Time and time again, watching the politics of the Right, I find the word “sophomore” coming to mind. In my vocabulary, it is not a friendly term.
Literally, “sophomore” is a Greek word. sophos means wise and moros means foolish. A sophomore is a wise fool. Years ago I thought that observation was merely cute but over the years I have seen many sophomores and have come to recognize them easily. The mark of a “wise fool,” I have seen, is that he or she is adept at criticizing, quick to see flaws, but quite incapable of standing for or even comprehending anything positive. The sophomore pretends to be wise but remains always a simple fool.
Do not mistake me here. I’m not distinguishing between a pessimist and an optimist. No, I mean a sophomore stands against people and ideas but stands for nothing. It is the perfect adjective for today’s strong conservatives, as well as for the pseudo-conservatives such as Trump.
You can name a dozen proofs yourself, I am sure. Let me name just the one which is at the top of the list in news at the moment. After years and years of complaining, first about Hillary Clinton’s attempts at reforming American health care in the 90s and about Obamacare in this century, it turns out the Republicans haven’t a clue how to make positive changes in American health care.
If 20 years isn’t enough time for them to figure out what they stand for — rather than merely against — they should bury their heads in shame. Just think of how pitiful they sound when asked about their new plan: Invariably they start their answer by slamming Obamacare. They simply cannot define themselves or their position except to say, in effect, “We may not know who we are but we certainly know who we are not.”
That’s okay for an adolescent but is absolutely inadequate for national leadership. Paul Ryan is totally without any conceivable excuse for his tax-cut-for-the-rich-posing-as-health-care reform. Merely being against “big government” and high taxes does not constitute a viable theory of what American health care should be.
Nor does such an anti-government mindset help us understand what good government can and must be.
Lacking any idea how to govern, the conservatives resort to a default position: Let’s get out of the way and let Big Business and Wall Street run our country. They are amazingly blind to the fact that our several crises since Reagan’s day have been caused not by over-regulation but by inadequate regulation. The wealthy have greedily found ways to dramatically increase their own wealth, even when the rest of America has suffered very significantly. And yet the conservatives say, despite all recent evidence to the contrary, that the wealthy will be our deliverance.