weapons. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has offered a series of historical goofs. And after mistakenly saying China does not have nuclear weapons, Herman Cain on Monday painfully gave an answer to a question about Libya in which he all but acknowledged having little grasp of the military actions that took place there.

Too late, geniuses. You’ve ingrained ignorance in the modern GOP and the conservative movement. You deny verifiable science. You deny obvious facts. You attack those who use intelligence over their “gut.” And on and on and on.

This is the world you made, conservatives. Swim in Lake Ignorance.


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  • TheRealityBasedDave

    RR- “C’mon wingnuts, argue evolution with me.”

    My standard argument goes along the lines of, “I’ll believe that your sky-god created the universe if you can prove to me that my sky-god (FSM) did not. Saying the bible says so, is not valid.”
    Shuts ‘em up. Every time.

  • Matthew_Hubbard


    Forgive me for misjudging you. You are the perfect 21st Century conservative.

    You get a fact wrong. When this is pointed out, you act as though the fact is not worth knowing, even though you made the incorrect reference in the first place with no one prompting you. When corrected, you need to insult the person who corrected you and play the wounded party.

    You can’t possibly see Cain’s character defects. It’s like someone walking into your house and telling you it stinks. You have been there so long, you couldn’t possibly notice.

    And just to correct you again, Monty Python in the original is 40 years old, not 30. The Hollywood Bowl tour was a nostalgia gig.

    Study a little. It does wonders.

  • DerFarm

    You guys seem to think that Gingrich is some kind of southern intellect in the manner of Faulkner, Miller, Foote and Caldwell. Get real.

    Have any of you actually READ anything by Newt Gingrich? Trite, overblown, repetitive and derivative. Hopefully, I’m using the terms correctly. Essentially his fiction is BORING. I would point your attention to his Gettysburg novel (http://www.amazon.com/Gettysburg-Novel-Civil-Newt-Gingrich/dp/0312987250/ref=cm_lmf_tit_2). If you are going to steal ideas, do a better job. The rest of his fiction is much the same. A tired reiteration of the Great Man theory of history … better done by many others.

    I have never been able to read his boring non-fiction, so I can’t address the actual content. I would submit however, that anything that boring can’t be good … even if it is.

    Newt is not deliberately ignorant. He doesn’t need to be.

  • Buzz Killington

    db, Cain is the only one in particular that I was putting the willfully ignorant title on, and I am sticking with that. I understand what you meant, basically a big picture / little detail distinction when deciding if a person, as a whole, is ignorant. With Cain, though, I believe there have been too many instances of him showing a lack of relevant knowledge to let it pass.

    Additionally, I’ve seen nothing from him that makes me believe he’s making much of an effort to correct that problem. One page daily briefings and explicitly opinining that “I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy. Just thought I’d throw that out” are, I think, exactly the kind of things Oliver is talking about. That’s not even mentioning the fact that he has no experience on politics whatsoever. Obama has suffered from his inexperience, and he at least had *some*.

    But, I will offer you a compromising clarification, and suggest that Cain is politically ignorant. Nobody is ignorant in all areas, I suppose, so that’s only fair. And now that I’ve typed all that out I realize the horse carcass has had more than enough punishment, as it doesn’t much matter anyway.

    Your question about playing to the least common denominator, I believe, simply results from our primary system. It’s painful to watch from the political center, but it’s also why I have sympathy for Romney’s “flip flopping” reputation. That’s the game we have set up, candidates have to win over very different groups of people in the primaries than in the general election. It’s hard to appeal to core partisans of one side in the primaries, and then to a majority of everyone in the general a short time afterward. Romney is just not as smooth when switching between the two as most candidates, but they all do it, and it’s demanded of them.

    It’s also a matter of degree, of course. Contrast Cain’s approach to foreign policy issues with Romney’s, or Huntsman’s. That said, I’m not sure the average voter cares that much about foreign policy, at least right now, despite that being the President’s primary responsibility. So this entire discussion may be moot for the 2012 election anyway. I guess we could beat away on whether Cain understood his own 9-9-9 plan before he announced it (or yet), though…

  • db


    Clearly you miss the point “Ol” & I were trying yo make. You also go personal in calling me a turd & a putz. What this showes is that you have your head wedged up your politics just as firmly as Bachmann or Cain. Just in the other direction.

    I’ll use small words.

    But you may be right, it might have been Soccer, not Cricket in the Monty Python. I’m unfamiliar with both. Does that make me ignorant? I thought I was doing pretty good, remembering a 30 year old reference. If you are suggesting that I ought have looked up & cited a passing reference, you’ve got more time on your hands than I do. The term “get a life” suggests itself.

    Michelle Bachmann got through Law School & worked for the IRS. Does that make her ignorant?
    Newt Gingrich teaches (taught?) at a college level. Does that make him ignorant?
    Herman Cain ran two major organizations. Does that make him ignorant?

    No. They are not ignorant. They got smarts.

    So why are they “playing dumb on TV”? (another old reference I’m not going to bother to cite because I didn’t use it exactly as originally used)

    Why are they playing to the “least common denominator” (Mrs. Hinckley’s 4th grade, see, I’ll cite some for you) of intelligence?

    And that may have been Oliver’s original question.

    So, Buzz, Ol, any ideas?

  • Matthew_Hubbard

    Oh, and db, if you can’t quote Monty Python correctly, you have another reason to get off the stage. It was English football, not cricket.


    In the American version, there’s also a question about Jerry Lee Lewis. In the original, Mao knew the Eurovision song “Sing Little Birdie”.

    You can look it up, because you obviously don’t know it by heart.


  • Matthew_Hubbard

    Re-buzz db.

