As usual, with apologies to Theodosius Dobzhansky. I’ve written many times that one can not understand movement conservatism without reference to creationism. Not only is there substantial overlap between creationists and the conservative base, but the tactics (manufacturing a pseudo-reality that attempts to appropriate convenient features of reality) and the modes of thought (denialism, hysterical demonization of opponents) are identical. Now it appears that NYMag columnist Frank Rich is getting this too (boldface mine):
But an equally important part of this history is the extraordinary lengths to which the grandees of the GOP—not just basket cases like Dick “Landslide!” Morris and Glenn Beck, but the supposed adults regarded by the Beltway Establishment and mainstream media as serious figures—enabled their party’s self-immolating denial of political reality….If a tea-party voter in Texas was shocked that Obama won, he was no less thunderstruck than the Romney campaign, or Karl Rove. Rove’s remarkably graphic public meltdown on Fox News—babbling gibberish about how his Ohio numbers showed a path for Romney even after the election was lost—marked not just the end of his careers as a self-styled political brainiac and as a custodian of hundreds of millions of dollars in super-PAC money. It was an epic on-camera dramatization of his entire cohort’s utter estrangement from reality.
The most histrionic indicator of the GOP Establishment’s enlistment in the post-fact alternative universe was the pillorying of Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight statistical model (and accompanying blog) in the Times analyzing all major national and state surveys on a daily basis consistently found Obama a fairly prohibitive favorite in the race. Conservative commentators disgorged thousands and thousands of words to impugn Silver as a liberal hack, accusing him of slanting the facts to fit a political bias. Freud couldn’t have imagined a clearer case study in projection. For backup, the anti-Silver forces turned to the likes of Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard, whose learned, lengthy, and chart-laden explanations of why Silver and the polls were wrong could be considered scientific in the same way creation science is. An even sadder case was Michael Barone, the once-respected co-author of The Almanac of American Politics who in 2008 compared Sarah Palin to FDR and who this year abandoned his fact-based standard for a faith-based standard underestimating minority turnout; he predicted a 315 electoral-vote victory for Romney….Silver got all 50 states right.
Some of Silver’s detractors didn’t bother to concoct their own bogus analyses but just tried to defame and bully him. In the waning days of October, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe discounted FiveThirtyEight’s finding that Obama had (then) a 73.6 percent probability of victory by ranting that “anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a toss-up right now is such an ideologue they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops, and microphones for the next ten days, because they’re jokes.” Dean Chambers, a conservative blogger who gained popularity on the right by setting up a junk-science Romney-boosting site called UnSkewed Polls, implied that FiveThirtyEight was skewed by Silver’s sexual orientation. Chambers wrote that Silver is “of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the ‘Mr. New Castrati’ voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program.” ..Scarborough’s and Chambers’s efforts to discredit FiveThirtyEight mirrored their party’s attempts to demonize the nonpartisan organizations that questioned Romney and Ryan’s voodoo economics as well as Jack Welch’s assault on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The comparison isn’t just snark–that’s just a bonus. We observe pseudo-science, demonization of opponents as ungodly degenerates (e.g., ‘evolution = pornograpy’–not kidding), and a willingness to assault disciplines outside of the immediate target (e.g., attacking geology or physics to defend creationism). Another similarity to creationism, not mentioned by Rich, is that movement conservatism has developed elaborate mechanisms to actively avoid reality: ‘alternative’ media, their own ‘unskewed’ polls, and an insular book and internet market. Again, not only is their substantial overlap between creationists and movement conservatives, but the ways they cope with an inconvenient reality are similar.
Once one realizes that it’s the same phenomenon, strategically speaking, compromise makes little sense–it provides them with nothing more than a beachhead. In terms of convincing people to ‘leave’ movement conservatism, it becomes obvious, as is the case with creationism, that this is part of an entire worldview, one that is extremely resistant to change. As Sarah Robinson pointed out years ago, logical arguments will not find much, if any, purchase. Typically, people will not change their minds without a personal shock or crisis, often a betrayal by an authority figure or benefactor. For instance, David Frum, who is now some progressives’ favorite ‘fallen’ conservative, really didn’t speak out until he was fired from conservative faith tank AEI over his support for Obamacare. I write “some”, because Frum had no problems demonizing those opposed the Iraq War (by the way, we were right, and he was wrong. And with so many needlessly dead, that tastes like ashes in my mouth). It took a personal betrayal (firing him from what many thought was a university-like position, but turned out to a doctrinaire propaganda mill) for him to become an outspoken critic of movement conservatives.
At least now, it appears that more of the chattering class realizes what movement conservatism really is.