There are two pervasive ideas that have ingrained themselves in to the psyche of the political Right. This is not to say that they are held by every person who is a conservative, but they have become major political platforms of the established party. These ideas have come to light in recent weeks as conservative candidates continue their fight for votes in the political primaries.
One is the idea that public education, particularly post-secondary schooling, is a trap set by liberal intellectual elitists designed to promote liberal agendas and policies. Santorum in particular has been vocal in his opposition to higher education, most notably when he called Obama a "snob" for suggesting that every American should go to college. The problem with this view, of course, is that it does not take into account the significant impact of a strong education on America's future. In fact, it doesn't consider the positive aspects of having the most highly educated, highly skilled job force in the world. Santorum denounces college education as snobbish, and hints that it is the product of a liberal mind-control agenda. This mentality is particularly damaging because it justifies, and in fact celebrates, ignorance, as well as an idea that Americans should choose not to go to college if they have the choice. The attacks on public education have been equally harmful, and have caused budget cuts, top-heavy administrations, bulky and unwieldy standards, and unreliable measures of success. Considering the importance of higher education (and indeed, education at every level, from the earliest age) to our continued growth as a nation, should it not be a primary focus of our spending, time, and attention? Shouldn't our lawmakers dote on our public education system, and strive to make it the best, rather than the most efficient?
The second idea is that things like the environment are of no consequence when placed against the importance of wealth. This idea has become so markedly pervasive among so many different groups (not just on the right) that it has almost reach the status of irrationally common-sensical. Consider the recent reports about fracking, which include concerns that the process may be causing tectonic shifts (mini-earthquakes), and that the process is driving polluted water into people's wells and waterways. And of course there is the argument over domestic oil drilling. This one in particular is a hot-button issue with gas prices so high at the moment, but experts all over the place will tell you that domestic drilling will do nothing to solve the problem. After all, opening up more areas to drill for oil only means that we allow private companies to set up rigs in those areas. Those companies still sell their oil in the global market, meaning they still get top dollar for domestic crude (if you want the true culprit who is responsible for the gas prices, look to Wall St.). The same logic has been used regarding the Keystone pipeline. The GOP likes to say that the pipeline will create jobs and lower the gas prices, which is why they want to push it through. But consider this. The pipeline might create jobs for a little while, but so would the national high-speed rail program the POTUS pushed last year and that the GOP fought until it went away. That was a bigger project that would have created more jobs. The pipeline will not lower gas prices, for the reasons stated above. And the pipeline could have a serious impact on the environment it passes through. In reality, it is going through the same process as every other project, and parts of the pipeline are already being built in some spots. But it has become a political talking point for the Right to continue using whenever they want to switch gears and talk about jobs.
While these issues, and many others, are being debated in the halls of Washington, those of us outside the realm of national politics are feeling a direct impact of these policies. Already, public education is moving out of reach for many students, and financial aid is drying up. Already, we are seeing the power of money and greed taking over the debates on oil and domestic production. Truth is in short supply these days, and it only seems to be getting worse. No one listens to experts, taking their information instead from the sources that simply reflect their own preconceived notions. Expertise is no longer valued as highly as instinct and individual opinion.