Politics on a Left-Right Axis? No Worries. A Reality-Fantasy Axis? This Must Be Stopped.

A break from musing about monetary policy.  🙂  The main axis of political difference today isn’t left vs. right.  It is Reality vs. Fantasy axis.  A vicious cocktail of cynicism and self-delusion driving real-world policies with real-world consequences.

Madness is always seen clearest from a distance.  So start by looking at Brexit.  Fantastical, billboard-friendly promises grounded in a nostalgic fantasy of Little Britain.  Leaving the UK government trying to somehow force-fit reality into the shape of that fantasy.  Because the alternative – popping the bubble – seems too personally/politically costly to contemplate.  Better to double down on the madness than admit you were wrong.

Now look closer to home.  The mainstream of the Republican partly – 30% of the nation – now lives, breathes, and votes in a fantasy land.  Complete with…

  • …fantasy media (Fox News to Breitbart to Limbaugh to 9/11 conspiracy peddlers)
  • …fantasy economists peddling fantasy economics (The answer is “Tax Cuts” – now what was the question?).
  • …fantasy science (climate change, pollutants, food safety…)
  • …fantasy public safety (vigilance against potential Muslim terrorists matched with indifference to actual killings by actual race-war terrorists.   Gun policy set by lone-hero-movie-battle fantasies vs ballistic reality).
  • …fantasy race relations (“we’re a color-blind society”),
  • …fantasy outcomes (a “free market” economy is one where many full-time workers draw government Food Stamp etc. subsidies…).
  • …a fantasy President who is (literally) running the White House as Reality TV.
  • …a fantasy National Emergency to build a fantasy wall.
  • …a fantasy back-story of America that offers (fantasy) upward mobility to a (fantasy) wealthier, whiter, more rural/suburban populace  – ignoring all statistics to the contrary.

About here is where the Left-Right debaters pivot to “Well the Democrats have their fantasy ideas too (e.g. “Green New Deal).”  Seeking to shift the debate back to the rut of a Left-Right axis.

We realists can’t fall into that comfortable back-and-forth.  Yes the Democrats have fantasists of their own.  But they aren’t the Democratic mainstream.  Much of the Republican mainstream is living in an obvious fantasy.  Starting with expedient falsehoods and descending into madness – from Nixon’s racist dog whistles to Reagan’s deficits to Willie Horton’s explicit racism to Sarah Palin’s post-truth dress rehearsal to Trump’s shameless carnival of lies.  With 30% of the country still on board.

It reminds me of the waning years of Communism.  The fantasy became an obvious tissue of lies.  A shrinking minority kept doubling down on the con.  Some for power and perks.  A larger number just avoiding the shame of admitting they’d been conned.  At some point, the absurdity grew too obvious.  The system toppled.

People living on the reality-based side of the Wall rejoiced.  But we paid an ugly bill for those cynical delusions.  The madness burns out at some point.  Leaving no great joy for those left to pick up the mess.

  • Consider the bill West Germany paid to pick up the mess of East Germany.  To be repaid mostly with Ossi resentment as shame and fantasy nostalgia replaced memories of reality past.
  • Looking homewards, consider the bill paid during and after the US Civil War.  We freed America from an elite minority’s self-enriching fantasy of human bondage as a sustainable economic system.  To be rewarded by a similar creep-back of resentment politics based on fantasy nostalgia.  The truth of that “Republican Party Southern Strategy” may be a wee bit too much for many to face.  I’ll settle for a more reality-based debate around economics, climate, and gun control… 🙂

The first step to getting out of this rut is to stop letting people force-fit today’s politics into a comfortable “Left vs Right” construct.  It is well-worn ground.  But the debate has clearly shifted.

We realists need to square up and confront the fantasy head-on.  We have to keep the debate centered there.  In the madness.  The faster we shift the debate, the faster the madness breaks.  And the lesser the cost for us all.

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