GOP is losing its long war against reality

seizure

The post-Trump Republican Party faces a daunting list of challenges, but its most fundamental task will be to somehow re-establish a connection to — and basic respect for — reality. For a long time now, it has trained its base, its entertainment wing and many of its politicians to act as if reality no longer matters, as if their invented reality is as valid as an actual reality.

It is not. And until that problem is fixed, the party has no real hope of resurrecting itself.

In an invented reality, for example, a successful businessman and charismatic speaker such as Donald Trump might be a fine general-election candidate. In actual reality, he is proving to be exactly the disaster that many of us — including a few conservatives — predicted that he would be. And I have to ask: If you get something as important as that as spectacularly wrong as that, shouldn’t that be cause for serious reflection and self-doubt? Shouldn’t you maybe rethink a thing or two?

Because when you subscribe to an invented reality, you lose the ability to communicate with anyone who exists outside that sphere. In fact, you begin to look and sound ridiculous to those who are not already fully invested in your world, which explains why the 2016 Republican Convention proved to be such a flop. Unlike the Romney and McCain conventions, the Trump coronation fully immersed viewers in the swamp of various conservative obsessions, from Benghazi to murderous immigrants to the idea of America as some collapsing Third World nation. And while conservatives ate it up because it confirmed all that they had been taught to believe, it clearly left others scratching their heads and wondering what planet these people occupied.

Charlie Sykes, a very popular conservative talk-radio host in Wisconsin, describes the problem well in a candid interview with Oliver Darcy of Business Insider:

“We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody. Let’s say that Donald Trump basically makes … whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood.

“The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that: ‘By the way, you know it’s false.’ And they’ll say, ‘Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.’ Or they’ll say, ‘I saw it on a Facebook page.’ And I’ll say, ‘The New York Times did a fact check.’ And they’ll say, Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s bull*#$t.’

There’s nobody — you can’t go to anybody and say, ‘Look, here are the facts.’ And I have to say that’s one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in the alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it. And I swim upstream because if I don’t say these things from some of these websites, then suddenly I have sold out. Then they’ll ask what’s wrong with me for not repeating these stories that I know not to be true.”

I wrote last week about the fact that even after all of these years, just 27 percent of registered Republicans are willing to admit to pollsters that Barack Obama is a native-born American and thus eligible to be president. Some of those reality-denying Republicans may actually believe that Obama was born in Kenya, but others are responding to the peer pressure described so well by Sykes. To be accepted as a fellow conservative, you often have to pretend to believe nonsense that you know is not true, because challenging it as fiction is grounds for expulsion. And while staying silent in the face of nonsense keeps you a member in good standing within the bubble, it makes you look nuts to those outside it, those whom you have to convince in order to win a majority. No movement can survive that kind of disconnect forever.

Today, let’s take a look at another example of the right wing’s obsessive effort to alter reality to its liking. With Clinton building a strong lead in the polls and a potential landslide in the offing, desperate conservatives need something to cling to, and for many that something has become the belief that Hillary suffers some mysterious health affliction. Their hope is that this suspected brain damage could make it impossible for her to take the oath of office next January, if indeed she even manages to live that long.

The theory has been heavily promoted on Drudge and Breitbart, it has become a mainstay of rightwing bloggers such as Gateway Pundit, and it is championed by Sean Hannity, the resident idgit of Fox News. It is a typical Frankenstein’s monster of lies, patched together from various pieces of speculation and given the spark of life by the sheer intensity of those who want to believe in it.

One of the prime pieces of “evidence” cited by the conspiracy theorists is this snippet of video, shown repeatedly in recent days by Hannity, which supposedly depicts Hillary having some sort of epileptic seizure:

One of the reporters in that clip, Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press (she’s the taller of the female reporters) has since written an account thoroughly debunking the seizure claims. As Lerer describes the moment, Clinton had been hit by an unexpected barrage of shouted questions from reporters at a coffee shop and simply responded to the barrage with an exaggerated expression of surprise, either as an attempt to be funny or as a way to evade answering. Either way, Lerer write, nobody who witnessed it took it as anything out of the ordinary, and she was shocked when the footage emerged two months later as “evidence” of some major epileptic fit.

