The Republican War on Reality Continues

Does reality disappoint you? Does it fail to agree with your ideas? Just stop examining the real world and your problem vanishes.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service concluded that cutting taxes on the rich had no correlation with higher economic growth rates. This is hardly surprising. Outside the right-wing think tank bubble, that's been the conclusion of practically every economist who's looked seriously at the evidence.

Nonetheless, congressional Republicans were shocked, and made their displeasure known. Shortly thereafter the report was withdrawn. Jared Bernstein calls this "existentially scary," because it means that nonpartisan analysis is becoming more and more impossible.

However, Steve Benen reminds us that this is hardly new:

This was consistently one of the more offensive hallmarks of the Bush/Cheney era. In 2005, for example, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism. Reality proved problematic, so rather than addressing the problem, the Republican administration decided to hide the reality.

Soon after, the Bush administration was discouraged by data about factory closings in the U.S., the administration announced it would stop publishing information about factory closings.

When Bush's Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.

After the Republican landslide of 1994, Gingrich did more than most to destroy congressional access to analytical information:

When he became speaker in 1995, Mr. Gingrich moved quickly to slash the budgets and staff of the House committees, which employed thousands of professionals with long and deep institutional memories.

....In addition to decimating committee budgets, he also abolished two really useful Congressional agencies, the Office of Technology Assessment and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The former brought high-level scientific expertise to bear on legislative issues and the latter gave state and local governments an important voice in Congressional deliberations.

And Bartlett points out that the current GOP routinely attacks not just the CBO and CRS, but also the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Government Accountability Office. They just don't like having anyone around that might mess with their preferred version of reality. [emphasis mine]

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The (Tea Party) Republican War on Reality eerily echoes what I learned while studying the development of today's American literature. What differs? Among the writers whose work I looked at, I saw protest but no malevolence like that among today's Republicans.

Too briefly, here's what I found.

In the years before WW1, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot and others rebelled against Victorianism and became known as Modernists. They expressed little or no concern for those not able to keep up with them, and in the 1960s/70s, another group of writers rebelled against them. These rebels became known as Postmodernists.

The postmodernists' "war on modernism" and the Republican War on Reality have in common an anger about their having been ignored for decades. Postmodern anger has pretty much exhausted its irrationality and some have said a new Enlightenment might follow.

The Republican war on reality began as a war on moderation. It's been brewing since about 1960 when the far right started expelling moderates. When moderate Republicans supported Democratic civil rights legislation, Southern Dems left. The Republicans needed to replace their moderates and recruited Southern Dems, who became Repubs and brought their racism into the Party.

At this point, 1974, I was a moderate Republican in Phoenix running in the Party primary for a legislative seat. The incumbent beat me and I resumed my activity with the Sierra Club.

Reagan invited Evangelicals into the Party and, having had more than enough religion, I became a Democrat. The evangelicals outnumbered the people who'd welcomed them into the Party and in many states took over the Party. The Evangelicals brought their refusal to compromise, their irrationality, and their war on the secular world into the Party.

Know this: I believe both major parties are about equally corrupt but I won't try to make that case here.

I'm hoping, perhaps foolishly, that after the evangelicals wreck the Party's future and return to their churches, moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats will rebuild the Party. Failing that, they might form a rational conservative party.

The combined Evangelical/Republican Party and its wars--on moderation, on compromise, on education, on reality, on equality, on the middle class--seem intended to make a new Dark Ages.

The combined Evangelical/Republican Party and its wars--on moderation, on compromise, on education, on reality, on equality, on the middle class--seem intended to make a new Dark Ages.

I agree, Tom. I also have given up on the Democratic party, and fled to the Green Party which is totally useless and does not seem more moral, only more left of liberal.

The Evangelicals brought their refusal to compromise, their irrationality, and their war on the secular world into the Party.

That was a good point I hadn't realized, thanks.

It's no real surprise that the GOP doesn't like reality and works to avoid it wherever possible.  They dislike it so much that they invented their own reality dispenser (Faux Noise), so that they could get nothing but positively reinforcing pap to salve their brows ... or whatever.

And then, of course, November 6th, 2012 happened ... and the GOP ran headlong into reality.  Some of 'em may learn from that lesson, though I wonder how many.  Tsk tsk tsk.

Republican inability to deal with long term real problems probably arises from control by corporations, who can't see beyond three month cycles.

... almost you couldn't find a worse problem that fits with our current political institutions, okay. Because this is a long term problem, okay. Our government is run on two-year cycles, four-year cycles or six-year cycles. Our businesses are essentially run on three-month cycles, what is the next shareholder report going to tell you, okay?

Those time frames of decision making lead to decisions that are profitable or best in the short run but do not adequately address these long term creeping problems that turn out to be much worse when they are allowed to fester. We have this tendency because of this short term myopic focus to put those kinds of problems on the back burner until they become so big it requires much more wrenching change to try to deal with them. [emphasis mine]


war against.. humanity. yep . . 
against common sense too. hello. humans just broke free form the industrial age. wtf?

Which political party?

Any, except of course today's near-insane Republican Party.

More importantly, I connect with the people who want a national initiative and referendum.

Yes, it will require a Constitutional amendment.

Are Americans ready for democracy?

We will be, when the oligarchic/plutocratic political parties have offended us enough.

They long ago offended me enough.

Since the Constitution took effect the government has used taxpayer money to bail out business.

Only during the 1930s Depression did the government pause (yes, PAUSE) its long war against working people.

I don't think it's a war on reality.  I think they know exactly what they are doing.  I think it is a war for power and wealth which has always been tied up with rich old white men.  They word their message to the masses in anyway it works for their difference audiences.   

Around the time of Kennedy's assassination Richard Hofstadter published an essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, which described the style of argument conservatives were making at the time and traced its history. He did not argue that conservatives are themselves paranoid or deluded, but rather that way they presented their arguments was similar to the psychology of paranoics. They saw themselves as fighting a conspiracy to take away fundamental rights and qualities of American democracy. At that time it was linked to the threat of communism with Robert Welch calling Dwight Eisenhower a "dedicated communist agent."

Much of that paranoid style remains in the conservative movement today in the notions that there is a socialist conspiracy to eliminate free markets, destroy religion, and confiscate everyone's guns so that the government has absolute authority. They claim this is what is behind excess government spending—an aim to undermine the economy so that only the government has economic power.

Hofstadter enlarged his original essay into a book with the same title and it makes very interesting reading in the current political climate. For those devoted to the paranoid style, compromise is out because it would be getting in bed with the Devil. Coupled with this is the notion that if the right only chose the most conservative candidate for President, conservatives would show up at the polls and sweep them to victory. This idea goes back to Phyllis Schafley in the 1960's and it is still being put forth today.

Dr. Clark, I agree and will take it further. The political fundraising mail I received during the 1950s and 1960s (those were my independent years) persuaded me that the people who write those shameless appeals see:

1) fear as the driving emotion of conservatives,

2) anger as the driving emotion of progressives, and

3) guilt as the driving emotion of liberals.

To raise money, those appeals used conservatives' fear of change, progressives' anger at abuses, and liberals' guilt at their own comfort.

I don't generalize those conclusions to all political behavior.

Testosterone-fueled aggression plays a part, and for myself a PTSD-related hyper-alertness has kept me involved.

Interesting reply.  Sorry about your PTSD.  Stay strong.

Thank you, Lillie.

Interesting. I thought the conservative right depended on a toxic blend of fear and anger (outrage directed toward others for violating their "rights" i.e. expected hetero white christian male privilege).




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