The Modern GOP: Ignorant, Extreme, and Proud of It

© Josh Sager – October 2015

In psychology, there is a very interesting cognitive bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect (aka. “illusory superiority”). People suffering from this bias are so ignorant or unintelligent that they cannot rationally assess their own competence, thus end up thinking that they are significantly more competent than they are in reality. This bias breeds arrogant ignorance, where uninformed or unskilled people believe themselves to be extremely competent, if not more competent than people who actually have experience in the relevant field.

The Dunning-Kruger bias also effects the highly-competent and informed, leading some competent individuals to underestimate their own knowledge. People who recognize the complexity of issues and understand that their knowledge likely only scratches the surface routinely rate themselves as less competent than they are.

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In totality, the Dunning-Kruger bias creates a situation where loud and arrogant ignoramuses assert that they know the answer to everything (while really proposing nonsense), while intelligent people try to make nuanced and humble (not asserting immediate and perfect solutions to complex problem) arguments for their policies.

If this dichotomy sounds familiar to anybody, this is because it is perfectly represented in the current American political landscape. The right wing has fallen completely under the thrall of the Dunning-Kruger effect’s arrogant know-nothingism while liberals have tried to remain somewhat more balanced.

In the past, both parties had significant anti-intellectual and ignorant populations, but party leadership kept this under control by ensuring that the actual policies that were under consideration were largely based in reality. The politicians who most exemplified the Dunning-Kruger effect (ex. the John Birch Society) were marginalized and not allowed to control the party line.

Today, the Democrats have largely retained this status quo, but the Republican establishment has been wholly consumed by the know-nothing extremists who were previously kept to the margins. With these extremists controlling their narrative, the GOP has spiraled into a world of pure rhetoric that is completely detached from objective reality. In the eyes of this know-nothing GOP, every problem can be solved through very simple solutions that just happen to line up exactly with their long-held beliefs and the interests of their donors—there is no room for complexity, nuance, or a diverse portfolio of solutions. Contrasting the GOP and Democratic debates gives us numerous examples of this, and even a casual viewer can see that the GOP is far more willing to accept simplistic and unrealistic policy “solutions” to complex issues than the Democrats.

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For example, the GOP candidates are proposing tax plans that they claim will account for the complexity of the economy in impossibly simplistic ways (the most extreme examples of this are Fiorina, who wants the tax code to be limited to 3 pages long, and Cruz, who thinks that tax forms should fit on the back of a postcard). Additionally, every expert analysis of these plans indicates that they will be massively regressive or impossible to implement, yet the GOP simply refuses to address these concerns on any substantive level (they simply disagree with the experts without providing any supporting evidence for their argument). Conversely, the Democratic candidates have much more nuanced discussions about shifting marginal tax rates to raise revenue in the most efficient manner. They are willing to discuss these details on a much deeper level than the GOP and have not simply rejected expert criticisms without evidence.

This disparity in the intellectual abilities between the parties is largely replicated in the speaking styles of the candidates. According to a recent analysis by the Boston Globe, the two GOP frontrunners in the GOP primary speak between the 5.9 grade level (Carson) and the 4.1 grade level (Trump), while the two Democratic front runners speak between the 10.1 grade level (Sanders) and the 7.7 grade level (Hillary).

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Unfortunately, the American public has a shocking lack of policy knowledge and it is human nature to correlate assertiveness with competence—in effect, a leader who is very assertive, yet completely wrong, is more likely to be successful in getting support than a leader who is much more measured, yet holds factual policies. Many Americans listen to the GOP’s simple and easy to understand rhetoric, which is delivered with absolute certainty, and support them without ever realizing that they are being led down the rabbit hole to hang out with the political equivalent to the mad hatter.

