One of many regrettable things that have come from Donald Trump’s ascent to the Republican nomination is that the sheer amount of idiocy his campaign spews is so overwhelming that much of the rest of the GOP looks better by comparison. When the bar is set this low, it’s nearly impossible to sink beneath it.
To highlight this point, President Obama’s commencement address to graduates at Rutgers was a fiery condemnation of stupidity, closed-mindedness, and hatred. It was a brilliant “screw you” to the sort of ignorance the right-wing media revels in.
Naturally, most people assumed he was referring specifically to Trump. He wasn’t – or at least not only Trump.
It was the entire Republican Party that got scorched by Obama. The ignorance and hate-mongering doesn’t stop with Trump, he’s just tapping into large pre-existing reserves of the stuff, coming from years worth of Fox News and Tea Party rallies.
Obama, who has faced the sheer lunacy of the right for the duration of his two terms in office, diagnosed the problem simply, but powerfully:
Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science: These are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy. That might seem obvious. We traditionally have valued those things, but if you’re listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from.
And Obama seemed to know where to look.
When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, when actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.
The Republican Party has broken from reality in ways that are staggering to watch. Things like climate change and evolution are dismissed as secular conspiracies to kill God. Economic theory is ignored for conservative doctrine found in an Ayn Rand book. Experts are demonized. Facts are hated. Science is defunded. Reality begins to have a “liberal bias.” So does the “media.” So do the universities.
Obama also used his commencement to take shots at a few of the policies Trump has run on specifically.
The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that
An obvious dig at Trump, right? Again, Trump isn’t the only one in the Republican Party saying these things. His own closest competitors were oftentimes in lockstep with his most appalling plans for Muslims and minorities. Ted Cruz competed with Trump for Republican voters by vowing that he too would build a big wall. Cruz floated the idea of creating Muslim ghettos. Likewise, Trump’s sexism has raised a few eyebrows – but not from within the GOP. They’re just glad he hasn’t said the words “legitimate rape.” Yet.
Trump is, without a doubt, an ignorant, racist, sexist blowhard, but his “I’m stupid, so I’m like you!” routine is ripped straight from the Republican playbook. There is an intellectual vacuum in the conservative movement, and it was there long before Trump came along. Just ask Obama. He’s been dealing with it on a daily basis for the past eight years.
Featured image via video screen capture