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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just the facts

A lot will be written about this election. A lot already has been. According to various pundits and bloggers, this election is:Of course, Digby has my favorite take on it. Digby always has my favorite take.

I agree with all those assessments to some extent. But to me, the most important thing about this election is that it was a victory for objective reality.

The most frustrating thing about the past six years is the way in which politics has decisively trumped reality. This is not battle we should still have to be fighting. The Enlightenment was 300 years ago, but here were are, still arguing about whether we should use reason and empiricism as the basis for human affairs.

I don't rail against Republicans because I am a partisan. Shit, I voted for two Greens and two Republicans in addition to a whole host of Democrats on Tuesday. I rail against Republicans because, based solely on the facts, they have been bad for our country. Regardless of your ideology, by any set of objective criteria they have failed to govern effectively. They haven't even achieved any of their own stated policy goals! (Alan Wolfe has his own ideas why this is so.)

Yet through a combination of jingoism, scare tactics and plain old ignorance, the majority of Americans have ignored or been unaware of how objectively bad one-party Republican rule has been for the country. It's an unattractive quality of the left to assume that the only reason the public doesn't agree with them is because people are ignorant and uninformed. But in the case of this government, what other explanation is there? We very well may have simultaneously had both the worst president and worst congress in American history.

This neglect of the facts mirrors the way the government itself has been run. The Republican Party has rejected science in favor of religion, facts in favor of opinion, partisan loyalty over ability and experience. The examples are legion.

When Karl Rove was put in charge of policy at the White House, this was the final triumph of perception over reality. As Gordon has said, this would be the equivalent of Bill Clinton putting James Carville in a position of real authority. No sane Democrat would want that.

Rove is just the most extreme example of a cronyism that will be one of the worst legacies of the Bush era. Thousands of key executive-branch positions have been filled with people utterly unqualified for their jobs. During previous administrations, of both parties, positions were filled with people who actually knew what they were doing. There will always be political appointees. But it's a big country. It's certainly possible to find someone who shares your ideology and who's also good at what they do.

I have faith that government can be a force for good in the world, if we rely on empiricism. What are the problems facing us? What are the best ways to fix them? What combination of public and private initiatives can we take to implement those ideas? I addressed this idea a couple months ago and Billy Joe Mills wrote a really interesting in-depth response that I never got around to replying to. I plan to in the next couple weeks.

Relying on reason is not hard. I'm not saying the Democrats are or will be paragons of clear thinking. But the Republicans have wandered so far from the ideas of the Enlightenment that anything will be an improvement. If and when Democrats act like this, I'll rail against them.

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.