Thursday, January 06, 2011

Here's hoping Speaker Boehner learns to speak the truth

A CNN / Opinion Research poll conducted between December 17 and 19 indicated that 56% of Americans hold either a positive view of Obama's health-care reform or are of the opinion that it is not liberal enough. More specifically, 43% like it as it is and 13% would probably have liked to see a public option. That leaves 37% who are opposed because the reform package is too liberal and 7% who have no opinion.

Let's be clear here. Of those expressing an opinion, 56% reject the Republican critique of "Obamacare" and only 37% side with the GOP.

Given those numbers,  it is rather difficult to understand what Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) was talking about when he said of health-care reform that "we just need to repeal it as the American people have spoken out and said."

I'm sure if I spent just a bit of time doing some Google searches I could find a dozen more Republicans saying that their midterm gains were in large part about Americans rejecting health-care reform. I know recently-installed House Speaker John Boehner has been saying similar things. You will forgive me if I don't dig up all the relevant quotes. It hardly seems necessary. 

John McCain recently railed against the repeal of "don't-ask-don't-tell" as an affront to the electorate despite the fact that polls put support for gays serving openly in the military at upwards of 80%. Same idea. Say the opposite of what is demonstrably true and a lot of people will believe the lie and repeat it either because they want to believe what is untrue or because they are too lazy to do a bit of research.

We're not talking about differences of opinion about things that cannot be shown empirically but about things that are, by modern and generally-recognizable standards of truth, considered to be matters of fact. And before you take issue with polling as a source of gathering information of citizens preferences, I assure you that it has become pretty darn accurate over time.

But just think about the idiotic ideas that have fairly recently been in circulation amongst far too many Americans: Obama is a Muslim; he was not born in America; he is a socialist; he hates America; climate change is an elaborate hoax; and almost any piece of weirdness that comes out of Glenn Beck's mouth. And then there are the claims by various Republicans that Americans reject health-care reform or gays serving openly in the military.

Conservative politics in America seems to be far too much about just saying shit, no matter how absurd, just to see who is either stupid enough or lazy enough to accept it as truth.

I once read something, which I admit may not be true but struck me as plausible and at least suggestive. It was a claim that the KGB, the intelligence agency of the former Soviet Union, would work through its networks to put clearly untrue information in circulation that would support its interests simply because a certain subset of the population will always accept as plausible anything they hear and repeat it.

In my experience, it is not uncommon to hear someone offer an opinion contrary to all facts with the commnt that they had heard it somewhere, though they could not tell you where or what proof was provided.

For the longest time, the suggestion that tobacco did not cause cancer was in this camp, though thankfully that is now a part of the past.

As I say, just put it out there and some people will believe it and repeat it. Too much of politics is done this way, which, when bending the truth, seems to be about the maxim "go big or go home."

What I would say to the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of the world is that they should go ahead and work for the legislative agenda of their choice or the choice of those they think got them elected. But please do try to keep the bullshit to a minimum about the extent to which you are speaking for "the American people."

Although if you want to attack health-care reform, which seems to be pretty popular, and fight for tax cuts for the super rich, which seem to be pretty unpopular, that's fine with me. See you in 2012.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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