Bumping Up Against Reality. Is this a Wake Up Call that the Right Wing will Hear?
November 8, 2012
The video above is 7 minutes long, but if you missed it on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, take the time, as it is a brilliant summation of what is wrong with half the US political system. (there’s things wrong with the other half too, but that’s for another post)
The election threw a bright spotlight on the elaborate mechanisms that the right wing has erected to defend itself against reality. Such defenses are very human, and universal, and often more or less harmless, as when we lie to ourselves about that extra few pounds we’re carrying, or whether we’re losing our hair. But sometimes self deception can actually put our physical survival in jeopardy. As Orwell pointed out -
We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
Is this post-superstorm election the battlefield where the Republican party got bumped hard enough to come to its senses? Signs are mixed. As a post below shows, the climate denialist base clearly still wants to hold on to their alternative reality. But what about more “mainstream” types? Conservative Rich Lowry, writing in Politico, seems clueless:
Barack Obama is an Ivy League-educated former University of Chicago law lecturer with intellectual pretensions and a wide streak of introversion. If he weren’t president of the United States, he might be a staff writer for The New Yorker. It would be hard to come up with an elitist liberal more stereotypically suited to a populist Republican campaign lambasting him as out of touch.
Yet in two presidential campaigns in a row, Obama has easily bested his Republican opponents on the quality of being in touch with ordinary people. Somewhere Adlai Stevenson — who set the standard for eggheaded liberalism in two losing presidential bids in the 1950s — must wonder how Obama pulls it off.
Meanwhile Christine Todd Whitman, recalling a Mitt Romney who once respected science and had a capacity for moderation, shows at least a glimmer of recognition:
Far-right Republicans woke up today claiming that we tried to win with a moderate and it didn’t work, so the answer is to be more conservative in the future. But exit poll data shows that notion is simply false. 3.5 million more self-identified conservatives voted for McCain/Palin in 2008 than voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004, and the former still lost. The percentage of voters who identified as conservatives has only grown in the last 4 election cycles – from 29 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2004 and 2008, and 35 percent in 2012. Yet Romney still lost. Getting more conservatives is not the answer; getting the centrists is.
Romney knows how to work across the aisle and find sensible solutions with which the majority of Americans could be comfortable – he did it as governor of Massachusetts, and he could have done it as president. But he will not get that opportunity because the fringes of the Republican party dragged him to the right on every conceivable social issue, leaving no room for reasonable dialogue when the general election was upon us.
Both parties are becoming more extreme, but I’m a Republican and I believe that Republicans have better solutions for the problems America faces. The GOP has to break the hold that fringes of the party have over the primary process so that our candidates can campaign and govern from the sensible center. If we fail to learn this lesson, the GOP may be driven to irrelevance before we get another chance.
This video from the Heritage Action Foundation sounds like a call to double-down on the paranoia – to which I’m tempted to say, “Right on Bro, stick to your guns, you go with that…” — except we really do need all hands on deck, and oriented to reality, to solve this problem.
This story is developing, as is the GOP’s response to being crushed on tuesday, so it’s a little early to draw conclusions – but clearly this seems to be a moment where reflection, if it’s even possible anymore, might happen. I don’t know the answer – I’m just throwing this out for discussion.
I’m reposting below my interview with Chris Mooney on “The Republican Brain”.