But as Sykes attests above, such conspiracy theories are impossible to kill with facts. Those who need to believe it will believe it regardless; those who profit from such beliefs will spread and encourage them, regardless of their veracity. Those who know better will be intimidated into silence, lest they be accused of siding with liberals and the mainstream media. And after Clinton wins the election and goes on to serve without health problems, those who today are fully invested in believing this nonsense will be ready to chase after the next piece of shiny fool’s gold that their manipulators offer, never remembering or resenting how many times they’ve been deceived.

One final point: Those who argue that rumors of the GOP’s demise are greatly exaggerated will usually point to the party’s success at the local and state levels as evidence both of its health and of its ability to govern. They have a point. It is also true, however, that politics at the state and local levels is generally free of the type of atrocious myth-making that inflicts the conservative movement nationally, through their highly profitable media outlets and AstroTurf groups. For the most part, governors and state legislators aren’t required to believe impossible things about state politics to get elected at that level; they don’t have to govern on the basis of things that clearly aren’t true.

And in those cases when lower-level Republicans have run aground of reality, it has generally been because they have slipped the surly bonds of pragmatism and tried to import national-level nonsense to the state level. The budget disasters in Kansas and Louisiana are directly attributable to the effort to implement supply-side economics; in North Carolina and Indiana, it was the pursuit of the anti-gay agenda. Here in Georgia, we’ve cost ourselves billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs because GOP leaders couldn’t bring themselves to buck their national party’s anti-ObamaCare hysteria, even though the benefits to Georgia of doing so were overwhelming.

The bottom line is that if you believe that conservatism holds the answers to America’s future, then you ought to be able to make that argument to the American people based on facts and ideas that hold up under inspection and that bear at least some relationship to reality. If you are reduced to conspiracy theories, invention and gross exaggerations to defend your ideas, then your ideas are in need of serious rehabilitation.

Reader Comments 0

780 comments
Mark Vining Teece
Mark Vining Teece

If it costs so much to follow the liberal agenda it would be a lot less people following it. You are not allowed to take the moral high ground from the position of the counter culture. Because you are the counter culture and thus you need the culture to exist! Just because there more counter culture numbers now does not mean its the culture because in order to exist it gas to push against the culture. Always has!! Just likes its doing everyday and always will. When the culture is gone the world will be over.

Kevin Talmadge
Kevin Talmadge

@Mark Vining Teece In true cliché fashion, you blew the proper use of "your" and "you're" LOL That's the alt right bubble you live in right there...

Mark Vining Teece
Mark Vining Teece

Your in the bubble. Your given to peer pressure and when reality hits the fan for the masses their won't be any fixing it. Your reality is not logical. You say we can continue on this path of fiscal irresponsibility and have no consequence. But as long as you pretty up the name calling of the people trying to believe something true can happen and good. Why can you not report news and good facts as some of which you did minus immature name calling. That's why the referee is gone!

Dona Elaine Hubbs
Dona Elaine Hubbs

Bookman, if you get a chance to do some real reporting, during your down time from DNC propagandizing, could you inform your readers about the new perjury investigation against HRC in the House Judiciary Committee, or the George Soros connection to the Clinton Foundation? We'd really rather see those stories.

Kevin Talmadge
Kevin Talmadge

Yes, and that is the point of the article. You in the GOP want to live in a bubble of conspiracy theory, facts be damned...

Ron Lewis
Ron Lewis

Vote Blue from top to bottom

Mike Nunn
Mike Nunn

This explains a lot about the rise of T rump.

Mark G.
Mark G.

Truer words could not have been spoken. Their warped view of reality has often made me wonder about those who support them. I wonder how far down the rabbit hole can or will they go. Their extremism has brought much leveler heads within and against the party to much of the same in order to be in the same room, and that is a shame. If you are in the GOP, you must be as wrong headed as they are or be condemned. If you oppose them in policy, you have to be as loud, brash and too often extreme in the other direction to be heard over the din of the asylum. Both sides forgetting that the vast majority of politics are compromises struck somewhere in the middle. Shame.

