As a European who’s read a great deal of history over my 60 years on this planet, it’s not difficult to look at the Republican Party in the USA and see that it is an agent of social destruction. If our species survives the next 200 years (a feat I personally doubt will be achievable) it is indisputable that historians will regard the GoP as a corrosive cancer that ultimately led to an irreparable collapse of civic norms. Ironically this is because the GoP has been so successful.

Back in the 1960s the new science of marketing indicated that one can take a large group and break it into segments, each one of which can be targeted with specific messages of high efficacy. The Nixon campaign took this idea and targeted a couple of segments that seemed easy to capture because they were largely comprised of people whose IQs were modest and therefore simple messages repeated sufficiently would do the trick. Nixon benefited from this strategy. Reagan’s team later went further, Gingrich exploited the insight mercilessly and of course Baby Bush went further still. Today Trump is the result of fifty years of focus on the simple-minded, who are easily wooed by lies and infeasible promises because they lack the intellectual capacity to see through the deceit.

The irony is that the GoP went from capturing the simple-minded to being captured by them. When your representative is spewing simple-minded nonsense it’s inevitable that a few in the audience will feel inspired to get up and do it for themselves. As their audience comprises people just like them, this “me too” has a natural appeal. Were it feasible to perform the experiment I would not be surprised if we found the average IQ of the GoP in Congress was 10 to 15 points lower than the average IQ of Democrat politicians. Low IQ folk generally make very poor decisions because they fail to understand real-world issues and always look for simple-minded “solutions” because that’s the limit of their intellectual capacity. Hence we see the rise of populism predicated on the most atavistic impulses of the lower segments of society: these have the strongest appeal and therefore are the most politically potent to cultivate. The fact that such efforts result in the destruction of civic society means nothing to politicians whose entire focus is on the next election.

The GoP is repellent but by no means unusual. We see the same mindless populist poison spreading across the globe: Orban in Hungary, PiS in Poland, Babic in the Czech Republic, Brexit in the UK, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Salvini in Italy, and on and on. Plato pointed out 2,500 years ago that democracy must always end in tyranny because there will always be a sufficiently large number of people who are easily swayed by an unscrupulous glib-tongued orator; once you have this minority firmly in your pocket the rest will go along quietly. We’re simply seeing this playing out today though few recognize the phenomenon clearly.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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