Sunday, May 22, 2011

American Senescence

John Quiggin has an interesting, provocative piece at Crooked Timber, with which I disagree almost entirely.
The fact that, with no observable exceptions, the Republican Party relies on delusional beliefs for most of its claims about economics, science and history has been obvious for some years. But, until recently it’s been outside the Overton Window. That seems to have changed, . . .


Why is this happening now, after years of apparent Republican immunity from any kind of fact-based challenge? And how will this affect public debate in the US and elsewhere?

The precipating event, I think, was Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate. The timing was brilliant, and indicative of political skills that seemed to have deserted Obama for some time. By the time he acted, it had become clear that the majority of Republican supporters supported birtherism (at least verbally) and that no-one in the Republican Party (or among conservatives more generally) was prepared to confront birtherism head-on as a racist delusion. The par position among “sensible” rightwingers was something like “Of course, I believe that Obama was born in Hawaii, but he has only himself to blame for not releasing the long-form certificate (and, in any case, Democrat supporters also believe crazy things[1])”. That position sounded safe, but looked awfully silly in retrospect, especially when Donald Trump took the credit for it.

The killing of bin Laden a few days afterwards set the seal on things. As Scott McLemee observed, Obama seemed to be making life difficult for himself in his quest to impose Sharia law on an unsuspecting US populace. The desperate attempts of Republicans to claim that it was their policy of torture that made Obama’s success possible looked even sillier given their longstanding endorsement of, or acquiescence in, birtherism.
First of all, dealing with the last point, torture-pimps still believe that. Furthermore, they believe that Pres. Bush, VP Cheney, and others in the Bush Administration deserve far more credit for the Navy SEAL raid that ended with the death of Osama Bin Laden than Pres. Obama (why that is, I just do not know). The idea that because Obama produced a birth certificate, after having already done so during the 2008 campaign, somehow "counts" against the birther phenomenon, is really beyond me.

Anyway, the global warming deniers still run things in the House. Mercantilists and gold-standard preachers seem to be the wave of the future, while Krugman gets dismissed as a lonely, ivory-tower academic more comfortable with numbers than people. The President, who seemed intent on addressing the serious threat of economic collapse as soon as he took office, has succumbed to the phony garment-rending by Capitol Hill Republicans over the deficit.

Meanwhile, Republicans elected last fall defending Medicare and promising to make job-creation their number one priority have signed on to a bill to dismantle Medicare and have yet to make any serious policy offers regarding job growth.

The overall adherence to certain principles unrelated to reality is unabated in the Republican Party; with Newt Gingrich in the running for the nomination for President, this divide is sure to increase.

This is not to say that the Democratic Party adheres to reality any more than the Republicans. If they did, they might fight a little harder, work a little better, at ensuring the message, "These guys are whacko!" was heard every single time policy matters get discussed. For example, you want to talk about global warming? Make sure there's a couple sentences about Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) who is either incapable of understanding even the most basic science, or batshit crazy (there is a third option - that he's both).

There is no reality-based journalism out there, any more than there is a reality-based politics, or a reality-based community supporting one or another party. The sad fact is we are a country facing many major, important problems, and right now neither major party has anyone of any consequence addressing any of these problems in a substantive, thoughtful manner.

No country, regardless of international status, can survive with a pool of potential national leaders as incapable of addressing serious matters as ours are; even less can such a nation survive with a national press corps that seems incapable of printing the fact that the policies supported by the majority of the Republican Party are not, in fact, valid. They are factually false.

Reality is smacking this country around, without the help of any reality-based journalism. I see little prospect of it in the future, either.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More