David Jones
David Jones

AJC is not good pn political reporting.

Kerrie Litton-Jordan
Kerrie Litton-Jordan

Wow...I am not even a Trump fan, and couldn't believe the pro-Hillary tone of this article. In my opinion, her "reality" is just as distorted/skewed as his, and just as many of her followers have become bullies during this election. I choose neither, thank you.

Kevin Talmadge
Kevin Talmadge

Perhaps you could cite factual references that support your opinion?

Lee Griffith
Lee Griffith

You and your liberal buddies have been there for quite awhile Bookman. I'm sorry. Do you need a safe space to go cry in?

Kevin Talmadge
Kevin Talmadge

Nope. We just look at the polls and projections and laugh LOL

Trevor Stricklin
Trevor Stricklin

Jay should be an inspiration to everyone with severe mental retardation, if he can get paid for writing pure idiotic fantasy nonsense then anyone can no matter their mental state.

Wally Moryl
Wally Moryl

PEPUBLICAN'S have to Exhibit Trustworthiness , Honesty , Strong Immigration and Foriegh Polocy like the Democrats through Hillary ? ? ?

Stephanie Roberts
Stephanie Roberts

HILLARY has been living in an alternate reality for years. She's told so many lies that they've been accepted as truth... she's a crazy, murderous crook and no one in the DNC seems to give a crap.

Arden Jones
Arden Jones

Thanks for providing us with a prefect example of what the opinion piece was referring to.

Stephanie Roberts
Stephanie Roberts

At least I can spell check my comments... If she's not having seizures, then something else is SERIOUSLY wrong with her. And, excuse me for bringing up her continuous lies, but some of us in America still have respect for the military and police force and were/are truly offended by her careless disregard for lives during Benghazi. If you looked outside of this country for a moment, you'd realize that nations that opened their borders to "refugees" have been pillaged and destroyed. There is a difference between an illegal immigrant and one that comes here legally and pays taxes into the system. And we must never turn a blind eye to the fact that our freedom could be taken away from us at any moment. We DON'T live in a third world country, but must fight for the ability to keep it that way. If choosing to accept reality means refusing to accept Hillary's lies and deceit, then so be it.

davethefan
davethefan

Nail head meets hammer.  Boom.

Wake up and smell the coffee time for all ditto headed buried in sand believers.

Octavious O'Neal
Octavious O'Neal

AJC, what ever happened to "objective, unbiased journalism". ?Your "Pro Hillary" leaning is VERY obvious

Mike Nunn
Mike Nunn

It's unbiased. Obviously you are just another lemming who believes in the GOPs version of reality.

Brian Peters
Brian Peters

This entertainment/nonsense,with a nod to Fox News and talk radio, wins primarys. Guess we'll see if it wins National elections...

Jay Barton
Jay Barton

Bookman has not known reality in 10 years. He can only smell the sheep smell and follow

Jay Barton
Jay Barton

Les Bouska In your world I am sure I did

quickdigits
quickdigits

What is Wrong with you people?? You really think Hillary, along with her history of deception and cover ups, is the answer to this nation's problems? You seem to be convinced that Democrat Liberals can do no wrong?? Don't you realize that your signature adages such as "embracing diversity" are actually Ruining this country? You interpret Trump's goal of vetting all immigrants as racist. Oh ya, I forgot....Liberal Democrats Love to call the GOP Racist, and for you Liberals, Muslim immigrants from Syria must be welcomed into this country, no questions asked. Yes, for You, this is the answer to terrorism....Love everyone....you're all a bunch of Idiots and time will prove that1

C D F
C D F

@quickdigits Just shut up. All you're doing with such an inane comment is validating exactly what this piece is saying. 

Sheryl Meyer
Sheryl Meyer

Reality check; democrats are the ones that believe anything Obama & Hilliary tell them; they all walk around like zombies! That is exactly why I left the democratic party!!

