Crazy Season

Mitch Daniels has declared he is not running for president next year. This is significant, because IMO of all the Republican possibilities he has the most potential to appeal to independents. Now their most viable candidate is named Tim.

Jacob Weisberg, possibly still smarting from the public flogging he took for praising Paul Ryan’s budget, is making amends in a column about those crazy Republicans.

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.

Like the White Queen in her youth, the contemporary Republican politician must be capable of believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Foremost among these is the claim that it is possible to balance the federal budget without raising taxes.

Of course, Republicans have been either crazy or flirting with crazy for many years, as John Quiggin notes. What has changed is that some elements of mainstream media are finally admitting this, Quiggin says.

Quiggen argues that recent events, notably the timing of the release of the President’s long-form birth certificate (just as birtherism was reaching a genuine frenzy) and the killing of Osama bin Laden (followed by Republican insistence that torture had made that possible) has caused the political press to create a new narrative frame in which Republican = crazy. And, of course, once they begin to view events through that frame, suddenly they see evidence everywhere.

Quiggin also notes that the press itself is finally dividing between the “pro-reality” press and the “anti-reality” press, a.k.a. the “Murdoch press.” And open admission that a chunk of the political mainstream is, actually, nuts, changes the very nature of political reporting.

The real problem is that such a shift will mean the end of what has been a united front of the journalism profession against everyone else (most obviously bloggers and other outside competitors). This front was seen in operation when the Obama Administration tried, early on, to take a stand against Fox and was threatened with a general boycott. Objections to Fox lies were seen as a political attack on the press as an institution. Of course, the political right has long had it both ways, exploiting mainstream adherence to conventions of balance and ‘objectivity’ (not to be confused with willingness to state objective facts as such), while disregarding these conventions.

Quiggin thinks the pro-reality press will inevitably gain the upper hand, and we’ll see about that. He continues,

A pro-reality journalism will inevitably be hostile to the Republican party and its intellectual apparatus, but that doesn’t mean it should fall into the trap of reflexive support for the Democrats. The point is to report the truth, and report lies as lies, without falling into the equal and opposite traps of ‘balance’ and partisan loyalty. …

… Nevertheless, the political consequences of a shift to reality-based journalism won’t be entirely beneficial. The delusions on which the Republicans rely are a cover for the class interests of the very rich, and for the tribal loyalties and hatreds of their base. Blowing the cover may well produce an even cruder politics of interests and tribalism.

We’ll see.

21 thoughts on “Crazy Season

  1. Maha, the “John Quiggen notes” link above just takes me to a WordPress sign-in page with no content except for sign-in boxes. Is it just me?

  2. I was able to resist the urge to leave a pile of clothes near the edge of the pasture for my neighbors to discover and wonder if I had been “raptured”, but, one the other hand, it is unusually quiet this morning…

    Some of this fits in with my, “a lot of us are crazy” hypothesis, although the evidnce is gathering to make it a theory. I was at a social event a group of people I had not met previously. A seemingly rational, functional and well educated person at our table began to explain that the recent spate of earthquakes, floods, etc. were the result of God’s displeasure with us. Here in the rural South, the expected response is to act as an “amen corner” and support such an observation. I wanted to ask, what actions he would recommend as a way of evading further disaster. I had the expectation that the suggestions would involve crushing the “homosexual agenda” and getting prayer back in school. The idea that God could be angry with us for electing a bunch of lying, deluded sociopaths in the recent elections and pursuing an ideology that abuses and destroys the lives of “the least among us” would not be possible.

    A lot of people here really do live in a world that resembles a Biblical theme park. On some level, like those affect by Jerusalem Syndrome, they see themselves involved in a grand struggle between God and evil. Facts merely test their faith and must be resisted if they contradict what their ministers are saying.

    I am not a mental health professional, but this seems like insanity to me. I suppose it is needless to say that they vote Republican. In this way Weisberg’s article was very gentle indeed.

    The Libertarian segment of the Right wing is laboring under delusions that seem just as severe. In fact, I think I prefer the Biblical stuff, at least it has a bit of joy in it.

  3. The non-Raptured believers will tell us that it didn’t happen due to all of their prayers and sacrifices, but we Heathens had better watch our asses because next time they won’t intervene and we’re on our own!

