Republicans Attempt Return to 1611

— by Aliela Fleisig

Republicans are set out to repeal the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation and Washington Post columnist, observed this week:

The 18th century was defined, in many ways, by the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement based on the idea that reason, rational discourse and the advancement of knowledge, were the critical pillars of modern life. The leaders of the movement inspired the thinking of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin; its tenets can be found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But more than 200 years later, those basic tenets – the very notion that facts and evidence matter – are being rejected, wholesale, by the 21st-century Republican Party.

The contempt with which the party views reason is staggering. Republicans have become proudly and unquestionably anti-science. (It is their litmus test, though they would probably reject the science behind litmus paper.) With the exception of Jon Huntsman, who polls about as well as Darwin would in a Republican primary, the Republican presidential candidates have either denied the existence of climate change, denied that it has been caused – and can be reversed – by man, or apologized for once holding a different view. They have come to this conclusion not because the science is inconclusive, but because they believe, as a matter of principle, that scientific evidence is no evidence at all.

More after the jump.
She quoted candidates Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and Texas Governor Rick Perry rejecting the proven theory of evolution, and criticized one of Representative Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) many disproven claims:

[Bachmann] has embraced the idea that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation, although not a single piece of medical evidence backs up her claim. How, then, did she come to that conclusion? That’s simple: A woman came up to her at a debate and told her so. Scientific evidence is anathema; superstitious and anecdotal asides, on the other hand, deserve to be repeated and amplified on a national stage, the consequences, in this case to countless women and girls, be damned.

Republicans even promote economic policies that have repeatedly been shown false by economists on all points of the political spectrum, writes vanden Heuvel:

There’s Herman Cain’s much-discussed 9-9-9 plan, for example, which has been eviscerated by independents, conservative and progressive economists alike, but which Cain continues to champion. Why? Because, he argues, the skeptics haven’t read his analysis yet – as if he is entitled not just to his own facts but to his own math…

Perry now fancies himself a flat-taxer, a position that might as well make him a flat-earther. A flat tax is, in his mind, a job creation proposal. In a reality based on reason and logic, it is a ticket straight back to recession. He might be giving – or getting – lessons from his fellow Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who after boldly lying about Planned Parenthood on the floor of the Senate had his press flack explain that his remarks were not intended to be a factual statement. What then, one wonders, were they intended to be?

Vanden Heuvel concluded:

It seems worth reminding the candidates that these debates have been settled, many for decades, some for centuries and that the year is 2011, not 1611. In the coming decades, science – and a respect for science – will prove crucial to confronting our greatest global challenges, whether that means reducing our carbon footprint to combat climate change, finding new treatments and new cures to the diseases that ail us, or developing new innovations that can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. We cannot afford to ignore the power of science or the problems we will need it to solve. Nor can we afford to make decisions about our economy, and our future, without reason or sound evidence. It’s time to take back the Enlightenment.

If You Are Worried About Iran, Help Pass START Now

— Marc R. Stanley, Michal M. Adler and David A. Harris

So many in the American Jewish community – reflecting Israel’s leaders – are rightly gravely concerned about the dangers posed by Iran. Indeed Iran has become the foremost issue on the pro-Israel agenda. What if there was a measure with bipartisan support facing the United States Senate that could help contain Iran – and only days left to pass it? What if a handful of members were working to stymie progress on this measure?

In reality, there is precious little time to pass the START treaty in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Despite the leadership of President Barack Obama and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), a small group of senators – led by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) – seem intent on blocking this paramount treaty… some, perhaps, for political reasons. Yet the stakes are simply too great for politics to get in the way.

The arms reduction and verification aspects are plenty important. But what passing START will mean for the improving U.S.-Russia relationship – and our joint cooperation on confronting Iran – is even more crucial. As scholar Michael O’Hanlon noted yesterday in listing the reasons to pass START, ‘Most of all, the U.S.-Russia relationship is now helping apply greater pressure on Iran. Moscow has agreed to far tighter United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran’s high-technology trade, and it recently refused to sell Tehran advanced surface-to-air missiles.’

Can anyone deny that Russian cooperation is essential to ensuring a nuclear-free Iran? Can anyone deny that not passing START will be a dramatic blow to U.S.-Russian relations – and a disaster in terms of our Iran policy? Where is the outcry? Our actions – in this case, our action or inaction on START – will have profoundly important repercussions.

The time has come for those in the American Jewish community who care deeply about confronting Iran to help pass START now. We can do no less, and we have no time to wait. We must lend our voices to the debate now.

In convening an extraordinary meeting in the White House today, placing a brilliant spotlight on this issue, President Obama explained the reasons as clearly as possible when he noted that ‘this goes beyond nuclear security. Russia has been fundamental to our efforts to put strong sanctions in place to put pressure on Iran to deal with its nuclear program. …We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia’s strategic nuclear arms. And we can’t jeopardize the progress that we’ve made in securing vulnerable nuclear materials, or in maintaining a strong sanctions regime against Iran. These are all national interests of the highest order.’

As a community, we simply must lend our voices and help pass START now. We can do no less.