Getting it all wrong

Kevin Drum flagged an enormously exasperating couple of op-eds from the LA Times. Bob Somerby gave ’em the liberal one the treatment here. The conservative one is garden-variety dumbness and not worth noting. On the “liberal” one, my thoughts mirror Somerby’s, but I’ll expand a bit.

It’s sorta tough to excerpt the “liberal” counterpart because you need to read the entire thing to catch the full breadth of the knuckle-dragging rhetorical idiocy, but this pretty much sums it up:

I don’t agree. I don’t want to be friends with someone who is a member of the tea party or is a Newt Gingrich Republican. We are not the same. I equate their political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. I think they are not kind or empathetic. And my neighbor made it clear that he does not respect my opinions or me.

Wow, how is it that we all don’t get along? For what it’s worth, I think conservatism in its current incarnation does contain some of the those qualities that Wagman mentions but not necessarily consciously. I think that the people who espouse those view do want what’s best for the country. It’s just that their way of bettering the country… doesn’t.

And what Wagman somehow misses is the primary salient political fact of our time: the Republican Party is surpassingly detached from reality and grows more untethered with each passing day. The reason that liberals can’t talk to conservatives isn’t because conservatives are wicked, backstabbing ogres who eat children. It’s because we’re all three plus decades deep into a disinformation campaign so effective and comprehensive that’s there no semblance of shared, objective ground anymore.

Arguments inevitably boil down to “ideological” differences: whether tax cuts raise revenue, whether Obama has spent like a drunken sailor, which government programs are causing our debt to accumulate, what caused the financial crisis, whether the US is going “broke,” etc. Of course, there are answers to those questions: no, he hasn’t, health care, the private sector and we aren’t. But ask any movement conservative and you’ll get a very different answer.

I don’t have any naive, nostalgic delusions about the past. Our politics has always been tribal and dirty and fractious and stupid. But there were still, on some level, shared templates. In the late ’20s, our economy was crashed by a bunch of rich assholes who bought the government and tolerated no oversight. And people recognized that.

In the late aughts, same thing happened. But not if you ask movement conservatives who get their “news” from FNC and the rest of the carnival barkers. They’ll inform you that the crisis was caused by some combination of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, a government determined to give loans to poor people, Barney Frank and Jimmy Carter.

Pick your issue: economics, climate change, the invasion of Iraq, the social safety net. It’s the same dynamic. There’s no ability to converse because there are no shared facts, no universally accepted bases for even beginning a discussion. And there are no shared facts because Rush, Sean, Heritage and the rest of ’em have been pumping millions of people’s heads full of increasingly delusional bullshit for the past thirty years.

You want a conversation? Reverse and remove all the effects of that trend. How d’you do that? Your guess is as good as mine.


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