    You misunderstand “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan”. It’s not that he doesn’t know, he thinks the fact isn’t worth knowing. This is willful ignorance. This is pride in willful ignorance.

    I don’t know the president of Uzbekistan off the top of my head. But I would never act as though that whole country doesn’t matter, that they are just some grubby foreigners of no use to Americans, the most important people in the world. That is what Mr. Cain did, and if you really missed that, you are showing a great deal of willful ignorance as well, and pride in it as well.

    In other words, get better at this debating stuff or get off the stage. If this is the best you can do, you are just another turd embarrassing the conservative cause.

  • zadura

    db, your point makes no sense at all. “Ignorant” means precisely “not knowing.” Furthermore, as others have stated, his “not knowing” he wears as a virtue.

  • Zython

    It always struck me as odd how conservatives claim they know more than liberals, then turn around and claim that people shouldn’t listen to liberals because they’re smart (“intellectual elitist”, anyone)? Though I suppose holding insane, contrary beliefs is the hallmark of a true conservative.

  • http://olfroth.blogspot.com Ol Froth

    These are the two definitions I have:

    1.Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.
    2.Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular: “ignorant of astronomy”.

    Those certainly apply, but I make a distinction between “ignorant” because you haven’t been exposed to an idea, concept, or fact, and willfull ignorance, where you reject reality because it doesn’t conform to your biases, or fail to seek knowledge because you fear it will conflict with your views.

  • db


    Un-informed is the lack of knowledge of a specific field. Ignorant covers a much broader concept. How many of us could name the President of Uzbekistan? & isn’t he a Dictator rather than an elected President?

    I remember an old Monty Python skit. Karl Marx & several other econimic theorists were on a game show. The questions started off normally but then shifted to British Cricket results. The Contestants were totally at sea; lost outside their field. I’d guess that’s the difference.

  • Buzz Killington

    db, it seems to me that un-informed is precisely the definition of ignorant. Can you expand on the difference you mean?

  • db

    1964? Wasn’t that the year that the Republican Candidate carries like 38% of the vote & all of 5 states?

    Buzz, Mr. Hubbard,

    Not knowing the President of Uzbekistan (or being able to spell it) does not make someone ignorant. Un-informed is not ignorant.

    But Mr. Hubbard is right. It seems like Cain is saying, “We’ve had a smart Black Guy as President. Let’s try something else.”

  • Benjamin Franklin

    “The GOP is dying and it’s beautiful, so beautiful”

    That’s what they said in 1964. The New Whigs have life as long as the Status Quo has all the dough

  • http://wetcasements.wordpress.com Jaim

    The GOP is dying and it’s beautiful, so beautiful.

  • Matthew_Hubbard

    @ db: Cain’s “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” answer shows him to be not only ignorant, but proudly ignorant. In my book, this is a major character defect.

    Perry’s brain doesn’t work well, at least the connection to the mouth.

    Bachmann believes things that would have put her in a madhouse in days gone by.

    Gingrich is intelligent, but mean as a snake and with a massive sense of entitlement, starting with his penis and spreading through his entire body. As Jon Stewart pointed out, if the Republicans think of Obama as professorial and they want to put Gingrich up against him, it’s Popular Professor vs. Dickish Professor. I know how those battles usually turn out.

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  • http://sonic.net/~ckelly/Seekay/index.htm Repack Rider

    The Theory of Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology. Everything makes sense with it, nothing makes sense without it.

    I would wager that the vast majority of people who do not accept 150 years of biological progress vote Republican. I would also wager that asking any of the Klown Kar passengers (who “debate” about how much they can agree with each other) whether they accept (not “believe in”) evolution would yield some amusing answers.

    C’mon wingnuts, argue evolution with me. I have a vast library on the subject.

  • Willie Stark

    “Next off, I’m getting a pop-up that some of your scripts may freeze up my IE. Is this the same problem “Ol Froth” is having?”

    Upgraded and it’s a lot better, but still a pain.

  • Benjamin Franklin

    Based upon the Field of Candidates, and the performance of our POTUS, I am considering a write-in vote………


    BTW this is Semanticleo.

  • Marco21

    Newt may be able to drive the clown car but he’s still a clown.

  • Buzz Killington

    Dan Drezner would like to persuade you about Cain’s ignorance, at least, db.

    Bachmann strikes me a pretty much a nut, but I can agree with you on Perry. It seems more like he just isn’t taking it seriously, as if he was convinced he would win the nomination by just showing up. It may be too late for him to fix the damage now.

    It should also be pointed out, though, that all three had their surges, only to see support nosedive upon deeper scrutiny. It seems pretty clear that the voters aren’t thrilled with any of the prospects, so as usual I will accuse Oliver of casting too wide of a net in castigating the entire “conservative movement.”

  • db

    First off Oliver, I think you’re being unfair calling the Shrub a moron. Admittedly not the brightest star in the firmament; but moron?

    Next off, I’m getting a pop-up that some of your scripts may freeze up my IE. Is this the same problem “Ol Froth” is having?

    I’m not convinced that Cain, Perry, or Bachmann is ignorant, as much as woefully unprepared. Palin on the other hand was so afraid of a “gotcha” question that she created it for herself. I see her answer as fumbling in an attempt not to offend or appear dumb.

    Gingrich is intelligent. Does that alter the argument?

  • Burn

    Herman Cain said on Monday

    “I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy. Just thought I’d throw that out…I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president (people say) you need to have the answer. No, you don’t! No, you don’t! That’s not good decision-making.”

    They wear the badge of ignorance proudly. Trying to shame them about it simply will not work. It’s a zombie cult now on the right. All obedience is to their arbitrary leader de jour, be it a talk radio host, businessman, or failed governor. They follow blindly, they don’t actually think about anything.