Why Building a Lie Machine is a Bad Idea

An Open Letter to Republicans

Note December 2017: while this article was originally written during the Senate GOP’s unprecedented theft of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat in 2016, it could very well begin with the 2017 GOP’s destruction of regular order to pass historically unpopular major legislation or even the Senate Judiciary’s recent nomination of an objectively unqualified partisan for a lifetime position on the federal judiciary. The GOP is still going all in with their lie machine.

Dear Republicans,

Personally, I hope you continue your blockade of Senate procedures. It’s irrational, it has no precedent in the last 100 years, and it just puts on clear display your absolute unwillingness to work with President Barack Obama. I hope you continue your blockade because, as a liberal, I’m not very excited about Merrick Garland. He’s an old white moderate male. Please block him so that Hillary can nominate a staunch liberal (or, maybe, Obama?).

But that’s not why I’m writing.

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
“When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.” -Bipartisan congressional scholars Mann and Ornstein.

Over the past decade or so, members of your party have been hard at work on a rather masterful construction project. You have built an alternate reality in which there was an active WMD program in Iraq, President Obama is an uncompromising Muslim Socialist Kenyan Antichrist, the ACA is a socialist government takeover scheme to introduce death panels, global warming is a hoax / open question / partisan trick, compromise is fundamentally unacceptable, and Romney/Ryan are definitely going to win the 2012 election.

“Limbaugh and Fox created a conservative echo chamber that hurt the Republican Party by tugging it to the right and sometimes breeding a myopic extremism in which reality is irrelevant.” -Nicholas Kristof

Alternate Reality Machines

As if it weren’t bad enough that you have gone out of your way to create or condone this alternate reality, you’ve then proceeded to discredit any institution or group that points out the disconnect between your alternate reality and actual reality. You’ve blasted “the media” and all but declared war on science. It’s normal for smart people to disagree about things, but you’ve gone way beyond that — “the media,” in your alternate reality, are completely untrustworthy, science is wrong and partisan, and researchers are corrupt and biased, unless they agree with you. It’s as if you’ve taken Stephen Colbert’s famous joke to heart:

Personally, I disagree with the implications of Colbert’s joke. We need conservatives and liberals as we try to figure out the best way forward. The left doesn’t have all the answers, nor does the right. And, to be clear, I’m not saying that you’re the only politicians who ever say anything untrue. Democrats lie, mislead, and obfuscate all too often as well. But there’s a difference between that and building a lie machine.

“Republicans soon found that propping up the lie meant they had to question any independent authority that might contradict it. So they started routinely questioning science, statistics and any other independent research that supported Democratic policies.” -Harry Reid

Your lie machine isn’t an accident. You don’t put Trump on Fox News 48 times between 2013 and 2015 without meaning to. When a majority of your voters are convinced that Obama isn’t American, you can’t blame us for being skeptical of your feeble attempts to tamp down on the absurd conspiracy theory. When the overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is happening and that it’s made worse by humans, your party’s intransigent and comical “I’m not a scientist” defense of inaction looks less like humility and more like cogs for your lie machine.

“The problem is that Republicans have purposefully torn down the validating institutions. They have convinced voters that the media cannot be trusted; they have gotten them used to ignoring inconvenient facts about policy; and they have abolished standards of discourse by allowing all complaints about offensiveness to be lumped into a box called “political correctness” and ignored.” -Josh Barro

On Reaping and Sowing

When you throw up your hands in exasperation after Trump wins a majority in yet another state and then turn around and invent a silly justification for Supreme Court obstructionism, know that the two are connected.

After working hard to build such an effective alternate reality machine, it’s no surprise that someone terrifying has taken the controls. Mr. Trump is your Frankenstein, but he wouldn’t be nearly as potent or dangerous had you not left the keys in the ignition of your lie machine.

You built it. Trump is using it to steer us all into a dystopic quagmire of authoritarianism.

Next time, just build a baseball field.