23 thoughts on “The Modern GOP: Ignorant, Extreme, and Proud of It

  1. Pingback: The Modern GOP: Ignorant, Extreme, and Proud of It | Activate Media

  2. Joe Citizen. What , exactly, does considering emigrating say about a person? That is an interesting , yet, vague statement. France IS a lovely country, for sure. Ever been there? Or to Italy ? Or England? Or Mexico? Or Guatemala? If not I would respectfully suggest that travel tends to broaden a person’s horizons and should be tried by all. A person who travels may discover that the world is a big place with a variety of people and cultures. They may discover that their own narrow worldview has been limited by their lack of experience in the real world, the world beyond the county line.
    Now, I am not suggesting that travel automatically helps a person understand the world, but if a person is open minded it can be a place to start. Then the person can relieve themselves of stereotypes about the US and the “other”. So many Americans, I think, are so fearful of “the other” because they have such limited life experiences. Don’t you agree?
    The problem with emigrating at my age are multiple. 1. Most of my family still lives in the US . (Although a couple have escaped to places they like better). 2. Many of the countries I would prefer to go to do not have easy immigration laws do not necessarily welcome older Americans. 3. I like the local area I am living. 4. I have a responsibility to assist in making this a more tolerant, better country. I need to stay since I have a duty to speak out against the fanaticism and hatred of some on the far right. I oppose turning the US into a fascist state or a theocracy. So, even though it is not my first choice, as a responsible person, I will stay . together with other Americans who support the Constitution, science and change, I think I can still make a minor difference for the good.
    Thanks for the link. Here;s one for you:

    https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/its-not-funny-anymore/

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    • Emigrating from one’s own native country (I’ll just assume that you were born here) says A LOT about a person. What reason could a U.S. citizen possibly have for leaving what is unarguably the greatest and most powerful nation to ever exist? Why do you think we have so many foreigners living here?

      http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/rusty-weiss/2012/01/22/yes-liberalism-mental-disorder

      How many Mexicans and Cubans die every year just trying to get here? Is your memory still strong enough to recall the USSR and the Berlin Wall? You take for granted the freedom that the U.S. allows for you to leave if you want. There still are countries where you can be imprisoned or even executed for just merely saying that you want to leave.

      If France is so lovely, then why on earth would ISIS possibly want to attack them? You were aware of the attacks on 11-13-15 weren’t you? To answer your question, I have not ever been to any of those country’s that you listed. You yourself didn’t actually CLAIM to have either. I have travelled to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey while in uniform in the service of this great nation while you were undoubtedly back here waiving your protest sign around while being booed by veterans and our supporters. Don’t try to brag about how you have allegedly paid taxes. You only did so just to avoid federal charges. I on the other hand am a patriot who proudly does his share and a little bit extra. I have no need to leave the United States. Everything that a civilized and intelligent person could ever want or need is right here and there is plenty of it. I have seen enough of the world to know that Americans are truly blessed. There is nothing more delusional and laughable than a self hating American. I hope that if Trump does win the White House, he will start deporting ungrateful dullards such as yourself to Antarctica after he has dealt with the illegal aliens.

      http://listverse.com/2009/05/13/top-10-excuses-people-use-to-hate-america/

      So. You have family members that “escaped” from the US? Were they wanted by the police? Maybe they were trying to escape from you. If you truly do have family in other countries, why can’t they assist you? You claim that you are too old to emigrate. That tells me that you have inquired about it recently. I suspect that there is perhaps a different reason that you are reluctant to disclose. Perhaps your history of misguided activism and the company you associated with has caught up with you and you are now on the No Fly List. If not, tourist visas are ageless, Why do you just go somewhere on vacation and then request political asylum? At the very least, you may earn yourself an extended stay in a foreign psychiatric hospital and ease the burden on our health care system. Then, you would finally have done something to make this a better country.

      P.S. Could you please tell me the location of your commune so that I can be sure to avoid it? Thanks.

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    • I just thought “Oh, what the hell. Maybe I’ll just take a peek at his moronic link. Maybe it will be good for a laugh.” I couldn’t help but notice that your article was posted over a year ago on 05-04-14 and has only three responses that were posted the following day by two people. Wow. The article sure sounds like it was written by a scared person. I’ll bet you REALLY didn’t think what happened just 6 months later on November 4th was funny either.

