Now that the elections are over, including the final determination that Florida chose Obama, the pundits are quickly finding new positions. We now hear that the Republicans may be doomed forever if they don’t figure out how to sell their ideas to single women, Hispanics, Blacks and the gay community. It’s shocking that the pundits aren’t advocating Republicans actually change their beliefs – but instead recommending that they simply reengineer their appeal to these demographically important groups. That is offensive. How do you package to women a belief that abortion is not an option in the case of rape, since the baby is God’s creation? How do you convince Hispanics who have not self-deported that there’s a place for them in the Republican Party? How do you convince Blacks, Veterans, the disabled and retired (the dominant members of the 47% who you recently called parasites on the backs of job creators) that suddenly you can represent them by lowering the taxes they don’t pay? How do you convince the gay community to join your party when you refuse to allow them to exercise the simple right of forming permanent relationships with the same opportunities and privileges available in male-female relationships?
Before these new “talking points” emerged the pundits followed that famous axiom “it’s the economy stupid” as their guide to what would determine the outcome of the election. Suddenly these other issues are going to determine the future of the Republican Party. What they’ve lost sight of is that these issues, though central to the radical elements of the right in the Republican Party, are conceptually beyond resolution by the right wing because the issues are concrete and personal. The right wing will be unable to address these conundrums and will fall back on their simple minded but abstract economic appeals to two insidious forces driving the way their constituents think.
One force is that of fear, which over the course of the next four years will bring a laser-like focus on the continuing expansive role China will play in the world economy. As China asserts more aggressive independence through trade and unconventional power manifest with the cooperation of Brazil and India, it will trigger paranoia for conspiracy in this country. Europe will continue to flounder without a monetary union in place. The China syndrome will flourish.
The second force will come from the very success of the US economy which in part will be a cyclical upswing, and in part be due to the end of the fiscal deadlock in 2013. If you recall the period 1990 -2000 was a period of growth, dynamic innovation, surpluses in the federal budget and cyclical upswing following the Carter oil crisis and the Reagan recession. This should have led to more faith in the Keynesian fiscal management of the economy and in the balanced public/private sector US system under Clinton. It did not.
The second force is human nature revising history to feed the ego – hubris. As success causes the successful to interpret their improvement to their genius, and not on the fact that they prospered and rose on a rising tide, we see hubris turn victory of the few into potential defeat for the rest. This misunderstanding of causation leads them into the arms of the seductive right wing that plays on this self-deception and self-aggrandizement. Remember the “I made it” vs. “we made it” controversy in this campaign? You have seen nothing yet. In the setting of the first force, a China syndrome, this force will recreate a Republican ground swell linked to the abstract appeal of an Ayn Randian individualist economic delusion. The seeds for this have been sown in this campaign.
The economic ideas and beliefs of the right wing of the Republican Party fly in the face of what economists have learned through systematic peer reviewed research, objective observation and analysis over the past 70 years. The phony ideas or beliefs of the right-wing about economics are as bereft of a rational basis as their social theories about rape and abortion, immigration, race and the impoverishment of the marginalized and the right to equal protection before the law for those with varying sexual orientations.
One of the profoundly destructive aspects of this particular election was the tremendous increase in the amount of economic nonsense that the radical Republican campaigns foisted as fact on the American public. The undoing of knowledge by this disinformation campaign is a major issue that economists must rise to challenge and correct.
Next time it should not be the case that a Nobel winning economist winds up being argued with about the meaning of research findings by a talking head whose only credential is that they’ve been able to develop a brand where “loud and offensive” is a recognized form of thought and acceptable creator of facts. The unfortunate moderator seemed to think that this represented two equal points of view thus there was balance. This is like the football coach that fields a team that looks like they can play instead of one that can play. The loss can be staggering.
The think tank talking head whose standard of economic knowledge is “a lie is as good as the truth if someone believes it” simply has to be put out of business. Economists need to take on the “focus group” snake oil seller posing and pronouncing as an expert. It seems more than the brave Paul Krugman should be out there taking on the challenge. Re-educating the population about what economists actually know is a major challenge that has emerged from this election cycle. Those who can shout drowning out the voice of knowledge with fear mongering and manipulation of half-truths with fake facts manufactured for the current argument need to be driven off the stage through relentless critique not censorship. The only censorship that is justified is a deaf ear to the teller of false tales. The next step is to debunk the right wing by taking the bull by the horns issue by issue and use the tools we have to disassemble the stage the false tales are preached from. My next contributions to this conversation will focus on dissection and dismemberment of the holy grails of right wing economics in this era.