Bill Cranford
Bill Cranford

There is no longer anything near reality in this country any longer.

moneynupe
moneynupe

Instead of offering cogent point-by-point rebuttals to Bookman, the Repubs on this thread, in GA and nationally showcase their cognitive dissonance and complete absence of intelligent thought, in order to have an honest, reality-based, spirited debate.


Repub logic:

Obama is a tyrant, yet feckless.

Hate Obamacare -- a policy created by Repub's and initially implement be a Repub Gov.

Complain about the slow economic recovery, yet Repub's blocked every Obama-proposed jobs bill.

Nearly 50% of Repub's believe Obama is a Muslim.


Hence, we are left with a hermetically sealed GOP that thrives in a world where up is down and down is up.



Frank Castaneda
Frank Castaneda

Lol, nice educated statement derlict. Puerto rican. Avg hillary supporter is a racist, u prove the point

Thrivi
Thrivi

By insisting on following the self–centered Hastert Rule, republican law makers are going down with him. If they respect the public they should have discarded it when they removed his portrait. Signing Grover Norquist's pledge is another act of disrespect making ‘oath of office’ a joke. What is their pledge to the nation? They started their agenda to make the black man in the white house one-time resident. When that failed, the next agenda is to hold the country hostage, a ‘do-nothing congress’. What is this group has done last many years to improve the stature of the country? Calling Obama, a lame duck president, they are acting like one, get paid doing nothing, just looting the treasury. If Reaganomics was great where it disappeared, current top tax rate is lower than that under Reagan years. Under Reaganomics national debt tripled, one to three trillion USD and tax for lower income increased. How can there be trickle down, when the unexpected increase in wealth from tax relief is hidden in undisclosed places. Current republican law makers are a bunch of shameless group. For a bright future of this country all these members should be overthrown en masse. We need law makers who believe in their ‘oath of office’ and the country. We need to elect law makers who are optimistic of economic feature of the country not with rhetoric of hate. 

Sane Middle
Sane Middle

Truly hard to believe how ignorant some of the comments on this topic are. Bookman may be biased, but at least he makes an effort to sound educated. It is sad how few of the comments actually discuss the merits of what he wrote. No wonder the great middle of American politics are disgusted. One can only hope y'all mouth off more than you vote.

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

In a worrrrrld where....


big govt baad, cept when big govt publicizes your privates

there's a demand for 18th/19th century govt

healthcare is socialism

taxes is conferscashun

Hitler was a liberal

trickle down works

and Donald f*^ Trump is the only one that can save you


yeah, that's a horror movie no one on this planet in this reality wants to see, it would really suck to be on that planet. Suck.


Horstkotte
Horstkotte

I guess I had naive hopes that our generation would be smarter than this.  The Greatest Generation of Americans pulled together in a strong and, if not sophisticated, effective way  to win World War II without all the blabbing and blogging about how many political leaders can dance on the head of a pin.  I hope we have it more together before human nature springs the next big war on us, as it always has in the past.  So much enmity, hate, and hostility is not good for you, or us.  It's also anti-social, and many seem to favor socialism.

rimsky
rimsky

@Infraredguy @rimsky I said I will quit arguing with idiots.  I guess you didn't see it before.  Or idiots don't understand plain English.

rimsky
rimsky

@Infraredguy @rimsky Poor fella.  Speaking like a typical middle schooler.  One more insult mental midget quit arguing with me.  

dhowardporter
dhowardporter

Sir, I believe you have made Mr. Bookman's case far more eloquently than he could have ever made it himself.

hnbc
hnbc

I would suggest that the GOP has LOST their grasp of reality - not losing but reality has been long gone.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

The Jaybird has all the answers on why the Repubs are a sinking ship but none on why the Democrats are rearranging the deck chairs on the Democratic Titanic

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@rimsky  Then I must be in good company on this blog, lots of them here including you

rimsky
rimsky

@Infraredguy Repubs are a sinking ship but none on why the Democrats are rearranging

To do that Mr. Jay has to reduce his IQ points by 100.  Which is physically or biologically impossible.