As early as 2002, Journalist Ron Suskind was told by a Bush advisor that the Bush Administration was not limited to fact or the real world—that in short they could and were engaged in creating an alternate reality of their choosing and imposing that upon the American People.
Such a statement is hard to forget for anyone interested in, well say, truth, justice, and the American Way. Scott Walker’s GOP and his world view are decidedly at variance with any sort of real world facts or truths.
Just last week GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said that religion was needed to detect where science was propagandistic. Anyone familiar with the scientific method and scientists who practice it will immediately ask if Dr. Carson has this ass backwards. The neurosurgeon uses science supported technology in his work. His skepticism is totally illogical and we have not needed Mr. Spock, A.K.A. Leonard Nimoy, to tell us.
Even people of faith, perhaps especially those of faith, understand that science is a fact based arena where replicating initial tests of a given scientific hypothesis using cold hard reality is paramount. Faith is what we believe, it is of the soul and contains healthy amounts of what is but what is not seen or fully understood.
During his big foreign policy trip to the United Kingdom Scott Walker could not say publically whether or not the fully accepted and tested Darwin’s theory of evolution is solid science or not. Walker gave equal weight to a particularly conservative theology on the creation of life on the planet and its further development that mocks science and limits God Almighty to human terms. His questioner was mainly asking that question for the amusement of viewers, knowing that Walker would take the bait and deny knowing enough about it.
The majority of Republicans in our Congress and at the State level in all fifty States do not think there is anything valid at all in climate change. Scientists who measure and study climate fully accept the notion that our climate is changing and the influence of hydro carbons beginning with the industrial revolution has a lot to do with it.
The battle in science is just how fast and deep do these changes go and what it means literally for human survival on the planet. We are one of the few governments on Earth largely unconcerned with climate change, and with leaders who deny this is factual or reality.
One willfully ignorant member of Congress, who ironically and deliberately chosen as the chairman of a Senate Committee on Climate, James Inhoffe, a held a snowball on the Senate floor and told of how cold it has been in much of the United States the past two years as proof there is no climate change. Yet scientists must measure climate change globally and pursue multiple lines of investigation to more fully understand and underpin the computer modeling of climate change moving into the future.
On the subject of women’s reproductive health care Republican conservative men in particular think putting aspirin between the knees or unleashing a woman’s emotions will prevent pregnancy when “legitimate rape” occurs. The science and medical community know this is silly—even a majority of conservative women know this. All rape is legitimate. Males forcing themselves on reluctant women who say “No” to sex commit rape. It does not require an unwanted pregnancy afterward or an assault so heinous as to physically disfigure or kill women to be serious or “legitimate.” Much of contraception itself is used medically to treat women’s health issues not related to further sexual activity.
There is such a hostility to science now in the GOP that our nation’s ability to be strong and to be competitive with other nations and to act to repair the natural disasters that afflict us or diseases that come to the surface are positively hampered. It also makes us the laughingstock of much of the world.
When Fox News first came on the air it boasted an excellent news department that was fact and reality based. Whatever you might have said about its editorial commentators, that itself was true. It is also true that upper management at Fox News in the past decade and a little more began to pursue a corporate policy demanding an alteration of facts when it could serve both conservative opinion and the furtherance of the Republican Party in a partisan fashion. The result is millions of Fox viewers who though intelligent as liberals, are much more ignorant than liberals. At least two university studies have shown this beyond doubt.
Further, much of the conservative talk radio community behaves this way as does Fox and so this “conservative bubble” translates into debates on vital public policy directly affecting our ability as a nation and people to solve common problems to possess two distinct sets of facts, one that is scientifically shown and is reality, and another riddled with unreality and ignorance.
I have no interest in destroying Fox News, but for me getting the news outlet to be reality and factually based would be a huge improvement. We need to have a vigorous debate over public policy, but it is vital we begin that debate with the same facts and reality. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the distinguished U.S. Senator from New York, and no flaming liberal, so cogently told us we cannot have our own set of facts. It is in how we approach our common problems where differing views are not only welcome but extremely healthy where our ideas compete.
