I’m not going to try and hide my political leanings here at The Cassandra – I’d hardly live up to the Cassandra name if I did. I’m essentially a bleeding-heart pinko commie liberal, only I understand what all those words mean! I believe that government should work for its citizens, which includes a soundly constructed safety net, disaster assistance, free public education, access to health care, regulations that protect our air, environment, food supply and financial markets, wise military intervention in the interest of national security or humanitarian crisis, and construction and maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure and power supply.
I wouldn’t really call myself a Democrat. I’m more of a Social Democrat like Bernie Sanders. Usually these beliefs are in stark contrast to the Republican candidate for whatever office. Yet this election I’ve found that on some days my views seem to echo those of Mitt Romney (or his views are echoing mine) and some days not so much. If there hadn’t been a press blackout by his campaign for the past twenty or so days, I might know exactly what he thinks, but probably not. In fact, the prospect of the uncertainty of Romney as a candidate has led the Republican in our state’s senate race to throw her lot in with Obama. But for me, the most stunning thing in this election season hasn’t been the insincere weathervane-like gyrations of the Romney camp; it’s that the polls consistently show the race is close. Seriously, about one half of Americans apparently want a candidate with no position at all!
It’s possible that half of the country, or at least those who participate in conservative politics and media, have been primed to disbelief for years. In The Long Con: Mail Order Conservatism Rick Perlstein looks at how Republicans have been primed for years in accepting lies as truth. The sideshow of the conservative machine has been a breeding ground for multi-level marketing and fear theologians since the 1960’s and to them, it’s possible that Romney’s mixed relationship with the truth is a “feature, not a bug”. Says Perlstein:
Dishonesty is demanded by the alarmist fundraising appeal because the real world doesn’t work anything like this. The distance from observable reality is rhetorically required; indeed, that you haven’t quite seen anything resembling any of this in your everyday life is a kind of evidence all by itself. It just goes to show how diabolical the enemy has become. He is unseen; but the redeemer, the hero who tells you the tale, can see the innermost details of the most baleful conspiracies. Trust him. Send him your money.
As an example of Perlstein’s alarmist fundraisers, let’s look at Focus on the Family (FOF). FOF is a Christian conservative group that actively works to promote their version of Christianity in government, including denying marriage rights to same sex couples, repealing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and closing Planned Parenthood, among others. In 2008 they wrote a letter to their supporters that predicted the horros of an Obama presidency that turned out to be completely wrong. By now we should be experiencing rolling blackouts, a dearth of boy scouts, mandatory abortions, Osama Bin Laden pouring your morning coffee and PORNOGRAPHY EVERYWHERE. Admittedly FOF has hit a fundraising bump as of late, but I would attribute that to the changing attitude about same sex couples deserving equal protection under the law rather than the erosion of belief that Obama will bring about the apocalypse. I mean, if that SAVE AMERICA DON’T VOTE OMABA sign down the street is any measure.
So you may want to chalk up all the dishonest priming success to a gullible segment of the population, right? This is a trap many people fall into; the other side is stupid and wrong and so deluded. It is easy to be deluded when you live in an echo chamber of the same ideas, and the people you associate with are receiving similar disinformation. Delusion slips in, beginning to masquerade as every day life. An example: we are toilet readers, so there’s always books and magazines in our bathroom. (Really, I am going somewhere with this!) At one point I had been reading an Autism magazine that featured an article on helping someone on the spectrum deal with death. This magazine stayed in our bathroom for a few months, with just the headline about Autism and grief sticking out. During this time I started to develop an obsession about what will happen to our son after we die. I became extremely depressed had several bad reactions to programs where intellectually disabled people were abused or bullied. One day I looked down at that grief headline and realized that I had been looking at it every day, several times a day for about three months. Even though I wasn’t reading the article I was reminded, almost subconsciously every day that one day I would die and my child would be on his own because every day I read that headline over and over. Once I moved the magazine to the recycle bin my fears began to lessen; and while the prospect still frightens me I am no longer paralyzed by anxiety over the issue.
So imagine that every day you receive emails, magazines, newsletters, listen to radio shows and television that sell you three things; a miracle cure, an easy way to make money, or fear of the unknown. Maybe your views already skew a little conservative, after all, you’ve subscribed to these things looking for like minds. And lo and behold, here is your candidate, a man who tells people what they want to hear regardless of facts and promises that he will fix things for you, often in a way that must involve magic. So while half the country rubs their eyes with disbelief at Romney and at your belief in his platform, Romney is a natural for you. He’s a human echo chamber combined with the slimy suaveness of a snake-oil salesman. Just what conservatives haven’t realized they’ve been looking for all along.