Column for 21 September, 2008

I Deny Your Reality and Substitute My Own

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
–Romans 1:25

I don’t really argue politics that much anymore. No, really. As the Republic Party continues to shrink into a smaller and more fanatical core, it’s getting harder and harder to have any kind of realistic political discussion with them. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously observed that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. But the remnant of the conservative movement has retreated into some kind of bizarre alternate reality, utterly impenetrable to facts, logic or the truth. I first noticed this trend in the 1990’s, when Bill Clinton-haters (and I mean haters, not people who disapproved of his policies, but those who loathed the very mention of his name) insisted that he was guilty of everything from drug-running to murder. There was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up these ludicrous fantasies, but it didn’t matter. Republicans would tell me with a straight face, “You can’t prove he didn’t kill all those people!” leaving me to sputter incoherently about logic and not being able to prove a negative. And these weren’t just some fringe weirdoes wearing tin-foil hats, either; Congressman Sam Johnson took to the floor of the House to proclaim that Clinton was a KGB agent because he “felt it in his gut.” At the same time, it became accepted Republican gospel that Ronald Reagan had cut taxes but increased government revenues. You still hear Republicans chanting this mantra, but it simply isn’t true. The numbers do not lie. When Reagan cut the top marginal tax rates, revenues plummeted, causing the deficit to explode. The rapid expansion of Right Wing talk radio, and the utter domination of cable news punditry by ultra-conservatives, has fed this monastic trend, allowing the faithful to live in a hermetically-sealed environment where the only voices they hear are those that reinforce their beliefs. The culmination of Spiro Agnew’s crusade against the “liberal media” also helps, since any news that strays from the latest propaganda bulletins can be dismissed as “biased.” The propaganda ministry regularly cranks out pre-fabricated talking points to be faithfully regurgitated by the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus. Religious propaganda is handled by the Sanhedrin of tele-Pharisees, Dr. James Dobson, Pat Robertson, the late unlamented Jerry Falwell and others, preying on fears of evil secularists, homosexuals, pro-choice activists and feminists. On the international front, the neo-Conservatives (really just old-fashion priggish Victorian imperialists) could take the (wholly justified) public fear of radical Islamic terrorism to justify an invasion of Iraq based on completely fraudulent grounds. With the rhetorical foundation now in place for ignoring the real world, John McCain and Sarah Palin feel comfortable in running a campaign based pretty much exclusively on lying through the teeth. Palin in particularly lies so much, I’m beginning to wonder if that is in fact her real name. Day in and day out, the Governor repeats the long-since discredited claim that she “told Congress no thank you” on the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, she campaigned for the Bridge. Republicans decry any criticism of her whatsoever as sexist and have the unmitigated gall to complain that Democrats are launching personal attacks, this from the same crew that continues to promote transparently nasty attacks on Barack Obama’s religious faith, patriotism and loyalty. The McCain campaign states with a straight face that Palin never asked for earmarks, when in fact she sought hundreds of millions in earmarks both as Governor and Mayor. McCain has gotten to the point where he even lies to himself. His public response to the ongoing financial melt-down on Wall Street, the most serious since the Great Depression, is to call for the creation of a “blue-ribbon panel” as though the source of the problem were some unfathomable mystery akin to discovering the Unified Field Theory, as he blasts Wall Street’s “greed.” In reality, of course, we know exactly what happened; McCain, along with that old troglodyte Phil Gramm deregulated the banking industry in 1999 and again in 2000. The result was what always happens when industries are de-regulated—an orgy of fraud and corruption with the taxpayers left holding the bag. He claims he warned about problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when just ten months earlier he claimed no one could have anticipated the sub-prime mortgage crisis. McCain blasts lobbyists when his campaign is run by some of the biggest lobbyists in Washington. He promises to “shake up Washington” as though it was some other John McCain (perhaps an evil twin) who has been comfortably ensconced on the Potomac for the last 25 years. Under those circumstances, where the truth is discarded so casually, how exactly am I going to have a meaningful political discussion with a Republican? Frankly, it’s not my idea of a good time to debate people whose only response is to stick their fingers in their ears and shout “I can’t hear you!” over and over again. To be sure, I am eternally grateful for the Republicans I know who can have a calm and reasoned discussion on the issues of the day, but at this stage in my life, I no longer have the energy or the patience to argue with a fencepost over how deep in the ground it is.

Published in: on September 20, 2008 at 9:33 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I agree that Republicans in particular can be maddeningly stubborn when it comes to accepting facts. Even though I’ve defended Palin on the experience argument, I’m as sick as anyone of so-called conservative politicians who callously disregard any logic or science that disagrees with their distorted Christian “faith.”

    But I also think much of what you said characterizes the modern American political process as a whole. Democrats, in the past, have stubbornly clung to the belief that the federal government can and should be the solution to almost all of society’s problems, even as evidence mounted that many Great Society-type programs had outlived their usefulness and in some cases were actually making problems worse. Ironically, their stubborness and resistance to the facts–their inability to see past their political orthodoxy–helped fuel the rise of the modern “conservative” movement.

    I would love nothing more than for the U.S. to have politicians who were more pragmatic and rational than ideological and partisan. Just having a political process that isn’t framed by the unimaginative and stultifying limits of Democratic and Republican party dogma would be a great start, but sadly, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  2. Politicians are precisely as “pragmatic and rational” as their constituents…

  3. <>

    That may well be in some cases, but it begs the question, Why? In most cases–not all, but most–elected officials are better educated than their average constituent. For example, my state rep has a B.A. from Vanderbilt, my state senator has a B.A. and a law degree from Texas Tech, and my U.S. rep has a B.A. from Yale and a law degree from SMU, all of which put them above the average for their constituencies. So, if they truly are no more pragmatic or rational than their constituents, it would seem to be by choice. In which case, what benefit am I really getting out of their public service? Why not just eliminate their positions and let the mob vote directly, or, more precisely, whatever minority of the mob actually bothers to vote?

    Also, it’s not clear to me that most constituents are just as partisan as their representatives. Some are, to be sure, but a fairly consistent 20% or more tend to be swing voters. And if we had a system that didn’t maintain a lot of legal and financial barriers against effective competition from third parties and independents, I doubt the remaining 80% would be so evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. So, ultimately, I don’t buy the argument that the makeup of our legislatures and politicians is simply a mirror of their respective constituencies. I don’t think that’s exactly what you were arguing, but I’m just saying…

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