Public Policy Polling released the results of an interesting survey this week, which you probably heard a bit about — it dealt with public attitudes towards conspiracy theories (some of which weren’t really conspiracy theories). Not surprisingly, we learned that a lot of folks believe a lot of strange stuff.
But it’s worth appreciating the fact that this phenomenon isn’t limited to the general public. We’re occasionally reminded that federal lawmakers buy into some bizarre conspiracy theories, too.
We talked yesterday, for example, about the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations, and the oddity of watching Republicans align themselves with the position adopted by Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Let’s also take a moment, though, to highlight the GOP’s reasons for doing so. For example, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) appeared on a right-wing radio show yesterday, arguing that the treaty would “literally change” and “essentially repeal” the Second Amendment. This is patently ridiculous, but Fleming said it anyway.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose affinity for conspiracy theories is bordering on unhealthy, wrote a fundraising letter on the treaty for the National Association for Gun Rights that was truly crazy, even for him.
“I don’t know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick. [...]
If we’re to succeed, we must fight back now. That’s why I’m helping lead the fight to defeat the UN “Small Arms Treaty” in the United States Senate. And it’s why I need your help today.
Will you join me by taking a public stand against the UN “Small Arms Treaty” and sign the Official Firearms Sovereignty Survey right away? Ultimately, UN bureaucrats will stop at nothing to register, ban and CONFISCATE firearms owned by private citizens like YOU.
Paul’s letter added that the United Nations intends to “force” the United States to “CONFISCATE and DESTROY ALL ‘unauthorized’ civilian firearms,” while creating “an INTERNATIONAL gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun CONFISCATION,” which isn’t part of the Arms Trade Treaty and also isn’t sane.
But it does offer a reminder about why the politics of paranoia makes governing so difficult.
Reflecting on the hysterical opposition to the ATT, Greg Sargent raised an important point yesterday.
Republican Senators (and too many red state Dems) have fallen into line behind the NRA’s lurid claims not just about the treaty, but also about gun control, endorsing its paranoid and false claim that expanding background checks would create a national gun registry. With United States Senators eagerly feeding such fringe views rather than engaging in genuine policy debate, is it any wonder that it’s a major struggle to implement even the most modest and sensible effort to limit the ongoing murder of innocents, one that is supported by nine in 10 Americans?
I strongly agree, and the more I thought about it, the more I started noticing how broadly applicable this is.
We couldn’t pass a disability treaty because Republicans believed conspiracy theories. We can’t address global warming because Republicans believe the entirety of climate science is a giant conspiracy. We couldn’t pass bipartisan health care reform in part because Republicans were too heavily invested in the “death panel” conspiracy theory.
This problem, in other words, keeps coming up, and probably won’t get any better until the electorate sends fewer conspiracy theorists to Washington.
By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, April 4, 2013
“The Pretzel Logic Of The Right”: Another Perceived Attack On The Sovereignty Of America, God And Family!
It’s hardly news any more when conservatives oppose ratification of a treaty reflecting widely shared American values. Concern for U.S. “sovereignty,” often based on conspiracy theories about the United Nations and other multinational organizations the U.S. helped create, has become a reflexive excuse for a kind of rigid unilateralism once associated with the John Birch Society or even older, isolationist conservatives.
But the current conservative fight to kill ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is especially interesting because the most avid opponents are the cultural conservatives who often profess solidarity with the disabled as part of their fight against legalized abortion. Anti-choicers and home-schoolers, however, have declared war on the convention on the theory that it confirms the “reproductive rights” of people with disabilities, and/or might confer other rights upon them that intefere with the absolute power of the family (presumably a servant-leader male-directed family) to raise children as they wish.
Thus it’s not surprising that Rick Santorum is at the head of this particular parade in the Senate, which raises the ire of WaPo’s Dana Milbank:
The former presidential candidate pronounced his “grave concerns” about the treaty, which forbids discrimination against people with AIDS, who are blind, who use wheelchairs and the like. “This is a direct assault on us,” he declared at a news conference….
[Mike] Lee, a tea party favorite, said he, too, has “grave concerns” about the document’s threat to American sovereignty. “I will do everything I can to block its ratification, and I have secured the signatures of 36 Republican senators, all of whom have joined with me saying that we will oppose any ratification of any treaty during this lame-duck session.”
Lame or not, Santorum and Lee recognized that it looks bad to be disadvantaging the disabled in their quest for fair treatment. Santorum praised Lee for having “the courage to stand up on an issue that doesn’t look to be particularly popular to be opposed.”
Courageous? Or just contentious? The treaty requires virtually nothing of the United States. It essentially directs the other signatories to update their laws so that they more closely match the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even Lee thought it necessary to preface his opposition with the qualifier that “our concerns with this convention have nothing to do with any lack of concern for the rights of persons with disabilities.”
Their concerns, rather, came from the dark world of U.N. conspiracy theories. The opponents argue that the treaty, like most everything the United Nations does, undermines American sovereignty — in this case via a plot to keep Americans from home-schooling their children and making other decisions about their well-being.
And so, Santorum brought his famous daughter Bella, who suffers from a severe birth defect, to the hearing where he fought against acknowledgement of the rights of people like her.
This is where the pretzel logic of the Right can lead.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, November 27, 2012