The real truth hurtsHow does one explain the persistent Republican myth that voter fraud is rampant, thus requiring the onerous "Voter ID" laws enacted in Wisconsin and several other states? Sure, the move is, at bottom, actually a vote-suppression scheme aimed against Democrats. But aside from the masterminds at or near the top of the GOP, it's also true that this effort is based on a truly held belief among many rank-and-file Republicans. A belief cultivated by the likes of strategist Karl Rove, who asserted early on that the Bush administration would craft its own, alternate reality to enable drastic social and political change.
"Confessions of a Former Republican," a new commentary by Jeremiah Goulka over at Tom's Dispatch (see URL below) gives us more insight into this issue, and perhaps even some ideas about how best to combat it by changing perceptions among the GOP faithful. Goulka was himself a stalwart "Rockefeller Republican" who over the years became disillusioned as he realized many of his long-held beliefs -- GOP beliefs -- about how America works were just plain wrong.
Here's an excerpt from Goulka's dispatch dealing with the fact that many low-income and minority Americans simply have no ID, a realization that came to him as a complete shock (this is from a copyrighted work, but we reprint a short passage here under the fair-use provisions of copyright law):
... That night, I told my roommates about the crazy thing I had heard that day. Apparently there were people out there who had never been to something as basic as a real restaurant. Who knew?
One of my roommates wasn’t surprised. He worked at a local bank branch that required two forms of ID to open an account. Lots of people came in who had only one or none at all.
I was flooded with questions: There are adults who have no ID?And no bank accounts? Who are these people? How do they vote? How do they live? Is there an entire off-the-grid alternate universe out there?
... I dove into the research literature to try to figure out what was going on. It turned out that everything I was “discovering” had been hiding in plain sight and had been named: aversive racism, institutional racism, disparate impact and disparate treatment, structural poverty, neighborhood redlining, the “trial tax,” the “poverty tax,” and on and on. Having grown up obsessed with race (welfare and affirmative action were our bêtes noirs), I wondered why I had never heard of any of these concepts.
Was it to protect our Republican version of “individual responsibility”? That notion is fundamental to the liberal Republican worldview. “Bootstrapping” and “equality of opportunity, not outcomes” make perfect sense if you assume, as I did, that people who hadn’t risen into my world simply hadn’t worked hard enough, or wanted it badly enough, or had simply failed.
So, how to hurry such transformations in still more Republicans? It won't be easy. One point Goulka makes is that you can't get people with these wrong-headed notions to change over to a reality-based view of the world by simply forcing them to face facts. "No one wants to feel like a dupe," he writes. "It is embarrassing to come out in public and admit that I was so miseducated when so much reality is out there in plain sight in neighborhoods I avoided, in journals I hadn’t heard of, in books by authors I had refused to read."
Now, GOP party leaders like Rep. Paul Ryan probably don't rely entirely on that excuse. Sure, Ryan may be self-delusional -- witness his erroneous claims about mountain-climbing and under-three-hour marathon run(s), not to mention his budget "road map." But for guys like Ryan, misleading downstream Republican voters is part of the drill. Fostering their alternate reality more and more has become the primary tactic they use to retain power.
That's why calling them out on their contrarian notions of reality, loudly and often, is an important first step in convincing the wider GOP base that they're backing the wrong horses. But along with that effort, progressives and Democrats need to call out mainstream news media for pretending that "everyone does it," that Democrats are just as disingenuous as the Republicans and their carefully cultivated, alternate-reality view of America.
Democrats and other non-GOP politicians individually and even collectively surely do lie or mislead, from time to time, but the well-organized Republican reality distortion project makes most of the competition's dissembling seem feeble and amateurish in comparison.
Of course this GOP approach to politics isn't new. Back in the '50s, the esteemed Adlai Stevenson once said that if Republicans would stop telling lies about Democrats, Democrats would stop telling the truth about Republicans. That sentiment has become even more pertinent in today's political climate, where GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney feels comfortable flipping his view on "Obamacare" four times in 12 hours, by one measure.
So if you're interested in understanding and even dealing with this issue, it's worth the time to read Goulka's entire piece and to share it around.