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  3. Joe. Thanks for visiting my blog. If I amuse you my work is not in vain. You are part of a very select group of people. The smallest minority group in the USA. LOL I wouldn’t say I am “scared” as much as “concerned”. As a student of politics and history I am well aware how political power can be abused and how it can be almost impossible to dislodge intolerant leaders once they have power.
    I don’t like to see politicians appeal to the worst in people. I don’t like to see politicians appealing to ignorance and fear. Which is what I believe the Tea Party and Trump and Carson , for example, are doing. I know people like to mock out “Hope and Change” but in my mind that is a better concept than “Fear and Reaction”. I come from the JFK/RFK era of looking to the future and emphasizing what we CAN do. Idealism combined with pragmatism.
    You are correct that I thought the November,2014 elections were not funny. It is true that the GOP did manage to put more members into Congress. They were able to get a few more votes than the Dems, but the system is such that the slight popular vote victory turned into a House landslide. (Similar to the electoral college where a slight win can turn into an electoral landslide, or even a loss of the popular vote can turn into an electoral victory). But that is our system and it is not going to change.
    What did that victory for the GOP result in? How much has the GOP accomplished? Have any of the important issues we face been addressed by the GOP? Issues like climate change, immigration, terrorism, ISIS, gun violence, poverty, unemployment?
    I remain hopeful that the 2016 election will bring out the younger voters and women in large numbers. The more people that vote the better it is for the Dems. I fully expect Trump and Carson to fade away and Jeb or Rubio to end up taking the nomination. If not, I think Clinton will win in a landslide, which would suit me fine.
    You seem to have well developed political positions. Have you thought about expressing them on your own blog? WordPress.com is free and easy to use. Check it out.

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    • Just how do you suppose that the “smallest minority group in the USA” could have put more members into Congress? That doesn’t make sense. It was more than just a few more votes. Just what do you think the GOP could accomplish while Obama is in the White House? Liberals ignore real problems, focus on insignificant ones and create more problems. Conservatives then have to come to the rescue. However, it takes time to clean up the liberals mess and some people get impatient and then try to say that the conservatives aren’t doing enough or aren’t doing anything at all.

      In 2008, the US had a golden opportunity. They could have elected a senior state senator with over 20 years of experience who had not only served in the Vietnam War as a pilot, but had also been a prisoner of war for 6 years. Instead, 52.9% of the voters wasted their vote on a lawyer with less than 4 years experience as a senator. Obama has Sara Palin to thank for that. Although, it was McCain that chose her as his running mate. I think it is going to be long time before the US elects a woman as president. Besides, Hillary has already been president. Just who do you think was really making Bill’s decisions for him?

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  4. Joe. When I said you were part of the “smallest minority group” in the USA I was referring to people who read my blog!

    The GOP won the House with approximately 52% of the popular vote. They received about 58% of the seats. I won’t go into the gerrymandering scandals since that is done by both parties when they grab the state houses. But the GOP victory was not overwhelming.
    Regarding the “mess” that Obama is leaving. I do believe the great recession hit during the last 2 years of the Bush administration, the result of deregulation of the financial industry. If you look back at the data I think you will see this is so. Mr Obama inherited a massive economic mess. Almost a 2nd great Depression. Obama and the Dem Congress took the necessary steps to get us out of it. Since then we have had the GOP “make him fail” Congress so I admit not much has been done. The POTUS can only do so much by executive order. Not sure what “liberal”mess you are referring to?

    McCain may have been elected if he had not chosen “Sideshow” Sarah Palin. Who knows? But, the very act of selecting this uniquely unqualified person to be one heartbeat away from the Oval Office was enough to make many folks doubt his judgement. She was i way over her head from the start. That, and the fact that he wanted to do nothing to save the economy also led folks to wonder about his qualifications. I would have made him Sec of Defense. That is one area he knows well. POTUS, not so much.

    I don’t think Americans care one way or another if a woman is POTUS. Plenty of other nations have had women leaders. India, Pakistan, Israel, Germany, UK, Portugal, Turkey and the list is quite long. Maybe 20 years ago it would have been a big deal. No longer.

