Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reality vs. Conservative Reality

As a follow up to Nani's post from earlier today, I had been thinking along a parallel path when considering Rep. Michele Bachmann's narrow re-election victory in Minnesota.

Bachmann, of course, famously went on Hardball with Chris Matthews, oh, about two weeks ago, and said that she believed Barack Obama held Anti-American views, and called for an investigation by the press into which liberal congresspeople were Anti-American. It was McCarthy-esque, delisional, and above all else disgusting. The video is in the above-linked story. In any mainstream part of the country, she's voted out. In her district, she narrowly survives.

I was shocked ... at first. But in a way it all makes sense.

One conservative blog I read kind of regularly is The Corner at the National Review. Why? I dunno. Mostly to get a glimpse into right-wing thinking, I guess. 99.99% of the time, I'm convinced they're crazy, but I do appreciate having the different point of view. It's a check on the (very real) risk I (all too frequently) run of getting trapped in an echo chamber of reading only left-leaning sites.

Now, while I'm not going to link to the top 5 Corner post-mortems on the election, suffice it to say, there is a serious disconnect from reality for some of these bloggers. Ramesh Ponnuru and even Jonah Goldberg have had some reasonable, frounded posts today. Kathryn Jean Lopez is predictably fucking insane. But what is striking is the level of excuse making from the putative party of personal responsibility. While the hypocracy alone is noteworthy, I was most fascinated by the impression I got that these people truly watched a different election than the rest of us. These folks, I think, have constructed an alternate reality that explains the world around them in a way that avoids any cognative dissonance with their worldview.

Hence, it's not the failure of the neoconservative philosophy that led to Obama winning the election, it was Obama's empty celebrity that fooled the voters; it's not that Obama ran a damn-near flawless campaign, it's that his campaign was corrupt; it's not that Palin was obviously incompetent and not up to the job, it's the liberal media. I could go on, but you get the point. They are coming up with anything to avoid any admission that their heralded "conservative principles" are not as infallable as they believe, or that they aren't shared by a majority of Americans.

Similarly their "silver linings" are precious. My faves: "now the Democrats are going to have to actually govern, rather than sit back and critize - let 'em see how hard it is." Yeah, things like "basic competence" - the Dems are really going to struggle to get their arms around that.

Another great one was the conspiracy theory that Obama would retain the Bush-appointed Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, but work behind the scenes to systematically undermine him so that if things went south militarily, the Democrats would have someone to scapegoat. Seriously?? More than anything this reveals how hollow the "conservative" movement is. Everything is viewed through the prism of how to hold power, how to grab power, or how to work any fact for political gain. Nice enough, but when it comes to governance, where does this get you? (Hint: look no further than George W. Bush). The idea that a decision might be made with, I don't know, the best interests of the country in mind, is something that is not even on these folks' radar screens.

Anyway, this is getting to be too much prologue for a simple point.

In Minnesota, the reason why Michele Bachmann's unhinged "Anti-American" Hardball rant didn't cost Bachmann her job was that it was only barely over the top in her district. Consider "the times" of that week - that was at the height of Palin (mostly) and McCain whipping crowds into frenzies, the charges of socialism, pro-/anti-America divisions, and the real/imaginary state distinctions.

Bachmann is like the kinda nerdy kid who's on the fringe of the "in" crowd in high school by virtue of the fact that he was the best friend of the captain of the football team up until 5th grade. Eager to please, and easily caught up in the moment.

It's a crude analogy to be sure, but you can easily imagine a scenario where a group of high school girls and guys are razzing each other back and forth, largely in good nature. And the above-described kid jumps into the fray a little to earnestly with some over-the-top comment like, "oh yeah, you bitch...," which was intended to be within the spirit of the razzing, but just went one. step. too. far.

But, while it may look overheated to me, you, or 54% of America, Bachmann was, in her mind, operating well within the bounds of the then-ongoing national electoral conversation. I would be willing to bet that neither she, nor the majority of voters in her district thought she went too far, because they really believe that, in point of fact, Barack Obama is Anti-American. And to the extent he does not subscribe wholly to their view of America, their reasoning is at least logically sound - he is Anti-American, by their unique definition of what it is to be "American."

What these poor schmucks don't get is that their America is a distortion. For the most part, in our democracy, what America "is" is determined by majority rule. Those that would cast their ballot for Michele Bachmann don't seem to grasp that, and therefore, they can brand Obama a socialist, and turn around after he wins a resounding electoral victory and deny that the political beliefs of the nation have shifted leftward and say "well, this is still a center-right nation, so Obama's going to have a hard time governing."

To such Americans, I say, sorry folks. I hate to be the splash of cold water on your faces, but facts are the facts. Get outside of the echo chamber. I'm not asking you to agree with the liberal point of view, but know that we're out here. We're Americans. We love this country. And oh yeah, since 2004 we've been cleaning your clocks in national elections. So spare us the smug self-righteousness. I think if you turn around, you'll see that your claimed silent majority no longer has your back.

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