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.

What were those guys smoking, really?

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”.


26 Responses to “Bumping Up Against Reality. Is this a Wake Up Call that the Right Wing will Hear?”

  1. omnologos Says:

    A common meme in the past two days. I am not so sure. The Democrats managed to lose twice against Dubya, who was no Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt, then came back thanks to Obama’s charisma and not much else.

    The actual personalities available for a Presidential run seem to trump all political considerations.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the circumstances of the 2000 and 2004 elections do not clearly show that the democrats lost fair and square, – given that Gore clearly won the popular vote in 2000, and the dark facts about GOP’s Ohio machinations in 2004 .. but never mind.

      • omnologos Says:

        Gore was coming on the back of the most successful economic period of the history of the USA. And still he only managed to get his bid for President handled by the Supreme Court. Should have won by a landslide.

        Kerry was coming on the back of a terrible four years of crises (after the best eight years ever), an obviously bad choice of a war in Iraq, and widespread incompetence. And still he lost 286 to 251 (=Ohio – how did Kerry lose Ohio???). Should have won by a landslide.

        I am sure Obama would have trumped Bush in 2004 had the former been four years older. And I have the impression Mondale would have won in 2000 or even anybody’s slow-witted uncle apart from Al Gore.

  2. Wes Says:

    We need to become better communicators, and by that I don’t mean more facts, I mean more persuasion. The Right has mastered rhetoric in their messaging while we want to depend on wonky facts. As Joe Romm has clearly demonstrated in his book, dry facts will always lose to skillful rhetoric.

    We ignore that and then wonder why we lose when “all the scientists agree” on something. I’d like to see Joe’s book as required reading for all progressives.

  3. Martin Lack Says:

    Absoltely brilliant analysis by Maddow.

    I have to question, therefore, whether Omnidenialogos actually listened to it.

    • omnologos Says:

      Intellectually, it is for you possible to carry this process for an indefinite time. Although I would have questions about the first word of that sentence.

  4. ahaveland Says:

    Great analysis by Rachel.
    The Tea Party needs exorcising from the GOP if it wants to be electable in the future.

    Curious – every time I see the words “The Republican Brain” I see a walnut.
    Is it just me?

  5. “Nate Silver was doing math.” Too funny.

    She’s spot on except for 5:45 to 6:45 in my book, because she’s assuming good ideas come from both sides. That’s just not the case. Good ideas are not coming from the far right, they’re crazy arse ideas, and the weak-kneed Dem response is to “compromise” by becoming center-right themselves. The nation has to have a crazy arse liberal faction again to really show the nation the full political spectrum. That would move us to reasonable compromise again. As of now, the far right calls Obama a “Marxist” and half the nation believes it. But, anyway….

    As Karl Rove was traveling down the Nile on the evening of the 6th, I was thinking it was a perfect analogy for what’s going on with the climate change “debate”. Rove was so certain he had it in the bag, he just couldn’t believe it, and the cognitive dissonance kicked in. It was a great moment. Ah, good times.

    Omnologos, you have a reasonable analysis of the Gore and Kerry races. Personality DOES matter a lot. But it’s also missing the mood of the nation during both elections. The U.S. grows naturally tired of the familiar face, and Bush successfully sold the “compassionate conservative” idea. Plus Gore never really separated himself from Clinton, and a good portion of the country was ready to kick him to the curb by then.

    On Kerry, he was a weak candidate, so I think you’re essentially right. Kerry’s the perfect example of the supposed “liberal” who will always be the first in line to compromise (search “john kerry compromise”). Again, it’s why the country is moving center-right. The far right isn’t budging, and they won’t budge (as evidenced perfectly in the “Stand with Us” video). Continually moving to accommodate them isn’t going to solve a thing – at least not in the ways they need to be solved.

    But, anyway, during the Bush-Kerry race the nation was largely still under the impression that Iraq was a justifiable war. I think a lot of swing voters were nervous about switching the commander-in-chief at the time. I’m not calling it a logical choice on the nation’s part – it’s just an impression. John Kerry’s first act on accepting the nomination was to present himself as a warrior (he saluted the crowd), and I swear I saw a slight tremble in the salute.

    He should have creamed Bush during the debates, and I remember being quite angry that he didn’t savage him. But he didn’t, and he lost.

    In general, never, ever, ever underestimate the far right. They are NOT stupid. They are simply insincere. The truth is fully malleable to them, the ends always justify the means, power is always the goal, and their actions bear this out time and time again. Politically, anyway, they’re not being stupid except for the times when their preconceptions run smack into the brick wall of reality.

  6. ontspan Says:

    How telling. Democrats by virtue of Rachel Maddow reaching out to the Republicans ‘face reality and work together for this great nation’, while the conservative digs in and is ready fight the administration on every step.

    Which attitude you think would be best for the country? To me as outsider the answer is easy, conservatives really need to grow up.

  7. […] be honest: your own spin cycle got the better of you, and as much I think Maddow is a lying hack, this time, she's right on the money. So you were wrong about Nate Silver. Not just a little wrong, not "had the right idea, but […]

  8. […] should probably watch this and give it some thought. https://climatecrocks.com/2012/11/08/…ing-will-hear/ Reply With […]

  9. […] yourself that. Here's a bit of a reality check and an opportunity for some introspection. https://climatecrocks.com/2012/11/08/…ing-will-hear/ Reply With […]

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