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  5. Joe. Well, let’s see.
    1956.Ike with 57% of the vote…war hero. Credited with winning WW2.
    1964. LBJ with 61% of the vote. Goldwater and his ultra-conservatism scared the crap out of people. He would be a RINO today.
    1980.Reagan with 50.5% of the vote. This demonstrates my point about how the electoral college is not a very good indicator of the actual popularity of a POTUS. A little over half of the people voted for Ronnie, but he got a massive electoral total..
    1972.Nixon with 60.1 % of the vote. The Democratic party was in splinters due to the anti-war movement. Nixon promised a “secret plan to end the war”. Oops.
    1984. Reagan was very popular as the economy rebounded. Mondale made the mistake of saying we would have to raise taxes. Ronnie said he never would. Except, after he was elected he did raise taxes as Mondale predicted. Reagan got 58.5% of the vote.
    1936.Of course, you forgot the most lopsided victory in modern times: FDR 523-8 win with 61% of the vote. I guess the people approved of his policies.
    2000, GW Bush wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote by over 500,000. The greatest victory since Hayes lost by 3% but won the electoral college over Tilden.

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    • As I predicted, you totally tried to suppress the fact that in all of these situations with the exception of the Johnson and Goldwater election, the Republican candidate won. By the way, Goldwater lost due to the fact that he was running against JFK’s former running mate and the level of anti-Semitism in the US at the time. Ultraconservatism would not have scared American’s in the early 60’s. All that Trump has to do to get the liberal vote is to say that he will at least consider supporting the legalization of marijuana.

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  6. Joe. I tried to “suppress the fact” that the Republican candidates won? I thought it was obvious that they won. Not sure how I tried to “suppress” that. Also, not quite sure what it proves. Was I supposed to find some deep meaning in those election results?

    At any rate, Barry Goldwater lost because LBJ ran a very effective “scare campaign” about what Goldwater would do if elected. Goldwater took a very strong ideological position and refused to budge from it. “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” or something like that. LBJ ran as the candidate that was sane and would not go to war with the USSR. Painted Goldwater as someone who would push the nuclear button rather than compromise. Goldwater made the fight against “communism” the central tenet of his campaign. People did not want his brand of extreme conservatism (today it would be considered something like Tea Party conservatism).
    The issue of his religion or ethnicity was never a factor.

    Regarding Trump. If he promises to legalize marijuana he will not get my vote. For two reasons. 1. He is a very dangerous and rather ignorant and intolerant man. 2. The POTUS does not have the authority to legalize marijuana.

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  7. Oh, I believe you found the meaning in those election results. If you actually believe that Goldwater’s religion was never a factor, then you certainly have more studying to do. Were you actually born in the US? Were you living abroad during the 60’s?

    Where did I say that the president has the authority to legalize marijuana? I said consider SUPPORTING the legalization of marijuana. I agree that Trump is dangerous to liberals and intolerant of criminals, terrorists, illegal aliens and potential enemy’s of the state. It’s a shame you didn’t defect when you had the chance.

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  8. As I said Goldwater’s religion had nothing to do with the campaign. Being an Episcopalian was just being a mainstream Protestant, like LBJ. Of course, if you can point me to a few scholarly sources that demonstrate being an Episcopalian was a major factor in the 1964 I will be happy to review those scholarly sources and get back to you.

    I am not sure where I was living in the 1960s has to do with evidence, facts and history. Perhaps you can explain the connection between where an individual lives and objective reality? I prefer to stick to evidence in my analysis.

    I agree that Trump is dangerous to liberals. He has shown an intolerance not only for those with whom he disagrees, but an outright denial of facts of history. Like his continued insistence that “thousands” of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey when the WTC was attacked. He is simply wrong. Yet he refuses to admit it. Very dangerous man. He reconstructs the past to suit his desires, not reality.

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  9. Regarding Goldwater’s religious upbringing here are three links (of the hundreds) that demonstrate quite clearly he was an Episcopalian and not of the Jewish faith . (It is true that his grandpa was Jewish) If you have contradictory evidence I would be happy to consider it.

    http://hollowverse.com/barry-goldwater/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Goldwater

    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2000-08-09/news/0008090070_1_barry-goldwater-jewish-heritage-jewish-parent

    I also found the following quotes by “Mr Conservative” especially interesting in today’s world.

    “.And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.” (Senate speech, 1981)

    Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them. (1994, quoted in John Dean’s book))

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