|I already know the answer. Now. What's the question?|
Sadly, the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign has disabused me of such a quaint, naive notion. Motivated reasoning is not, it turns out, a conservative weakness, but more of a universal human weakness to be carefully guarded against. No matter who we are, no matter our ideology and political belief system, there are certain things we fiercely want to be true, and we react with anger and resentment when presented with facts that tell us they are not. Now, it has been historically true in recent decades that liberals were more willing than conservatives, upon reflection and analysis, to give up those cherished beliefs and build a new worldview on a foundation of factual analysis. But we are learning, as the Democratic primary season plays itself out, that sort of self-inveigled understanding of fairly basic political and economic realities is not solely the province of silly old white men in tri-cornered hats.
Indeed, just as American Christianist extremists adopt a whole set of social taboos and structures that are often in perfect alignment with the Islamist extremists they claim to hate, other than the political/economic/governance policy disagreements, it's become surprisingly different to tell a liberal hippie from a tea party conservative. The much-argued comparisons between the Trump and Sanders campaign is fairer than may are willing to accept. While they espouse diametrically opposed policy positions, they do so with the same kind of vague mumblings under shouted promises, all wrapped up in a few clever slogans.
We laughed when Jeb Bush ludicrously promised 4% annual economic growth, but then were surprised at the anger and outrage when we laughed at an analysis of Sanders economic policies projected 5.3% annual growth. Just a few years removed from a bloody multi year legislative fight that produced Obamacare, providing health insurance to an additional 20 million Americans and income security for millions more, the Sanders campaign tells us the ACA is a disappointment and that fully government funded single payer is not only the solution, it is a solution they promise to deliver. Ask how they plan on overcoming the immense political, ideological and economic hurdles that have prevented anything like that in the past, they respond with more vague mumblings and shouted accusations of corruption.
Many years ago, I left my beloved online community of Sadly, No! because I had grown exhausted and frustrated trying to have a meaningful conversation with people who refused to agree to a single, standard definition of common words. It was Upton Sinclair who famously advised: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" Similarly, when it is more important to someone to believe the world is a certain way than it is to learn how the world actually functions, there are no facts or arguments that can sway them.
Frankly, I'm looking forward to Super Tuesday next week so we can stop arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and start counting delegates in earnest.