Paul Krugman of the New York Times sums up Republican Party politics well in his latest opinion piece. Now, I don’t always agree with Mr. Krugman on everything but on this one I find his insight excellent.

He describes the current Republican strategy with regards to the oil and energy crisis as “Know Nothing Politics” — which it most certainly is. The term “Know Nothing” originates from a political movement in the 1850s and originated with the fact that the Know Nothing party was a semi-secret organization and if a member was asked about its political activities he would reply “I know nothing.” (“Know Nothing“, Wikipedia, August 1, 2008 ) Today, however, the term “Know Nothing” has become a perjorative term suggesting that someone is both a nativist and ignorant. (“Know Nothing“, Wikipedia, August 1, 2008 )

As Krugman notes in his editorial, the Republican Party has come to stand for stupid politics — especially in the case of the energy debate. The Republican Party leadership and politicians appear to have adopted the concept that simple, brute-force instant gratification answers are the solution to every problem. (Krugman, Paul, “Know Nothing Politics“, The New York Times, August 7, 2008 ) In this case the solution to high oil prices — drilling offshore for more oil which will result in immediate reductions in gasoline prices at the pump. Some Republicans actually go so far as to claim credit for the recent drop in oil prices coming down from a high of around $147 per barrel to around $120 per barrel today. As Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) recently claimed: “The market is responding to the fact that we are here talking,” (Krugman, Paul, “Know Nothing Politics“, The New York Times, August 7, 2008 )

Of course the studies and analyses from the Department of Energy which note that it would take years for any oil extracted from an offshore oil field to hit the open market and even the impact that oil would make on the price of crude is “insignificant” mean nothing to Rep. Shadegg or others like him.
Rather than look at the energy crisis as more complex the Republican’s in Congress and this Administration have adopted the concept of “Drill Here! Drill Now” without acknowledging the fact that oil field development takes years and we have no idea whether we will find sufficient oil in those fields to satiate our needs. We need to accept that oil is the fuel of the past and we have to move forward, diversify our energy production, look towards cleaner technologies as well as renewable energy sources for our future. On top of that, if we get off the oil addiction that OPEC wants us to be on we will remove a huge source of income for many “petro-dictators” as columnist Tom Friedman describes them.

What’s sad is that this strategy may actually work. The average voter wants to know what’s going to solve their problem today. People naturally want simple solutions — even to complex problems. And it appears that the Republicans in Congress, this administration and Senator McCain have embraced “Know-Nothing” politics as the answer. It’s a shame that Senator McCain has taken to lowering his standards for discourse down to simple rhetoric…I have a great deal of admiration for him as a maverick and a non-conformist Republican. But to adopt the methods and tactics of President Bush and to chant the mantra of “Drill Here! Drill Now!” without admitting that we are not addressing the core of the problem in a intelligent, thoughtful manner, he has really done himself and American politics a disservice. In the end it may get him the White House…but it will not get him a Republican congress. We may end up in the same partisan situation that we are in now for another two years. And we definitely don’t need more of that.

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