I've been mulling over the results of the recent Harris poll.

It's been known for some time that nearly 70 percent of registered Republicans believe, for example, that the Earth is but a few thousand years old. Keep in mind this is a viewpoint whose scientific support is about the same as belief in astrology, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.

That's . . . obviously demoralizing to anyone who cares about science education. But one could shrug one's shoulders, I suppose, and think it does no harm for a big chunk of the electorate to believe this as a private matter, as long as they don't put it into the schools.

Problem: depending on how the question is asked, anywhere from 40-60 percent of all people think that creation should be taught in the public schools.
That includes independents and Democrats. So, if Republicans should ever gain overwhelming control of the educational establishment in any state, there is a strong tendency to push the envelope to try to get some version, any version, of creationism approved for instruction. It's a pretty sad state of affairs that the last bastion of defense is not the electorate, or the common-sense of legislators, but the courts.

Still...who cares? Just because magical thinking dominates on this issue, does it really follow that Republicans in general can't be trusted to think logically and present credible views based upon evidence?

I'm starting to think so. The GOP today is not the party of Ronald Reagan, which had solid, widely-embraced conservative ideals but was willing to work with Tip O'Neill and the House Democrats to accomplish goals. The GOP is not the post-Newt Gingrich House that was able to work with then-President Clinton on welfare reform. It is definitely not the party of my sensible, fiscally-conservative, Milton Friedman-loving parents. The GOP today is largely beholden to an aroused base, not of conservatives, but radicals prone to conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, the very essence of magical thinking.

57 percent of registered Republicans think that the President is a 'stealth Muslim' who secretly prays to Allah.

45 percent of registered Republicans think that the President is not a legal U.S. citizen.

24 percent of registered Republicans fear that Obama may be the 'Antichrist'.

Yesterday, on local talk radio, I heard the reasonable-sounding host pleasantly agree with an equally reasonable-sounding older woman. They concurred that it looks like the Democrats are faking acts of violence against those who voted for health care. Why are they faking it? Hold on to your hats: they both rather mildly agreed that it's part of a plot to discredit the Tea Party people, so that they (get this) can declare martial law before November and suspend elections. "Hello, Obama. Goodbye, Freedom."

Equally delusional: the oft-expressed view that Tea Party people represent a populist rebellion against Washington. Nuts. Depending on what part of the country you survey, the Tea Party people are 75-80 percent registered Republicans, and the vast majority of them adore Sarah Palin. In fact, one of her most popular lines when she spoke at the 'National Tea Party Convention' referenced the application of prayer in the conduct of foreign policy.

This is not so much a true populist movement based on shared values as it is an attempt to rebrand conservative politics with something other than the Republican label. This is no different from the local mega-churches that give themselves some boomer-friendly monicker ("The Well", "People's Church") and describe themselves as 'non-denominational', but in point of fact are branches of an existing denomination which, for marketing purposes, is kept in the background. Anyone who believes that the Tea Party people as a group are an independent voice are not listening to what they are saying, and who is truckling to them, and who is not.

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