  4. As for the “Crazy Season,” it’s interesting to watch what the Republicans have done, and are doing.
    After shrieking to people that the Democrats were about to wipe out Medicare as people know it, they crossed the Rubicon and tried to wipe out Medicare as people know it – all just months after the election. And what’s curious is that they’re NOT backing off. At least not in the House.
    And when that hapless imbecile Newt tried for the first time in years to tack to the middle, saying something to the effect that right wing social engineering is as bad as left wing social engineering, you’d have thought that he had left his wife to go and marry his sister. That used to be a fairly mainstream conservative position – at least the one that they tried to sell people as they did try to socially engineer to the far right.
    Usually, when they say or do something this stupid, they back off, cover their asses with some lame, but effective, talking points, and decide to hedge their bets by going for what they want more slowly.
    But this time, it’s almost like they’re hedging their bet on ‘snake-eye’s,’ by falling back on ‘boxcars.’ In reality, two twelve’s are as unlikely as two one’s.
    They have, by increasingly growing more and more right wing and reactionary painted themselve into a corner. And by embracing the Teabaggers, they have ensured that they have no way out – after all, before you can win a general election, you have to win a primary.
    I think that as the real money behing Conservatives look on in horror, they realize that they are ‘hoist by their own REtards.’
    Mitch looked around and saw that while he might have had a chance in the general, he had no chance among ‘the idiotarati’ who vote in the primaries. This tells me that Bachmann and Palin may have more of a chance than Mitt or Huntsman. Pawlenty may be the ultimate beneficiary – besides Obama, of course. Somewhere right now Jeb is cursing Little Boots.

  5. For too many years it has all seemed so simple – require the media to provide free air time for candidate ads and/or statements of policy. We own the media – looks like we could make the provision mandatory?

    As it is now, the media dare not alienate any candidate thereby possibly jeopardizing the flow of big advertising bucks from same. As I said, the issue of free air time has been around since the early ’70’s and given the recent SCOTUS ruling it’s even more necessary that we mandate that the media to provide the air time.

  6. I’d say that journalism has a long ways to go to come clean. It’s good that some in that “profession” are starting to wake up, but fer Chrissake, what took them so long? How come legions of nobodies like you and me could see the obvious years ago?

    I think journalism as well as most public things in this country are going to be in chaos for quite a long time, until things sort out. In the meantime, all the metrics for a livable decent country are going to decline for most people living here – the Republicans and their Democratic enablers are going to see to that. And this includes education, and the ability and willingness to ferret out and report the truth.

    The only real hope I have is with the younger generation who, perhaps with some guidance from the baby boomers, can sidestep the insanity of their elders who drank the Reagan kool-aid, elders who will likely go to their graves believing in anti-reality.

  7. moonbat – anti-reality, in this case belief in the truth of unreality was called the dada movement in the art world, started following WWI the rationale for same completely detached from reason/reality. Some one needs to come up with a clever term to describe today’s Republican ‘movement.’ (By the way, ‘dada’ is German for hobbyhorse – as a start?)

  8. @felicity – I do like the term “Republican Dadaist” although it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue that well, and nobody outside the art world understands what it means. I barely got the White Queen reference above. But Dada is an apt description for the conservative bubble.

  9. How about “Dodo’s,” because we hope they’ll soon be extinct?
    But the problem there is the word “do.”
    They’re definitely NOT about “do,” they’re about “Don’t.”
    So, how about ‘Dontdont’s?”
    Just kidding.

    Oh, and I happen to love the Dadaist movement!

  10. cundgulag – I like ‘dodo’ movement – in fact I seem to remember that many years ago we called clueless people ‘dodo birds.’ I understand there’s a preserved one in the British Museum. If we had a photograph of the thing, we could suggest that instead of the present animal (is it a donkey or an elephant, I can never remember which is which) it could become the Republican ‘animal?’

  11. [T]he political consequences of a shift to reality-based journalism won’t be entirely beneficial…. Blowing the cover may well produce an even cruder politics of interests and tribalism.

    Or not.

    “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” –Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), in Season 1 of Treme.

  12. Sorry about all the typo’s in the previous post.

    I sure wish Mr. Peabody would bring the “way back” machine around. I have a feeling there are a few historical precedents. When people become so invested in an ideology, they seem to have a psychological necessity to dismiss, deny or ignore any contrary empirical data. The ideology is wedded to their identity and world view. Facts and rational discourse is a threat to be met with violence.

    I remember realizing as a mere sprout, that some people turned against the poor and disadvantaged because, their very existence amounted to proof that the system or ideology was unfair or unsound. Therefore, some flaw or vice had to be associated with any people who failed to prosper. “Correlation bias” comes to the rescue. The ideology has to be upheld because there is so much at stake. Ideologies are simplified models of reality. The poison comes when people mistake them for reality.

