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Common Dreams - May 23, 2021

The Republican hero, the man they model themselves on, the one they want us to bow down to, is a failed business man, a failed reality TV star, a failed president, a career con man who is the most corrupt, certainly the most craven and creepy individual ever known to American politics. This is the best Republicans have to offer. That is who they are, and what they insist on inflicting on all the rest of us, our consent be damned.

The Enlightenment was a time of intellectual ferment in the Western world following the Middle Ages. Its ideas gave birth to the modern world.

We know the Enlightenment from the names of its most brilliant expositors: Francis Bacon, John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and others. We know its ideas as the foundation of our social world: the social contract, the rule of reason, the rule of law, consent of the governed, natural rights, constitutionalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and others.

The Republican agenda is a direct assault on all of that. It literally aims to return America to the pre-modern, pre-Enlightened darkness of the Middle Ages. If it succeeds, it will reverse more than three hundred years of human progress.

The most egregious of Republican assaults on the modern world is its rejection of Reason. Reason is the way we know what we know. It is not through revelations from God, or the pronouncements of priests or monarchs as had been the case before the Enlightenment.

Reason as a process for discovering Truth started in the Scientific Revolution around 1550. It was so powerful a way of knowing the physical world, the philosophers of the Enlightenment adopted it for knowing—and improving—the social world. It became the foundation of all subsequent Enlightenment thought, and all modern institutions.

The Republican broadside against Reason was on display in the first days of the Trump administration when Trump asserted that his inauguration crowd size was the largest in history. Presented with facts to the contrary, in photographic evidence, his assistant, Kellyanne Conway, proclaimed the existence of “alternative facts.” It’s been downhill since.

Republican discourse is a never-ending torrent of lies, idiocies, and absurdities—the very antithesis of Reason. The Muslim invasion. The caravan bringing murderers, rapists, drugs, and disease. Democrats eating babies. A satanic cult of pedophiles running the “Deep State.” A pandemic that would “disappear, like a miracle.” The greatest economy in the history of the world. Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head being canceled. Biden’s hamburger ban. A rigged election. Massive voter fraud. Terrorists who were really just tourists handing out hugs and kisses. It never ends.

The Republican assault on Reason is an attack not just on truth itself, but on our very capacity to think at all. With their base, Republicans address not the neo-cortex—the thinking part of the brain—but the amygdala—the lizard-brain seat of fight-or-flight. The amygdala subordinates logic, facts, reason, and deliberation to deceit, conspiracy, hysteria, and fear. ...
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