© Josh Sager – July 2015
For the last decade, debates between liberals and conservatives have been difficult because the right wing has established its own fact-free universe in which to base its arguments. In this universe, the big federal government is regulating industry to death, taxing the rich to the point of poverty, manufacturing the climate change hoax, and oppressing the poor white man in service to “multiculturalism.” Obama is an evil Marxist who also happens to support crony-capitalism (no contradiction there), Afro-nationalism, and the use of UN troops to take over Texas.
Because the right has cocooned itself in this delusion, there is little that can be done to argue with them. They don’t respond to rational arguments based upon factual reality, simply because they don’t subscribe to reality or rationality. For example: it doesn’t matter how many studies, meta-analyses, and international scientific conclusions on climate change you present, as the right wing base will always latch onto the 3% of outlier studies that reject the consensus and cry conspiracy to explain their side’s lack of support.
The media has absolutely failed in its job to hold these people accountable and has instead decided to report both sides of the argument to let the public decide who is right—at no point do they explain that one side is simply making things up.
Ironically, while this tactic has given fact-free conservatives an advantage while debating progressives, who are overwhelmingly bound by the facts and unwilling to simply make up a reality that fits their preferences, the GOP is now reaping the consequences of this tactic in their own primary.
In a world where nobody subscribes to objective facts (the GOP primary), the winner is not the person who proposes the best ideas, but rather the person who presents their delusion with the most bombast and swagger. Unlike in reality-based debates, no side of the GOP’s fact-free primary infighting can point to reality to support their claims, thus no side has a substantive advantage on policy. In short, there is little substantive difference between two delusions, thus the major factors that determine who wins such an argument are agreement with the viewer’s preconceived notions and the showmanship of the deluded presenter.
Unfortunately for everybody involved, the best salesman within the current GOP primary field is Donald Trump. Trump is completely impervious to shame and basic human decency, thus has been able to say what many of the right wing base secretly believe (ex. all Mexicans are rapists), and is unusually skilled at selling bullshit to suckers (low-information GOP voters), giving him an advantage over dry politicians like Scott Walker.
Trump is a nightmare enemy for any right wing candidate, as he is the Michael Jordan of shameless and fact-free bombast. While Trump will flame out before the primary enters its later stages, his success will lead others to follow his example and start taking ever more ridiculous positions. We have already seen examples of this, the most recent of which was Mike Huckabee’s claim that Obama was “marching Israel to the door of the oven” (obviously a reference to the holocaust) with his Iran deal.
Once candidates catch onto the fact that they can claim almost anything, no matter how batshit crazy, and only face increased media scrutiny that bolsters their popularity within the right wing base, the GOP primary faces collapse. At this point, the GOP will realize too late that it created a runaway train that it can no longer exit or control, and will panic.
At best, the GOP can hope that the most extreme candidates flame out before the end of the primary, but this still ensures that the American public will be bombarded with months of lunatic comments being said by Republican frontrunners. This is very likely to poison certain demographics (ex. sane people, non-rapist Hispanics, women, etc.) against the GOP and will doom the eventual nominee by association.
At worst, a candidate like Huckabee will wait until the end of the primary and make a last stand of extremism and bigotry that propels them to the front of the pack just in time for them to capture the nomination, but not in time for their popularity to wane as the next candidate says something even more extreme. This is unlikely, as the moneyed elite of the party would almost certainly fix the process to get their preferred candidate as the nominee, but it would be an unmitigated disaster down the ticket.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, this devolution of the GOP to a fact-free cage match of extremism and rhetoric is terrible for our nation. In addition to breeding dysfunction within partisan politics, this process misinforms the American people, and makes us look insane on the global stage (if not raising legitimate concerns that certain areas of our nation have polluted their water supply with a mixture of meth and LSD).