The Republican Party's post-truth cul-de-sac
Finally. It’s again possible to pay attention to the manner in which an administration governs and feel a certain reassured confidence regarding its competence and expertise. The contrast is already extraordinary. And it’s not just that I share with the Biden folks a spectrum of political values, or the belief that government can, put simply, help people, but, from what I’ve observed, they are, to a person, decent, grounded and truthful.
Suddenly we no longer find ourselves in a post-truth political landscape of alternative facts that once saturated the national discourse. At least not with this White House. Regrettably — and I say this sincerely, since I believe that to have a dynamic democracy we need two robust political parties — the Republicans remain still a party moored to The Former Guy and his post-truth, culture-war politics.
Consider the most recent response of Texas’ Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott. Appearing on Fox News, he was asked about the once-in-a-century arctic cold snap that swept across his state, and the unfolding catastrophic failure of the state’s infrastructure, leaving some 24 dead. He reflexively blamed the disaster on the still unrealized Green New Deal. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Our wind and our solar got shut down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.” This was a breathtaking lie. People were indeed freezing, out of water and food, their distress palpable. But it wasn’t the environmentalists who caused the interior of homes to be colder than the inside of their refrigerators.
Actually, I don’t think the governor believed that it was the greenies’ fault. But desperate, and cringing at what was occurring on his watch, he chose to deal with all attempts by the media to hold him accountable for what has been an epic, preventable disaster by dissembling.
And so incredible was his tale of causation, he might as well have joined Sen. Ted Cruz in Cancun. While Texas froze, the Republican senator was headed, with family, for the beach. And when asked about his abandonment of the folks back in Texas, he played Jenga with the truth, his proffered explanation (it was the kids’ idea) truly astonishing in all its subsequent incarnations. But then I still find his role in agreeing to overturn the Electoral College vote and therefore the 2020 election equally reprehensible and something for which he has not been held accountable.
Post-truth and the Repubs: If you head down the street and take a hard right at the corner you’ll find that 72 percent of Republicans still say that Biden’s win is illegitimate. When asked, 58 percent of the GOP believes that Antifa led the Capitol insurrection. And not to forget, it was the former White House that responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with anti-science, hoax-laden conspiracies and a not-to-worry baroque fiction, followed later by the “Big Lie,” an overt attempt to subvert our democracy. In fairness, the White House did set in motion Warp Speed, which led to the time-bending creation of the efficacious vaccines.
Regarding the post-truth cul-de-sac Repubs find themselves in, Timothy Snyder, writing in the NYT Magazine, said, “Post-truth amounts to pre-fascism. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth or the charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. Instead we will wallow in attractive abstractions and fiction. Social media is no substitute. It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true. Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth.”
For example, QAnon.
Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.