There Are No Partisan Facts

The Daily Escape:

Roaring Mountain, Yellowstone NP – January 2023 photo via Yellowstone NP. The steam vents are called fumaroles. With a limited water supply, the water in steam vents turns to steam and makes noise before reaching the surface.

Today let’s delve into the right-wing mind. Sadly we can’t go in too deep, because you know. Wrongo will try to connect the dots on a few ideas that three interesting people wrote about last week, First, the headline in Phillip Bump’s piece in the WaPo:

“There’s actually only one conspiracy theory: Democrats are evil.”

He’s writing about all of the online conspiracy theories surrounding the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, and then generalizes from the specific:

“Last year, Pew Research Center found that 1 in 8 Republicans (12.5%) liked it a lot when their leaders called Democratic leaders “evil.” Another 16% said they liked it a little.”

So, 28.5% of Republicans think Dems are mostly evil. Bump offers the long laundry list of Democrat conspiracies propounded by Republicans.

  • For example, the 2020 stolen election shows that Democrats are dishonest and will do anything to retain power.
  • The “deep state” is out to get Trump and the Republicans. This leads to demonizing the FBI and CIA as liberals out to get Trump. This year, we can add the National Archives who just wanted their secret documents back.
  • These conspiracies have led the new Republican House majority to create a committee to look at weaponization of the FBI, DOJ and other agencies against Republicans.

Next, let’s look at recent polling on the economy. Matt Yglesias provides two charts that show the US partisan divide on the economy. First is how Democrats view their family’s economic situation over the past 8 years:

On Election Day (ED) 2016, 50% of Democrats said their family’s situation was about the same. On ED 2020, 50% said it was the same. After two years under Biden, it was 52%, so no change. On ED in 2016, about 32% of Dems said their financial situation had gotten better. That fell to about 10% by ED 2020 and is now about 23%.

Contrast that with what Republicans think now and what they thought on Election Day 2016:

From ED in 2016 when Trump won the White House until ED 2020 when he lost it, the percentage of Republicans who thought their financial situation was about the same went from 45% in 2016 to 55% on ED 2020, meaning that they were pretty satisfied with the state of the overall economy. But with Biden, that dropped precipitously to 21% in just two years.

Republicans who thought their personal financial situation had gotten worse stood at 47% in 2016, and just 10% in 2020. But in January of 2023, after two years of Biden, 74% say their financial situation has gotten worse!

But what really happened with the economy? Paul Krugman has thoughts about what we learn from watching only cable news: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Would you know that real gross domestic product has risen 6.7% under President Biden, that America gained 4.5 million jobs in 2022 and that inflation over the past six months, which was indeed very high last winter, was [growing at] less than 2% at an annual rate?”

How does Krugman explain the disconnect between actual economic data and perceptions? More:

“Partisanship is clearly part of the story….. 90% of Republicans said the national economy was poor. A longer view, from the Michigan Survey of Consumers, finds Republicans rating the current economy worse than they did in June 1980, when unemployment was above 7% percent and inflation was 14%.”

Welcome to the United States of Cognitive Dissonance.

There always has been cognitive dissonance in the world. It’s part of being human. But today, people sincerely love to complain and persist in wanting to see the bad side of everything. Egg prices are up? This economy sucks. All that Americans seem to be capable of seeing is the downside.

The country Wrongo grew up in is still here, but its culture has changed. As a member of the Silent Generation, Wrongo and most others wouldn’t have bet against the USA, or its people. But today, we can’t be certain. This dumbing down of American citizens has happened in rapid and spectacular fashion, and the fact-free perception divide is weakening our institutions. This will be extraordinarily difficult to bridge.

Wrongo has no silver bullet for fixing this, but a very basic way to start is to read up on the big problems. Speak up whenever you hear bullshit spewing. That takes courage, but it can’t go uncontested.

Attend your town meetings. Join groups that sponsor educational exchanges on issues. And vote. Vote in every election no matter how trivial.

Wrongo lives in a semi-rural town. When he overhears political talk, it can be staggering to learn what some otherwise smart people believe.

We don’t have to convert all of them, maybe getting 10% to land on the side of the actual data would create a permanent change in our politics.

terence e mckenna

I live in a conservative county in NJ, Morris County. Well off, mostly white, suburban. Republican led for most of the county. Trumpy. I walk my dog in parks with ponds and surrounded by middle class houses and folks who have late model cars. In the rare moments I engage on politics it is astonishing to hear the anger. One man (this was near the election last fall) started talking to me – first about my dogs, then he veered into inflaction and Biden. I told him I work in the financial sector and that inflation is world wide…. he shut up. But they are fed rage from the rage machine.

David Price

A good liberal arts education helps, but I think an inclination to judicious skepticism is a trait formed before higher education. Early role models taught my now young-adult grandchildren to evaluate the evidence for conceptual claims before swallowing. Indeed, my 10-year-old grandchild, when facing new ideas or perspectives, asks lots of questions and is inclined to reserve judgment. I remember well that my mother complained (but not seriously) about my incessant juvenile demands to know “Why.” It seems to me that either some of us adopt these habits from early role models when our brains are exceptionally plastic OR we just come wired that way. I don’t know the answer to that question…or even whether it is the right question. But I strongly suspect that those of us who are bent that way became so well before exposure to “higher learning.”
That said, I still don’t want us to give up on talking to adults who appear to habitually swallow whole what they are fed by others.