  13. Crazy is here to stay…I wouldn’t consider the knocking down the birther issue as any indication that we’re on the road to recovery, or that a quantifiable shift in the media is taking place.. I think Quiggen is looking to hard for change in a seeing Jesus in the spaghetti kinda way. Look back at the Sarah Palin episodes or Glenn Beck’s on air prominence…and it’s clear to see that the crazies isn’t a result of media, it’s just a reflection/manifestation of ourselves…and we’re here to stay!

  14. “Mental Shangri-La” pretty much describes it.
    No need for facts and logic, all you need is faith.
    Nothing outside the immediate “reality” has any meaning.
    If we “do the Lord’s work” by outlawing abortion (baby killing), gay marriage, and post the ten commandments, God will be happy and “bless” us.
    The righty blogs are still filled with disinformation, the whole movement is based on fear and hatred. Who will save them is a mystery.

  15. Crazy IS here to stay, the issue is whether the Reality based community can get its act together enough to stare it down, back into the looney bin where it belongs.

    Crazy benefits the oligarchs. The Becks, Bachmanns, George W Bushes and other assorted fools are just the front-men. If our efforts only stop with these characters then we fail to realize the nature of the game, and will continue to dissipate our energies, which is what the oligarchs want.

  16. moonbat….The problem is that in order to stare it down, or knock it down, or come against it…we only feed it and give it life. The only weapon we have is to starve it by stepping over it..I try to do that with little Lulu and the Westboro Baptist Church, so whenever there is an opportunity to comment or even entertain their nonsense by reading…I just move along realizing that I can’t effect that kind of crazy by anything I say, and that anything I do say just nourishes them.

  17. I’m glad that Daniels isn’t running, in part because I was afraid people might vote for him, but also because I was getting increasingly annoyed at the way the press kept identifying him as heading W’s Office of Management and Budget, without seeming to think that automatically disqualified him from office.

    Talk about Dada Republicans – his previous federal job was overseeing the conversion of a $236 Billion surplus to a $400 Billion deficit, and that somehow makes him Presidential timber? He totally low-balled the cost of Iraq, and carried water for some of Shrub’s worst budgetary crimes, which somehow makes him a viable candidate? If only his on-again, off-again wife hadn’t objected? (Because the take-away from that story is what a great single dad he made, and not that he was such an ass that his wife couldn’t stand to live with him? And this makes a good role model, either way?)


    The media may finally have figured out a narrative that allows for the possibility that some Republicans are bonkers, but they have a long way to go before they overcome their built-in bias toward Republicans. It just amazes me that our media can continually mention that Daniels was W’s budget director and then move on, without mentioning the whole ‘where he worked to turn the surplus into a deficit’ part. The Beltway chose to think of Daniels in the “not-a-crazy-choice” pool of candidates, but that just shows how deep the reality distortion has sunk.

  18. The problem is that in order to stare it down, or knock it down, or come against it…we only feed it and give it life… whenever there is an opportunity to comment or even entertain their nonsense by reading…I just move along realizing that I can’t effect that kind of crazy by anything I say, and that anything I do say just nourishes them.

    Standing O swami. You and I came to precisely the same conclusion. They certainly do feed off it and once they are ignored or dismissed consistently they will loose a lot of the thrill. These people are competitive to the point of making it a fault.
    Certainly we must stand for truth but let them debate our world and not us debate theirs.

  19. As it is now, the media dare not alienate any candidate thereby possibly jeopardizing the flow of big advertising bucks from same.

    There’s a tiny bit more going on as well. Politicians have capitalized on how greed has overcome journalistic ethics.

    There was an astounding dustup over someone quoting a campaign official on calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” (I think that was the word) and then trying to take it off the record. Journalists – *JOURNALISTS* – suggested it was a bad thing to do, because you could lose a source that way.

    Journalism isn’t as much about chasing down truths (or even good stories) any more; its about business, and journalists are willing to bury a quote and whitewash an event if it’s good for business. And why shouldn’t they? Their publishers demand that.

    Time was, a journalist would have gleefully printed the “monster” quote, and the big question would have been whether to be perfectly fair, and note that the campaign official “immediately regretted the remark, feeling it was too strong” or some such.

    The trouble is, we live in a screwed up world. If a candidate flat out *refuses* to speak to an honest reporter from any news outlet, every reporter should refuse to cover that candidate. “Sorry, you don’t get to manipulate the press, and you don’t get to shut one of us out, just because we reported on you badly, so long as it was fair. We’re not lapdogs of the powerful, we’re journalists.”

    Without that check, we end up in a world like we live in today, where the truth is hidden and even the craziest bullshit in the world is promulgated as if it was sound and reasonable.

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