Paul Krugman on “Know-Nothing” Politics

August 8, 2008

OK, so Republicans appeal to the neanderthals among us, according to the enlightened Paul Krugman, through their use of “know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

Ahh, that’s new and refreshing.  To recap, if you don’t buy into our guy’s softer, kindler socialism and wispy, feel-good garbage then, darn-it, you’re helping those Republican jocks give the AV club swirlies all over again.

Krugman’s main point of contention is the Republican insistence on off-shore drilling, as it’s been reduced to the simple, “Drill here, drill now”.  What is so hard to understand about that?  Such simple sloganeering leads to “pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump”, asserts Krugman.  I’ve heard no such assertion from anyone, except Eric Bolling who believes we could pull oil from the OCS much quicker than the Department of Energy (though Paul is correct to state that Congress was claiming earlier this week that their deliberations have led to a drop in the price of crude).

Krugman’s grasping at straws here.  An increased focus on drilling can only help us from here forward, plankton be damned, or whatever enviro-panic is “in” today.  It’s sad that someone as brilliant as Paul is reduced to popping the smoke screen for his comrades dragging their feet on ACTUAL legislation.

2 Responses to “Paul Krugman on “Know-Nothing” Politics”

  1. tom Says:

    Energy policy is not the main point of Krugman’s article, just the first example he uses to illustrate his broader point, which is that the GOP has taken the long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics ( and used not just as a political tactic but as a governing philosophy.

    The former is inarguable: the GOP has been very successful at convincing people that piety, common sense, and unflinching resolve are all that is needed to solve any problem. Anyone who tries for a more nuanced view iis a flip-flopper, anyone who argues for caution is a wimp, and anyone who doubts the fundamental rightness of America is a traitor and a fag. That is the Republican subtext and it has been extremely effective in winning elections.

    Where you can argue with Krugman is his contention that this is no longer just electoral posturing but a governing philosophy. I’m not sure how you would prove that assertion without some Gnostic access to the True Intentions of politicians and policy makers.

    Critics on the left and the right have argued that the Conservative Movement epitomized by Goldwater and Reagan has run out of gas. It won many victories, reshaped American politics, but doesn’t have much to offer in the way of solutions to the current problems facing the country. In the absence of any coherent philosophy, there is certainly a risk that what started as a campaign tactic has morphed into an ideology, and one that is very bad for the nation.

  2. mountainshout Says:

    You are correct that Republicans have used the ‘Anti-Intellectualism’ tactic extremely successfully. I find, at least through anecdotal evidence, this success driven by our very culture. I don’t think that anyone, least of all Krugman, could posit that Americans favor nuance over John Wayne. One could argue whether that’s right or wrong, of course, but I don’t think anyone would truly argue that the vast majority of Americans don’t yearn for black-and-white, good guy/bad guy situations. I think the Republicans have simply tapped into that undercurrent.

    My argument with Paul stems from the fact that he is rationalizing inaction by a Pelosi led congress on off-shore drilling. Lets debate the merits of various energy proposals, and then committ ourselves to a course of action. Waffling won’t make the problem abate. Whether we need to drill offshore or not, it’s simply the only proposal of any concrete nature on the table at present.

    As to your point about anti-intellectualism becoming the dominant ideology in Washington, I would tend to agree. Many Republicans tend to rationalize offensive actions, like our current war in Iraq, as if it were some sort of defensive measure. Their democratic colleagues push protectionism, various planning apparatuses, and sundry economic biases on an unknowledgeable public. Pick your poison.

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