“Reality has a liberal bias”. It maybe nothing more than a catchphrase of a popular comedian, but it seems to be increasingly apparent that this idea might be the best way to describe the political landscape among the American electorate today. It is a landscape where there seems to be no objective reality, or striving for accurate information among the right wing of American politics. Mr. Colbert coined another word which properly describes the ideas found in conservative circles today – Wikiality. Colbert described this concept as, “together we can create a reality that we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on”. To be fair, reality is at least a little different from every person’s point of view, it was professor of psychologyDavid G. Myers who said that, “There is an objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes, and values.” The Conservative movement however has gone beyond objectivity and to the point where an opinion, becomes reality. Despite any amount of facts or information, their reality has been shaped to fit with conservative ideology on economics, compatible with religious beliefs, or is a way to avoid acknowledging that they have been wrong in the past.
The real genius behind Fox News of course is not that it provides a conservative voice in the media; the media itself is center-right leaning so another conservative outlet is not a necessity. The real ingenuity of Fox News was that it provided a channel to create an alternate reality for today’s conservative viewers, one where the liberal bias of reality does not exist. For example, Fox News feeds Americans ignorance by presenting stories that allow them to ignore the fact that perhaps we were not justified in starting the invasion of Iraq. As of August of 2006 afull 50% of Americans still believed that Iraqhad weapons of mass destruction, part of which resulted from the headlines of Fox News. According to the Washington Post, a report that, ”500 chemical weapons had been found since the start of the invasion was released earlier in that same year and Fox News pounced on the findings for their headline story. Despite the information included in Washington Post, Fox conveniently forgot to mention that the Weapons of Mass Destruction found were obsolete and too old to be fired in combat. This is a significant reason why the poll results from 2006 were found to be heavily partisan, with Republicans far more likely to believe that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. All of this makes the situation a classic example of a large segment of the American people who are failing to admit that they were wrong about Saddam Hussein being a threat to America. While all Americans are very good at preaching the virtues of peace; conservatives have not been able to accept that they were wrong in leading Americans to war.
A large portion of conservatives are of course made up of religious traditionalists who reject science almost uniformly. While it is understandable that people would not believe in something against their religion, large portions of conservatives will take the word of their religion over scientific fact. A prime example of this is how conservatives fight tooth and nail to keep the theory of evolution our of our schools. At least one Republican presidential candidate has come out against evolution, believing the theory should not be taught it in schools. In her speech Michele Bachmann expressed that she thought there was, “Reasonable doubt” on both sides, even though there is virtually no dissent in the scientific community on the subject. Even Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged this, saying that, “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.” Pope Benedict also goes on to say that there is no reason that this view cannot co-exist with faith.
More recently conservatives have run afoul of scientists and global climate change. In the past year just the United Stateshas had record fires burning across Texas, droughts in the South, record snowfall and rainfall resulting in disasters like Joplin, Missouriand much more. In the last several years scientist’s predications have been proven to be under-exaggerated and the top NASA climatologists have set a maximum number (350) on carbon parts per-million needed to sustain earth as we have known it. The facts in the debate have not dissuaded conservatives from actually slumping in support of climate change efforts. In 2010 Conservative support actually was found to have dropped almost 10% from just 3 years previously. Reasons for this are not unknown, in July of 2011 it was found that one of the top climate skeptics was given over a million dollars from the coal and oil industry. While it is true that the majority of the public has lost faith in global warming as well as conservatives, it has been mainly driven by the drastic fall in support from those on the right. Regardless of whether the public believes it to be true, the scientific truths are not debated, as one professor put it; “Ninety-seven percent of top scientists are in agreement, but the public is split about 50-50.”
Most recently we saw conservatives ignoring reality with the debt ceiling debate, as many conservatives believed that letting Americadefault would have minimal effects on the economy. David Frum a former speech writer for President Bush said that, “”I have yet to meet one Republican who actually says a failure to raise the debt limit scares them”. Instead many Republicans including Paul Ryan the head of the House Budget Committee believed that a short default would be manageable and not harmful to our economy. Because of this stance, conservatives and the Tea Party were capable of taking an uncompromising stance on the debt ceiling and say that no new revenues, reduction of tax cuts or elimination of loopholes were to be considered. All reduction of the deficit had to be through the reduction of spending, even though the business community and most economists believed this to be a very poor idea. After the deal was passed on August 2nd, instead of the applause conservatives thought to hear, S+P downgraded the United Statescredit rating for the first time. Further aftershocks of the deal showed themselves as three days after the downgrade the Dow Jones Industrial Average had lost 1,147 points or over 9% of its worth. Conservatives ignored the reality of the economic situation, like they have done so frequently with issues in the past. Unlike with global warming however, there is a measurable way to determine the negative effects of conservative governance on the economy as Americans give thanks that the, “Short, manageable default” was averted.
This is not to say that all conservatives or all Republicans are this way, and here in Vermont, Republicans are different. After 8 years of Republican governorship there can be a great deal said about the pros and cons of his tenure, but regardless of opinion there is no doubt Jim Douglas based his decisions on the reality of the situation. In Vermont Republicans are moderate and tend to be far more concerned with implementing their own visions instead of advancing their own reality. Unfortunately, Republicans like Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott may be a dying breed as the rest of the party around the nation moves towards extremism. What is best for Americais for Republicans to wake up after seeing the results of their actions and move back towards Rockefeller pragmatism instead of faith based governing.