We are entering the age of the psychopundit (we can thank the science writer Will Saletan for this excellent word). Thomas Edsall, for example, is a veteran political reporter widely admired by people who admire political reporters. He has become very excited by social science, as so many widely admired people have. Studies show—as a psychopundit would say—that Edsall is excited because social science has lately become a tool of Democrats who want to reassure themselves that Republicans are heartless and stupid. In embracing Science, the psychopundit believes he is moving from the spongy world of mere opinion to the firmer footing of fact. It is pleasing to him to discover that the two—his opinion and scientific fact—are identical.
That the “rich and powerful” are identical to conservatives and Republicans—Edsall’s assumption—is a hoary idea dear to many Democrats and essential to their self-image as the opponents of privilege. It persists even though many of the plushest and most powerful institutions of American life are in the hands of liberal Democrats: public and private universities, government bureaucra-cies, nonprofit foundations, movie studios, television networks, museums, newspapers and magazines, Silicon Valley . . . Among the fabled “1 percent,” according to Gallup, the number of self-identified Republicans is only slightly greater than the number of Democrats. As Christopher Caldwell has pointed out in these pages, political donations from 19 of the 20 richest ZIP codes in the United States go overwhelmingly to Democrats, by a ratio of four to one or more. Democrats are the party of what Democrats used to call the superrich. Only Democrats seem not to realize this.
A lack of self-awareness isn’t peculiar to liberals or Democrats, of course, but to judge by the behavior of psychopundits, we can safely say that they are clueless not only about themselves but about their political opposites. A young psychopundit called Chris Mooney has just published a book entitled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality, which seeks to explain the Republican “assault on reality.” He is a very earnest fellow, and an ambitious one. He glances over an array of conservative political beliefs and sets himself a goal: “to understand how these false claims (and rationalizations) could exist and persist in human minds.”
It’s a really good piece. Many of these topics we’ve hit on here before, as leftists insist that conservatives=dumb, conservatives are stupid because they don’t trust “science” (“science” being liberal fabrications to justify their own dogma), and how conservatives and opposing points of view must be purged from the science discourse and treated as insane, etc., etc.
Andrew Ferguson at Weekly Standard continues to tear apart the leftist themes, carrying on from the last paragraph:
His list of false claims is instructive. Along with the usual hillbilly denials of evolution and global warming, they include these, to grab a quick sample: that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 will increase the deficit, cut Medicare benefits, and lead to the death panels that Sarah Palin hypothesized; that tax cuts increase revenue and that the president’s stimulus didn’t create jobs; that Congress banned incandescent light bulbs; and that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.”
The list of errors is instructive because they aren’t properly considered errors, though the misattribution is in keeping with the modern ideologue’s custom of pretending that differences of opinion or interpretation are contests between truth and falsehood. It’s perfectly reasonable for conservatives to assume that offering health insurance to 43 million people will cost a lot of money, and thereby increase the deficit; and it’s perfectly reasonable to distrust notoriously mistaken budget forecasters who say it won’t. The act redirects vast sums away from Medicare, which should require cuts in service. Palin’s “death panel” was a bumper-sticker summary of a rational expectation—that the act will transfer the unavoidable rationing of health care from insurance companies, where most of it rests now, to the government, which will be forced to bureaucratically reshuffle the vast sums spent on end-of-life care. Mooney is right that Congress did not ban the incandescent light bulbs that most of us are used to; but it did ban their manufacture—a distinction without a difference. As for the Christian nation: The country was founded by Christians who nevertheless resolutely declined to create a Christian government. Mooney’s conflation of the American government with the American nation is an error that conservatives are less likely to make. Studies show.
It’s a very good piece.