The Neo-Know Nothings

Richard Cohen nails the essence of contemporary Republicanism:

Ignorance has become more than bliss. It’s now an attribute, an entire platform: “Vote for me, I know nothing and hate the same things you do.”

Mitt Romney, of course, isn’t an ignoramus. But he plays one on TV debates.

Footnote Of course, in order to maintain his inside-the-Beltway cred Cohen has to add the nonsensical prediction that some Democratic politician will figure out the same formula. The only problem with that is that there’s very little market for that sort of thing on the Democratic side; that’s why left-wing talk radio is a fringe activity while right-wing talk radio has taken over the GOP.

Symmetry is often a useful heuristic, but in fact everything is not isomorphic with everything else.

Second footnoteThe original Know-Nothings were bigots, but the name didn’t reflect Palin-style pride in ignorance. It came from the conspiratorial nature of the Know-Nothing organization: when members were asked about the party’s activities, their stock answer was “I know nothing of it.”

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.