The Fault With Fabulism

November 18, 2012

Philosopher Frederick Neitzsche said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” One take-away from this last election is that, of the two parties (or candidates), Republicans most love Neitzsche.

Political campaigns and politics are often not founded in fact. Politicians have been torturing facts for centuries as shamelessly as religions torture heretics and regimes torture rebels. That’s been a fact through every age, in many nations. Regarding our own recent behavior in this, we’re not that special, only a bit more restrained —until now. Because now is when candidate Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse said , “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as if he were convinced that such an admission had nothing to do with the character of his candidate, or worse, that he believed it would not matter to Americans.

There’s more than a little stupid cynicism in Newhouse’s admission. The election result suggests this, but not by margin enough to allay the fear that fraudulence means zip. For the half of Americans who voted for Romney, chronic fraud did not appear to factor into their choice. In fact, facts appear to be irrelevant and character gives way to ideology (or hate) for at least 47.9 percent of voters who went for Romney. Given the support of Romney by evangelicals, chronic mendacity must be acceptable in politics even for the righteous and their pastors.

Attributed to the propaganda minister of the German Reich, Joseph Goebbels, is this welll-known quote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Karl Rove, with the birthing of his twin brainchildren (the two administrations of George Bush), latched onto this observation as if he’d read it in the phantasmagorical, last book of the New Testament and made it a religion of his own. He’s been practicing it ever since. Whether candidate Romney jumped on Rove’s bandwagon, or just naturally followed his own will to prevaricate, is a question for historians and psychologists to ferret out.

One way to view lies is that they’re convenient fantasies, some personal, some cultural. This may explain why some heavily right-listing conservatives and pretty much the entire 21st-century GOP feel so comfortable with them.

Some fantasies are certainly fun, and they can be comforting. Reality, on the other hand, is mined with truths. But if you tell a fantasy big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Religious movements thrive on such things and political parties that have become virtual religions fall into the fable trap as well. But a reminder here: fables can be truthful without being literal, something many fail to grasp. That’s the problem. It’s only when the teller becomes convinced of the literal truth of his own tales that disappointment follows. And so we have this post-election letdown of the right laced with excuses.

Why did Barack Obama win the election and Democrats gain strength in the Senate? Ah, let Republicans count the ways. Jonathan Collegio of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group was the most honest when he said said, “On the Senate side . . .we had some very, very weak candidates.” No kidding. But according to one writer, more typical of the impending collapse was “(Karl) Rove’s remarkable meltdown on Fox News was an epic on-camera dramatization of his entire cohort’s utter estrangement from reality.”

GOP political operative Mary Matalin explains away defeat saying, “A political narcissistic sociopath (Obama) leveraged fear and ignorance . . .to pull off his victory.”

She conveniently forgot the political narcissism Mitt Romney arrogantly revealed in his comments to rich donors about the mooching 47 percent of the electorate — a 47 percent that apparently took offence at Mitt, My-Wife-Drives-Two-Cadillacs, Romney’s disdain.

Matalin then adds, “Mitt Romney distinguished himself and conservatism with a grounded, courageous, forward-thinking problem-solving reform agenda for a nation . . .” which, in the face of Romney’s Play-Doh positions throughout the campaign, kneading himself into the form of a severe conservative on the stump, then into an Obama clone in a debate, is a tale taller than a stack of Ted Nugent’s anti-Obama epithets and lousy CDs.

The post-election line given by GOP politicians, notes columnist Frank Rich, is that Romney’s defeat came because he was ” . . .not being severely conservative enough; if only he’d let Ryan be Ryan, voters would have been won over by right-wing orthodoxy offering a clear-cut alternative to Obama’s alleged socialism.”

Lost in their own fables the GOP refuses to grasp that a majority of the electorate is not stupid. They’re actually able to read not only between the lines, but the lines themselves. They were able to comprehend everything that did and did not come out of their candidate’s mouth. The result was that women, Latinos, blacks, Asians, the young, the old, and a healthy chunk of white males were not won over by right-wing orthodoxy. They understood instead that they would more likely be run-over by it.

Republicans have been absolutely stupefied at how things turned out. Having come to the altar of Ayn Rand, having snorted her incense and genuflected to Grover Norquist and his no-tax pledge, they were caught up in a righteous stupor and became insensible to the very real demographic steamroller that would flatten their magical thinking:

— George Will fantasy: 321 Electoral College votes for Romney! ·
— Faith-based Michael Barone: 315 EC votes for Romney (called every battleground state wrong).
— Karl Rove’s magical thoughtfulness: Ohio numbers all wrong! (why he was so perplexed?)
— GOP tall-tale establishment: Nate Silver (who’s polling numbers were near perfect): a liberal hack, biased!

This is what comes from running a political party that’s faith-based. When you give up science and arithmetic for holy writ in a world that runs on science and arithmetic, the outcome is a foregone conclusion, barring, of course, a miracle. If there were divine intervention at work on Election Day, Paul Ryan may want to recalibrate his mystic meter.

Faith may be good for the soul, but you can’t count on it to deflect a fact-driven bulldozer in an actual demolition derby. Maybe if Republicans had let their campaign be “dictated by fact-checkers,” things might have worked out better for them. But since God is good, he left the far right fogged in a cloud of unknowing and saved the rest of us (very temporarily) from its toxic rain.

by Jim Culleny 11/17/12


One Response to “The Fault With Fabulism”

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