The Lizard Brain of Michael Gerson

The Lizard Brain of Michael Gerson October 21, 2010

Michael Gerson has gone off the rails. Common wisdom holds that he’s one of the sane Republicans, a man of words and ideas rather than rage and wrath. I’m sorry, Mr. Gerson, we’re going to have to revoke your sanity card.

Gerson’s column this week is jaw-dropping in its pandering and its juvenility, betraying any claim he has to being considered a reasonable conservative voice. Sound strong? Go with me.

Gerson writes:

… President Obama has hit upon a closing argument.

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now,” he recently told a group of Democratic donors in Massachusetts, “and facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.”

[ … ]

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

Really? Nothing in the annals of history, from the grandiose Teddy Roosevelt to maniacal Richard Nixon, reaches these heights? Nothing in the George W. Bush pantheon of idiotic verbal retches beats Obama’s observation? (Of course not; Gerson wrote a lot of Bush’s less-incoherent blather.)

Here’s what bothers him so about Obama’s words.

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents “facts and science and argument.” His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader — the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Can there be any doubt that this is, in fact, the case? Is there a single Republican policy proposal, a single tea-bagger regurgitation that is not one, some, or all of the following: uninformed, theocratic, fascistic, nativist, narcissistic, xenophobic, homophobic, corporatist, racist, or based on utterly willful ignorance? Even one?

If anything, Obama is being far too generous to those who follow the Republican line in the current political universe. By chalking up the rise in right-wing furor to economic fear is giving a lot of credit to the marching, bellowing hordes of imbeciles that make up the tea-baggers. It’s not liberals and Democrats threatening violence against voter registration organizations. It’s not liberals and Democrats trying to marry government and intolerant Christianity (except for this one). It’s not liberals and Democrats insisting that there be no government help for the poor, but live and die by their Social Security and Medicare.

The Democrats are a pitiful party politically, but they are the only game in town when it comes to those who are actually attempting to govern as opposed to the Republicans, who are, yes, trying to sabotage society to achieve short term political victories. “Lizard brain” is a compliment to a crowd like this.

Gerson’s not a fool. He knows all of this, but he’s doing a grotesque and pathetic version of what I call the Douthat Twist, when a more-or-less thoughtful conservative feels compelled to defend, somehow, the rottenness at the core of their movement. Almost embarrassed to be among the educated and informed, these conservatives must somehow justify their movement’s pandering and bone-throwing to the willfully ignorant, violent, and vindictive. When reason is no longer available to them, as it has not been for some time, they go for name-calling; they call these progressive politicians — their fellow Ivy League, cocktail partying, intellectual elites — snobs.

Gerson again:

One response to social stress doesn’t help at all: telling people their fears result from primitive irrationality. Obama may think that many of his fellow citizens can’t reason. But they can still vote.

Thanks for the political advice. One thing we agree on is that your mob is indeed going to show up at the polls on November 2, storm the gates, and pillage the town. But I promise you, “reasoning” will not be on the agenda.

Side note: I’m finished with the Washington Post as a standard of editorial integrity. Gerson’s nonsense coupled with the regular publishing of the pro-torture maniac Mark Theissen and the charmless fraud George Will, as well as recently hosting an intellectually dishonest, tone deaf, and morally reprehensible anti-gay screed by Tony Perkins, is too much to bear — and on top of that the firing of David Weigel just because he was nasty about Matt Drudge in a private e-mail. The Post has proven itself, in terms of national political analysis, to be beyond hope.


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