Over at The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan wonders, “How Loony is the Right?” Sullivan’s question is prompted by Newt Gingrich’s latest outburst, this time that America is somehow facing – get this now – the danger of “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” Sullivan has great fun mocking Gingrich, and indeed it’s fun:
…this, I think, is where Gingrich gets his otherwise absurd reputation for being an intellectual.
What he does is grasp constantly for huge, world-historical theories and systems in order to situate himself in the present. Doubt rattles him; moderation befuddles him; pragmatism offends him. Only Great Ideas appeal. But he is too emotional to separate his feelings from his thoughts in all this (a human failing but one to be resisted as best one can). And so the content of the ideas becomes secondary to their political usefulness. Only then – when Gingrich sees himself as utterly right and, duh, winning – does he feel comfortable.
Yes, it’s fun to mock these loons and their bizarre/ultra-paranoid John Birch Society ideas, but it’s also frightening how many of them there are – Donald Trump the “Birther” being the latest – and how many of their voters buy into this lunacy.
For instance, check out this new CNN poll, which has only 20% of Republicans “definitely” believing that Barack Obama was born in the United States (43% say he was “definitely” or “probably born in another country”). How can you even reason with people who “believe” something that’s categorically, factually, demonstrably (and has been so demonstrated) false? And it’s not just on this issue, either. On anthropogenic climate change, about which there is voluminous, overwhelming scientific (e.g., NOT partisan or ideological in any way) evidence, only 36% acknowledge the scientifically correct answer, that the “rise in earth’s temperatures [is] due to pollution from human activities.” In contrast, 71% of Democrats and 51% of Independents (both numbers should be 100%, of course) acknowledge reality.
We could do this on issue after issue, where it’s not just a matter of having differing opinions, it’s a matter of Republicans believing – against all evidence to the contrary – a completely different set of facts. Again, how does one reason or work with someone who operates off a completely non-fact-based set of assumptions about the world? At best, it’s not going to be easy.