When a Bent Frame Breaks
By Jon Green
Mainstream Republicans around this country, and by extension the Republican Party itself, took it on the chin last month. Not only did they lose the election, but they were also presented with a new reality that they had previously been able to ignore. In this new reality, negative $5 trillion plus “we’ll see” does not equal zero; pregnancy resulting from rape is neither impossible nor the divine will of God; socialism, fascism and communism are three different things (none of which accurately describe a progressive tax code); and pollsters, reporters and the Bureau of Labor Statistics are not joining forces in a mass liberal conspiracy to make George Soros feel good about himself.
Perhaps it was predictable that the Republican Party would so readily latch on to conspiracy theories surrounding the polls in the recent election cycle. They have found it so easy to deny basic facts about national issues recently that denying relatively trivial facts like poll data seems like a piece of cake. But the fact that the party’s fantasies surrounding skewed polls were so thoroughly disproven should serve as a wakeup call for them on a host of other, far more serious issues. The Republican Party’s big takeaway from this election should be that you cannot make up numbers to make yourself feel better, as Megyn Kelly lacerated Karl Rove for doing during her election night coverage on Fox News.
So before President Obama is inaugurated for the second time, America needs to get a few things straight. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, he is not a Muslim and he did call the attacks in Benghazi an act of terror. Evolution is not a lie “straight from the pit of hell.” Wind is not “God’s way of balancing heat.” ACORN does not even exist anymore – it isn’t stealing elections. Cutting employee hours because of supposed increased costs while simultaneously giving away millions of dollars worth of promotional material does not make you a shrewd businessman; it makes you a jerk. And, most importantly, drastic cuts to public services that make life harder for middle and lower-income Americans do not boost the economy.
In a healthy American political system, the two major political parties present competing sets of ideas to tackle the challenges the country faces. Cynics call this “bringing your own set of facts to the table,” sets of facts that combine to solve problems through debate and eventual compromise. But this system only works if both sides bring actual facts to the table. This campaign season, the Republican Party brought a set of fantasies to the table and tried to convince the rest of us to go along for the ride.
When real issues like climate change, electoral reform and national defense are turned into fantastical playthings by Republican candidates and elected officials who refuse to accept the premise of the debate in the first place, the whole country is worse off. Not only is it impossible to have a serious conversation when, as Barney Frank would say, it’s “like arguing with a kitchen table,” but the fact that such a conversation is impossible causes the public to lose faith in the system. Why should we trust Washington to get anything done when half of our leaders refuse to acknowledge that assault weapons kill people? America is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s oil consumption, yet it controls four percent of the world’s oil reserves; it’s hard to blame the public for not trusting Washington to solve energy issues when half of our elected officials believe that we can drill our way to energy independence.
Americans voted for facts this election, which was good for liberals, but more importantly, great for the country. Forcing the Republican Party to accept the electoral reality that running against the real world is a losing proposition could restore Americans’ confidence in our political system and produce more effective government on the whole. We are already seeing serious discussion in Washington of taking a balanced approach to reducing the debt, reforming our immigration system and streamlining the process by which Americans vote – discussions that would have been impossible mere months ago.
In 2008 Americans voted for hope and change. In 2012, they may finally get them.