logic

A Brief Note on Reality

President Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast on Sept. 7. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

“It’s a fact that unemployment has gone down and the stock market has gone up during the Obama administration. But GOP voters treat these things more as issues of opinion than issues of fact.”

Dean Debnam

It seems worth mentioning.

And while it’s one thing to rely on Benen, and another to sit so sternly on such a reliably obvious point―

If GOP voters want to make the case that Obama’s policies don’t deserve credit, fine. If they want to argue that there are other, more important metrics than unemployment and the stock market, no problem. If they want to suggest things would be even better if the country had adopted a right-wing agenda, we can at least have the conversation.

But the polling suggests Republicans prefer to pretend reality just isn’t true. It’s as if a form of cognitive dissonance is kicking in: the president is bad, falling unemployment is good, ergo unemployment must be higher, not lower.

―perhaps the problem here is the unfortunate regularity of Republican reliance on the “reality gap”.

And if the syllogism seems clumsy to the point of being nonsensical, yes, that is actually the point.

Yes, really. This is what Republicans have come to.

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Chairman Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, speaks in an interview 16 October 2015.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically―at least it is for me.”

Rep. Trey Gowedy (R-SC04)

The first point, to wonder what it is Mr. Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, thinks he is doing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should meet resistance; set that urge aside. There is a lot going on, here. Rachel Bade of Politico hopes to explain:

Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he “just can’t win.

“I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said. “[A]t some point, maybe something will stick, or maybe you get them off track or you get them to do or say something stupid, then you can seize on that.”

He also lays some blame at the media’s feet, arguing they’re too quick to report Democrats’ accusations without checking the merits, or the story of an ex-committee staffer who accused the panel of focusing on Clinton.

“You can work your entire career to have a reputation, and then someone you have no recollection of ever meeting sits down with a reporter and you’re immediately in a position of having to defend and it’s impossible to prove a negative,” he said.

This is a basic political maneuver very much associated with Karl Rove: Assign your greatest weakness to your opponent. With Republicans, it has pretty much become a tell: “I mean, honestly,” Gowdy complained of Huma Abedin’s testimony, “have you ever heard a more absurd critique than leaking the fact that one of the more recognizable people in the world was coming to Capitol Hill?”

This is a problematic complaint. Trey Gowdy is simply not an honest man.

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Not A Joke: So the Devil and a Republican Walk Into a Bar ….

Tinfoil

A basic historical pattern, overlain with a veneer of myth: The Devil is found first in what oppresses, then what competes, then what shares.

An example of how this works in history: Once upon a time, a new sect emerged within a religious and cultural archetype; they found the Devil in the Roman government that oppressed them and their Jewish brethren who collaborated with the authorities. Over time, the new group developed its own distinct identity and began competing for new converts, investing the Devil in the pagan gods and goddesses; once this sect had its own power, though, the Christians they became turned on one another, finding the Devil within its own ranks and struggling internally for political power.

It is not just Jews and Christians; the process holds generally.

Which suggests one might wonder how that applies to other movements. The Tea Party arose, finding its Devil in liberalism; they competed against a form of authoritarianism, appealing to libertarians left and right with issues like drug reform—because you wanna get high, right?—and other such superficial appeals to freedom. But they also chose to compete within Republican ranks, which means much of that second stage involves peeling off votes from partisan allies. As a result, it might seem hard to distinguish at what point the Tea Party movement considers itself in charge and rolls against its own ranks.

Steve Benen’s blog post headline pretty much makes the point: “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. The punch line is nearly predictable:

That’s right, it’s come to this: Republicans have uncovered a conspiracy so vast, it involves Republicans who went looking for evidence of a conspiracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party, 2014 Midterm Edition.

The problem with humor is that it makes no difference if it does not relate to any identifiable stake; that is, in and of its own, this conduct would be kind of funny the way we all have to deal with the question about when it is appropriate to laugh at people who cannot help themselves. But the question of the stakes really sucks even the cruelest, pettiest humor away.

When I was a kid, we would say this sort of thing is “retarded”. And the word works well enough; much like flame-retardant pajamas, Republicans are truth-retardant politicians. Logic itself is retarded, distorted to the point of inhibition, by this tragic conservative perspective. But, you know, it’s a two-party system, so that means sometimes we have to throw them some bones. You know, wreck the hell out of some other people’s quality of life so that we don’t accidentally oppress Republicans by demanding they start dealing with reality.

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Benen, Steve. “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. msnbc. 5 December 2014.