A New Yorker article says North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows (R-11) was involved in a land deal to purchase fossil-rich land at a place called Dinosaur, Colorado. Meadows failed to mention the deal in his financial disclosure statements, a violation of campaign finance laws. That’s a problem in itself but the story of the sale is even more disturbing. 

Meadows apparently supports a movement called “creationist paleontology.” These people try to prove that dinosaurs were around just 6,000 years ago when they believe the earth was created. The creationists bought the property so they could dig and display fossils to argue that dinosaurs were wiped out by the Great Flood. Noah apparently played God and decided which animals were welcome on his arc and which weren’t. Talk about picking winners and losers. 

The story tells of a bunch of hucksters creating a documentary about home schoolers, including Meadows and his kids, discovering rare dinosaurs at the Colorado site. In reality, the fossils were found years earlier by experienced fossil hunters who were excavating the site. The creationists ended up fighting with each other over the rights to the fossils and Meadows ended up buying the land so it wouldn’t get lost in the legal battle. As one of the parties in the dispute told the New Yorker reporter, Meadows bought the land to “advance the work of young-Earth creationists.”

I’m far less concerned about Meadows failing to report the land deal than I am about Meadows believing the world is only 6,000 years old. That’s not a religious conviction. That’s ignorance. He’s free to believe what he wants to believe, but he shouldn’t be making policy if he’s relying on the historical accuracy of the Old Testament to drive his decisions. 

Meadows, though, is an example of where the GOP is today. They create their own facts and let them drive the party. Republicans seem to be split into two factions: The people too ignorant to know better and the ones cynical enough to exploit them. Ironically, Meadows falls into both categories. He’s both a grifter and a mark. 

Republicans have rejected the threat of climate change despite overwhelming scientific evidence, including disappearing glaciers, shrinking ice caps, monster storms, rising sea levels and 100 degree days in October. Half the party believed Barack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. Today, they’re arguing that Donald Trump didn’t ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens despite audio transcripts of Trump doing just that. 

I first realized we were reaching new heights of delusion about 15 years ago when I was arguing with a Republican over the Iraq War. He insisted that Saddam Hussein had ordered the attacks on 9-11. Nothing I said or showed him convinced him otherwise. Back then, I was a bit astounded and passed it off as just blind ignorance of one person. Now, it’s taken over the whole party. 

The Meadows episode is a good analogy for the modern GOP. They’ve become a party of grifters taking advantage of ignorance to advance political and personal goals. Like the creationist paleontologists, they’re twisting facts to give credence to their beliefs whether they are plausible or not. And they’ve got a whole army following them.

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