What happens when anti-education and anti-intellectual factions plant deep roots in the party in power in the US government?

This happens. Regardless of previous American achievements, the US has now been surpassed on the frontiers of science by Europe. Instead of the best and brightest from around the world coming here because this is the place where innovation and discovery happen, our young scientists and engineers are now going elsewhere. New scientific developments and the economic boons they create will increasingly be happening in Europe, and, for that matter, in China, which continues to make great strides in science and industry.

This problem is much bigger than George Bush. It lies in the contempt of conservative ideology for public education, the very engine that drove more than a century of American leadership in science, diplomacy and politics – and therefore in innovation and industry, and in commerce – and therefore in military power and in world prominence and respect. It lies in the position of conservatives that, when education should be discussed at all, it should not be in the context of fixing the problems that exist and making the system better, but in dissolving the Department of Education and pushing students toward private schools.

If the Republican Party has been the greater villain here, the Democrats have been their sidekicks; their efforts on behalf of education and science have been ineffective at best. They’ve allowed a shameless propaganda industry to operate freely, to promote anti-intellectual and anti-education views. Those who promote such views are not interested in a stronger America, but in promoting their own ideology; that this ideology makes America weaker is something they cannot see, because the ideology itself tells them it does the opposite.

But facts are facts: the US is in a weaker position today, in science, innovation and education, than it was in 1980, despite not having a Soviet colossus competing with it. This is because conservatism is deeply anti-intellectual, something it shares with Maoism, and it’s been so effective politically that it has driven both the country and the government to the right. Even its opponents move to the right in an effort to capitalize on the perceived popularity of conservative ideas; both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are center-right politicians, not the leftists that conservatives effectively portray them as.

The Soviet Union failed because it placed ideology above facts, too. Adherence to that ideology was valued more than the facts staring the people in charge of the Soviet economy in the face. That economy was faltering, badly, because the decisions were made on the basis of that ideology, instead of being based in reason and fact. American economists at the time saw it and predicted it. And today European observers correctly see the signs of America’s failure – a failure rooted in ‘conservatism,’ which is bankrupt not because all of its proponents are bad people, but because by its very nature it places ideology above facts.

The solution is to get the American people to realize again, as they once did, the value of education, science and innovation. To stop characterizing people with college educations as ‘elitist.’ To allow bright, deserving students to get those educations instead of taking $7 an hour jobs at Wal-Mart so they can eat, and to fix the issues in the educational system so that every single kid can get a basic education regardless of their path in life.

The solution lies in the realization of the utter failure of conservatism. But it’s a vicious circle; bad education means more people who can’t separate rhetoric from facts, who lack the basic ability to reason. More people who will lack the ability to recognize that the dominant ideology in America today is fatally flawed and is driving the country toward stagnation and ultimately, third-world status. Conservatives have ruled here for most of the last 28 years, and when they have lacked control over one part of our government, they have controlled the others. Six of the last eight have been years of unchecked conservative power. What’s the result? An America weaker in science, weaker in diplomacy, weaker militarily, economically and diplomatically. This is not because conservatives don’t beleive in any of those things; it’s because their ideology drives them to make bad decisions, which they can’t perceive becuase the ideology itself says that those decisions cannot be wrong, and only in being not conservative enough can they fail. This ludicrous but self-reinforcing reasoning is letting countries like India, Indonesia and Mexico rapidly catch up, to say nothing of sub-superpowers like Russia and China. Europe has already surpassed us.

In this, our politicians – both Democrats and Republicans – have been the villains. America has been the victim. It’s not too late to save it.