Monday, November 28, 2011

Remembering the basics

As political junkies (which I proudly call myself), sometimes we can get so caught up in the trees that we forget to talk about the forest. In E.J. Dionne's latest column, the opening two paragraphs remind us of the big picture.

The deficit that should most worry us is a deficit of reasonableness. The problems the United States confronts are large but not insoluble. Yet sensible solutions that are broadly popular can’t be enacted.

Why? Because an ideological bloc that sees every crisis as an opportunity to reduce the size of government holds enough power in Congress to stop us from doing what needs to be done.

Dionne focuses like a lazer on the heart of the problem we're facing these days. And we need to keep our eye on changing that if we have any hopes of moving this country forward.

Our challenge is to get that message out to all those people who don't pay as much attention as we do and therefore are confused about what's going on.

If you have Republican-leaning friends, one of the ways you can do that is by encouraging them to read a column written by David Frum in the New York Magazine. Remind them that Frum is a lifelong Republican who was a speech-writer for George W. Bush. He's now doing his best to convince his party to abandon the disastrous course they have taken over the last couple of years.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”...

Some call this the closing of the conservative mind. Alas, the conservative mind has proved itself only too open, these past years, to all manner of intellectual pollen. Call it instead the drying up of conservative creativity...

I refuse to believe that I am the only Republican who feels this way. If CNN’s most recent polling is correct, only half of us sympathize with the tea party. However, moderate-minded people dislike conflict—and thus tend to lose to people who relish conflict. The most extreme voices in the GOP now denounce everybody else as Republicans in Name Only. But who elected them as the GOP’s membership committee? What have they done to deserve such an inheritance?...

This is, unfortunately, not merely a concern for Republican voters. The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences for American society.

As the quote from Dionne up above shows, this "fantasy-based ideology" is already racking up "real world consequences" for our country. It's time for Americans to wake up to that and the choices that confront us in 2012.

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