Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 8:50 pm | Fair 64º


Randy Alcorn: Today’s Political Debate Dominated by American ‘Ignorantsia’

Over the past 16 years, I have received more than 2,000 responses from readers. In the early years, most of these came via letters, some hand delivered. Other readers telephoned me directly.

Back then, most readers identified themselves with their first and last names. Today, responses come entirely via online or by e-mail, and few people actually identify themselves. Most prefer to use an alias.

Digital-age anonymity allows people with strong opinions to say things in a public forum that they would probably not say unmasked. Although they all believe that they have some valid justification for concealing their identities, ultimately they are snipers and not really heroic.

Anonymity may facilitate the unreserved expression of ideas and opinions, but it also contributes to diminished civility and a strident smugness, particularly by those impaired by ideological or theological certainty.

There have always been dedicated adherents from one end of the political spectrum or the other, but in past years their opinions were more often studied, more edifying, and not so preachy and contemptuous. You could actually learn something new and be persuaded by cogent arguments.

There was intelligence that advanced logic and truth — both of which are essential for human progress.

Now, the forum is dominated by snarling, sneering ideologues judging everyone as either with them or against them. For these folks, convenient categorizations are essential to make sense of a complex, ambiguous world.

Everyone and every idea is relegated to either liberal or conservative camps. Anyone voicing an idea or argument that ideologues find uncomfortable or threatening is castigated and condemned to the other camp.

Truth and logic are subordinate to the imperatives of doctrine.

For those convinced that they already know it all, there can be nothing more to learn. There can be no compromise, let alone enlightenment and change of mind.

Take any current issue and notice how it is examined. Not with objective analysis by people cooperating to resolve the issue, but by contentious blowhards spouting hackneyed bromides from ideological catechisms.

The economy is the top issue for most Americans. The conservatives told America that by lowering taxes on the economic elite and reducing government regulation virtually everyone would benefit.

But what America got is trickle-down economics that pushed nearly all wealth to the top. America got massive Wall Street fraud, the Great Recession and bank bailouts that preserved the privileged positions of the very criminals who perpetrated the fraud.

Meanwhile, undoubting liberals tell America that more government will cure social ills — real or imagined. What America gets are mazes of bumbling busybody bureaucracies contributing more to looming national bankruptcy than to creating the Great Society.

The sophistry and manipulation of facts is epidemic. Recently, columnist John Stossel argued that wealth disparity is a myth. Middle-class income, he noted, has increased 40 percent over the past 30 years.

What he neglected to mention is that the purchasing power of the dollar declined 121 percent over that time. Did he really believe that his half-truth would convince the millions of Americans struggling to attain or maintain a middle-class lifestyle to ignore their reality and acquiesce to a continuation of conditions that benefit the few at the expense of the many?

Yes he did, because there is a vast American ignorantsia, an intellectual wasteland uninhabited by reason, where logic is so obscure as to be undetectable, and the only thing that thrives is ideological and theological certainty — the perfect environment for big-money interests to partner with the duopoly political cartels and own government.

Together, they manipulate the political system with unethical tactics — e.g. gerrymandering and political processes that restrict candidate selection — to ensure that government works for them first and foremost.

America is not as threatened by a political-economic elite — an intelligentsia — as it is by an ignorantsia that is plied with and eagerly accepts propaganda, distorted data and fabricated facts.

Add in appeals to religious beliefs and the ignorantsia can be sold on just about anything — even if it is detrimental to their own best interests.

While the ignorantsia is legion, noisy and shrill, I believe that most Americans are quietly rational and reject ideological orthodoxies. They understand that no ideology has all the answers or the best approach to organizing society. They want practical solutions to problems and are frustrated that government has been rendered ineffective and unresponsive by ideological idiocy and special-interest manipulation.

Because ideological idiocy inhibits objective analysis it precludes progress — but not forever.

A growing torrent of public discontent is undermining the foundation of the entrenched powers. More states are instituting processes for determining impartial electoral districts. Independent candidates are intruding into the duopoly machines.

And, while money can buy prostitutes, it can’t buy love. In spite of the obscene amounts of money ladled out by special interests on the campaigns of their chosen candidates, many of them are struggling to garner voter support.

Cleaning up American politics and restoring genuine representative democracy won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if the rational majority of this nation insists on it.

That means rational people have to actually do something. They have to find and vote for the honest independents rather than the candidates pre-selected and pre-approved by special interests.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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