Vox Writer: ‘Intellectual Foundation’ of GOP ‘Has Rotted Away’

August 15th, 2017 4:50 PM

The motto of the Trump-era Washington Post is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Its counterpart, suggests Vox’s David Roberts, might be “Conservatism Lives in Darkness.” “Secrecy,” wrote Roberts on Monday, “is the standard approach of today’s GOP…It is, in fact, the only approach possible to advance an agenda that is unpopular and intellectually indefensible.”

Much of Roberts’s piece dealt with Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who’s “keeping his agenda as hidden as possible for the very same reasons Republicans in Congress tried to keep their recent health care bill a secret: Virtually no one likes it and there’s not a coherent policy case to be made for it.” Allegedly, Pruitt’s agenda includes “steps to corrupt agency science and science communication and loosen regulatory burdens on fossil fuels, in close consultation with industry groups and right-wing media.”

Roberts acknowledged that “there used to be some detail in conservative arguments about environmental regulations, some nuance,” but said that’s not the case now that hardcore movement conservatives like Pruitt run the show:

The right views EPA as a tool of the Democrats and it wants to burn it down…

…Pruitt is wielding a scythe, not a scalpel. He is dismantling rules, customs, practices, and the budget at his agency without discernment. There is no conceivable intellectual or policy argument to make on behalf of that kind of nihilism. There’s no evidence that Obama-era rules had any negative effects on the economy or overall employment, much less that every single one did. If there were any evidence, Pruitt’s every statement to the press or the public wouldn’t be packed with gobbledygook.

…It’s not policy, it’s dominance.

In Roberts’s view, it’s the rank and file, not the elites, that have transformed, and thereby weakened, the Republican party (bolding added):

The fervid passions and resentments of the GOP base have pushed the party’s policy agenda beyond even what the party hacks and plutocrats want, to the party’s political detriment…

…Over the past few decades, the conservative base has become so thoroughly hived off from mainstream institutions and media that it effectively lives in a parallel universe, increasingly unable to communicate with those outside the bubble or to restrain its most extreme impulses.

…In health care policy, tax policy, and environmental policy, the intellectual foundation has rotted away. What remains is will to power, the raw impulse to degrade and destroy anything liberals support, and the belief that hesitation or circumspection amounts to treachery.