It is in the Republican and conservative approach to education where this lunacy is most pronounced, and where the implications are so great for mischief. Scott Walker’s new Biennial State Budget cuts over $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System of universities.
Much of that cut from the State’s flagship school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These cuts were made necessary by tax cuts that were not accounted for by any budget surplus. No doubt we’ll see more tax cuts after the budget is passed and then Walker and Republican legislative leaders revisit the State’s education system for more cuts. $1.6 billion was cut from Wisconsin’s public school’s budget in Walker’s first term, the largest such cut in the entire history of Wisconsin dating back to 1848.
Hidden away in a little passage in the budget was wording that removed “the search for truth” from the University’s mission statement and the Wisconsin Idea from that mission statement, something Wisconsin pioneered and much of the nation adopted after Fighting Bob La Follette, himself a Republican, put that in over a century ago.
The Wisconsin Idea is essentially that the University of Wisconsin would employ its faculty and their research and teaching to not only be an engine of State development but to offer expert testimony to legislators interested in passing legislation where the likely impact of such laws would be examined. The Legislative Reference Bureau, a State institution used for legislators researching bills in both parties dates from this time. Pushing the University out into the state and its people to make life better was and is what it is all about.
The Wisconsin Idea underpins a good deal of the identity of Wisconsin and its up until Walker’s onset, pride in the reform leadership position the State has enjoyed relative to others. An outcry pushed back Republican designs on removing this State iconic idea and its commitment to honest government and reform. But Walker and his minions are winning and many excellent professors know it and are looking elsewhere. The damage to the University as an asset to the State and its people will be deeply felt in the decade to come if Walker and the Republicans have total control of the Statehouse as they now do.
This week Wisconsin, a leader in legislation supporting a safe workplace with good wages and Unions, such a reputation is going away. Right to Work legislation is being passed as I write this and sent to the Governor for his signature. This is a clear step backward not “Forward!” as is the State’s motto.
In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback, has pushed through a bill to remove workplace protections from LGBT persons. They can now be fired or demoted simply for being in that community of persons, not for any overt sexual activity or wrongdoing.
Kansas too has passed a bill eliminating AP United States History from the State’s high schools. Legislators as well as the Governor feel that the course points out America’s shortcomings instead of trumpeting its successes and inherent exceptional goodness. Slavery, the removal of whole tribes of millions of Native –Americans from their lands, the Civil Rights Movement, Selma, celebrated in film and in life fifty years ago just are too negative. The craziest thing is that the course permits students to get college credit and to get into more prestigious colleges to boot. That just cost their parents or the student some five hundred dollars or more.
In Texas and Colorado school boards have rejected textbooks commonly used in the rest of America not only for the reason cited in Kansas, but so a number of ahistorical Biblical events and personages can occupy center stage. The religious leaders do not include those of any other religion but Christianity. The United States Constitution does not favor any religion over another, nor does it promote religion itself. These people have not learned about that Supreme Law that dictates their course is unlawful.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that democracy requires an educated citizenry freed from the dictates of rulers and able to fulfill the responsibilities of a citizen in a republic. What the GOP is up to and has been up to is to work counter to this ideal.
Public intellectual Henry A. Giroux, writing in Truthout, had this to say about the role of education and the university in promoting a public sphere where democratic principles could be exercised more freely in support of Jefferson’s fine ideal:
“Under the reign of neoliberalism, with few exceptions, higher education appears to be increasingly decoupling itself from its historical legacy as a crucial public sphere responsible for both educating students for the workplace and providing them with the modes of critical discourse, interpretation, judgment, imagination and experiences that deepen and expand democracy.”
This is true of all levels of education that has been publically subsidized and supported for so long because Americans of all political viewpoints and stations in life knew how important it was to their children’s and the nation’s future as a democratic republic.
Walker’s GOP is badly out of step with these ideas, obsessed with the idea of eliminating what it perceives as left-wing ideologies that seem to them to go hand-in-hand with an educated and critical mind.
There is such a war on truth and factual reality on the part of conservative Republicans, (are there any other kind?) that the United States is like its Congress; a machine that no longer runs, with gears, wheels, and component parts sitting and rusting while the rest of the planet and its population make use of the advantages of truth, learning, facts, and reality to better themselves.