Sunday, May 22, 2011

Running for Mr. Roarke: The Conservative World Becomes Fantasy Island

One of the things that's always made Slate annoying was that so many Slate writers got their kicks out of pretending to take Republican arguments seriously and then showering the left with little gestures of contempt even though 95% of the staff was voting for Obama.

But it appears those days are over.

Slate editor Jacob Weisburg came out with an article today accusing the Republican Party of being a "Fantasy Island" in which "educated" people like Chris Christie have to choose between being viable presidential contenders and denying the reality of evolution, climate change, the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii, and the need to raise taxes to address the deficit. Weisburg could have mentioned the Republican denial of torture being a crime against humanity, the delusional arguments against gay marriage, the new nullificationism, the denial of the crisis in health care, and the rapture as other examples of Republicans living in fantasy land.

Moments like this point to a growing asymmetry in our politics. One party, the Democrats, suffers from the usual range of institutional blind spots, historical foibles, and constituency-driven evasions. The other, the Republicans, has moved to a mental Shangri-La, where unwanted problems (climate change, the need to pay the costs of running the government) can be wished away, prejudice trumps fact (Obama might just be Kenyan-born or a Muslim), expertise is evidence of error, and reality itself comes to be regarded as some kind of elitist plot.
And it's not just Republican voters either.

Weisburg is probably good friends with a lot of people in the right-wing media, but the denial of reality among conservative constituencies is actively promoted by Fox News, talk radio, the Weekly Standard, and the National Review among other outlets.

Because the conservative media presents reality denial as the only reality, it's hard for conservatives in South Carolina, Texas, and Utah to know any differently.

In the final analysis, all of the Republican presidential candidates are running to be Mr. Roarke, that is, when they're not angling to be Tattoo.

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