Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There's No There There

This is absolutely typical of every teabagger and teabagger-supported candidate. Promises to cut taxes, cut spending, balance the federal budget, with absolutely no specifics. Because it's politically, mathematically, and historically impossible.

And yet these people are winning.

Claiming, contra virtually every economist on the planet, that the stimulus didn't work; spreading the falsehood that cutting taxes increases revenue when it never has; blaming the deficits on Obama when it was Bush that turned record surplus into unprecedented red ink, every single one of them says the same things; all of which are demonstrably false.

And yet these people are winning!

In the endless -- and likely unresolvable -- search to find an explanation for the seemingly limitless ability of teabaggers (and, lately, all conservatives) to ignore reality, I came across this article in (warning: anathema approaching) Scientific American:

The critical quality that leads people to treat rookie cards like rosaries is that of the sacred, whereby an object becomes worthy of boundless reverence, commitment, and protection. As diverse as people are in ascribing sacred status to possessions, they are equally varied in which values they consider sacred, a diversity that can breed substantial conflict. The abortion debate, for example, often presents a divide between those who consider woman’s “right to choose” sacred versus those who consider a fetus’ “right to life” sacred.

Referring to a study of feeling among Iranians for their country's nuclear program, the article adds:
...The work is a reminder that sacred values are tremendously influential in disputes both international and interpersonal, but that our negotiating instincts can lead us away from common ground...
....What truly distinguishes sacred values from secular ones is how people behave when asked to compromise them. When people are asked to trade their sacred values for values considered to be secular—what psychologist Philip Tetlock refers to as a “taboo tradeoff”—they exhibit moral outrage, express anger and disgust, become increasingly inflexible in negotiations, and display an insensitivity to a strict cost-benefit analysis of the exchange.
I may be extrapolating too much here, but I think it applies to the current state of affairs in our politics. The mantras of tax cuts and deregulation, held as deeply sacred and absolutely foundational by all conservatives, have never been so threatened by reality. To accept that either idea had anything -- anything at all -- to do with our economic calamity is to allow a disruption in the force of the conservative mind that is simply incompatible with earth-bound equilibrium. Those beliefs which we hold closest are those that allow us to function in an incomprehensible and threatening world. The more the beliefs are shown to be false, the more we hold onto them. Absolutely natural and entirely inevitable, discordance between belief and reality is what so many people seek desperately to avoid. In my view, it pretty much defines the difference between the conservative and the liberal mind: willingness to process fact, to adjust to new circumstances, to evolve one's thinking. (Or to think one's evolved!)

Closed mind, in other words, versus open.

Based on current events, I'd guess another study might confirm the tendency, when all else fails to buttress one's sacred holdings, to find new ones, just as rigidly velcroed to the inside of the skull, but even more lightly attached to the firmament: like Obama's birth as a Kenyan Muslim terrorist. Seek, it is said, and ye shall find.

And whereas it's undoubtedly true that both sides are guilty of similar blindness (after all, where's the evidence that voting rights and education are essential to democracy or that societies which provide for their people are more stable than ones that don't?), based on the past ten years it's the conservative sacraments that appear to be on shakier ground. Thus, the greater tendency among teabagger ilkophiles to cover their eyes, finger their ears, and cleave for guidance unto the RWS™.

An explanation, perhaps. But hardly a comfort, given the actively, proudly, and resolutely fact-averse hordes taking to the polls in a week.

What have we become? And what will we become when they're in charge? Again.


  1. has any official run on a platform that when elected they delivered on? I suppose the answer is yes...but I don't know who it was/is.

    I think the most effective politicians are spell casters on the vulnerable or the angry, perhaps both. Find (create?)a dis-enfranchised group-promise to fix their problem-the key to getting elected. Can't deliver, well its complicated

    How can either party spew the promises of "more for less" and be believed. More for less will happen when the ability to dribble a football becomes a common event.

    Should access to health care be available to everyone-of course, if for no other reason than our recognizing the merits of sound public health policies-hello TB is back-please excuse my cough-it just won't go away. But it can not be free-everyone must pay something and yes there are limits, and yes the Government will have to play a role. Otherwise no doctors will move to Weed CA and try to make a living doing fee for service.

    Having visited members of my congressional dlegation in their DC offices it is easy to see why they they like their jobs and will say/do what ever is needed to keep it.. Just look at many of the supporters for HCR now expressing concerns about the Bill and distancing themselves from their leadership. The basis for their concern-not the cost, not the over reaching, but rather UNEMPLOYMENT, and loss of POWER.

    Dino has a great line, a bad idea, believed by a number of people for a long time is still....a bad idea.

  2. The line didn't originate with Dino. I've heard it before. And, of course, it could be applied to pretty much everything he advocates, which have been tried, and failed.

    And I'd argue that Obama has delivered on an impressively high percentage of his promises. And on many of the so-far "failures," it's not that he didn't try. For only two years, I'd give it at least a B. Maybe even B+.

  3. IMHO you are a very generous grader-
    Would your junior Residents say the same about how you graded them? Was their trying hard good enough? Was there willingness to do better good enough? Was dismissing a complication as "tough break" or Medicines fault acceptable? I bet more than once you told one of them, Doctor, quite whinning- if this work is too tough or my expectations too high, do me and the Service a favor and quite now so that we can find someone who is up to the challenge.

    I agree that POTUS is the toughest job in the free world. But that is not a news flash-Unfortunatley for BO, voting "present" is no longer an option for him and he needs to accept that.

    He applied for the job, he got it and rather than do the BS street jive comedy routine he seems to enjoy in his daily campaigning/pandering he should start acting Presidential.

    I would really like to see him demonstrate committment to the platform promises that he said made him the best choice for the job.

    Transparency, no more lobbyists, post partisan, post racial. This weeks back of the bus comment was an absolute embarrasment to all Americans. And who but BO could get away with that? Let's ask Trent Lott.

  4. Well, Tom, that's a pretty sad comment, filled with the stuff that passes for political thought nowadays. The "present" thing. What a piss-poor argument that was during the campaign (it takes a moment's thought to understand the reasons), and to use it now, when he has made many very difficult decisions, and has no option to vote at all, is just, well, disappointing coming from you.

    Everything he's done, and not done, represents a decision. Like not pursuing criminal charges against the Bushites. A tough decision, pissing off many liberals.

    As I've always said, he's a moderate, and I said he'd get as much flack from the hard left as from the hard right, and it's true.

    And the back of the bus thing: you sound like Sean Hannity. First of all, he uses that line at every rally, and has for months. Second, the joke is that Rs drove us into a ditch, didn't help get the car out and running, and are now asking for the keys. He says, you can't have them: you don't know how to drive. You can come along but you have to sit in the back seat.

    Geez, man, like the joke or not. But to buy into the Foxification of it is an embarrassment. For the life of me, I can't figure out why all the negative commenters here can't come up with actual arguments.

    I guess the answer is simple: they don't have actual arguments, and the bs they're slinging is working like a charm.


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