The Limits To Truthiness

So, apparently, someone dug up a long lost radio interview of an academic panel Obama took part in in which he basically stated a disagreement with the idea of affirmative economic rights. So how does Mark Levin react? By publishing multiple post at The Corner to the effect of “Barack Obama supports affirmative rights.”

Now, this is funny in its own right, but over the weekend Levin published a very long screed basically asking why the vast majority of the country just doesn’t see Obama the way the twits over at The Corner see him. And if Levin, a) weren’t paid to make shit up, and b) had any sense for introspection or successive thinking, he might realize that he basically just answered his own question; the vast majority of voters don’t see Obama the way The Corner does because the writers at The Corner have basically constructed a completely different reality from which they see things.

For instance, The Corner is still working under the assumption that Obama is “the most liberal Democrat ever.” Levin called him a true ideologue. But this is just abjectly stupid. Obama is probably the least liberal Democrat to run for President since Carter, with the possible exception of the 1996 version of Clinton. His tax plan has, at its core, a pretty substantial tax cut for the vast majority of workers. He’s proposing eliminating most capital gains taxes on small businesses. His healthcare plan was by far the least liberal of all of the plans put up in the Democratic primary, and even less liberal than the plan Clinton proposed in 1993. He’s voiced conceptual support for executing child rapists. His main economic advisers come from the University of Chicago, a University that has an entire school of right-of-center economic thought named after it! He’s not ruled out the possibility of retaining Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, and has said he’ll be taking advice from Colin Powell. He’s also expressed an admiration for the foreign policy views and team of the George H.W. Bush admistration. In many ways, Obama is substantially less liberal than me.

All of which means nothing to people predisposed to vote against him of course, and that’s basically the target audience of talk radio and The Corner. They don’t really exist to persuade voters, they exist to preach to the choir, in large part because that’s where the money is. And there is a certain market for that to be sure. Most voters, or at least a very large plurality of them, don’t have any logical process involved with deciding their votes. They generically identify with one party or another, and will invariably cast their ballots for whomever their party nominates. And, on some level, that’s fine. It’s certainly to be expected at least. But what it does do is create a large number of voters, on both sides, who have no actual, substantive, reason for why they’re casting a vote for, o against, the particular candidates. And that’s where outlets like The Corner come in quite handy; to give a rationale to a large number of Republican partisans who otherwise don’t really have any reason beyond “I’m a Republican” for why they’re voting for Republican X.

The problem, in the broader scale, is that your own blanket partisans aren’t enough to win elections, and are typically offset by the other sides blanket partisans. So what you need to do is attract the much smaller bloc of persuadable voters who will switch their partisan preferences year to year to support your “team.” At times, Republicans are very good at this and it’s certainly not impoossible to do this with negative branding. In 2004, for example, Republicans were able to brand Kerry as an untrustworthy flip flopper early, but this was helped in large part by the “for it before I was against it” video. There was visual evidence for everyone to see to reinforce the brand. This time around, however, Republicans have basically decided that they’re going to try the electoral equivalent of swearing the grass is purple. Which works fine for the swath of hypothetical people who don’t want to believe that the grass is green, but the vast majority of people are going to recognize that you’re trying to feed them something that just isn’t true. Of course, there’s a point to which this sort of thing can “work,” in the short term; if the sky happens to have a purple tint at dusk or something, you could probably convince people that the sky was “purple” and not blue, but of course there’s a certain point of disbelief to everything, and I think it’s safe to say the right-wing crossed it some time ago in regards to Obama.