Postmodernism isn’t trendy anymore, but in the waning years of the twentieth century it was the ism of choice for feckless, ex-fascist European philosophers and careerist American humanities professors. It started from the premise that truth is subjective, an acceptable enough proposition from a metaphysical standpoint. But once truth is defined as a matter of opinion, any cultural construct can be true, and in the ensuing logical void, validity becomes a function of popularity. If a group holds something true, then it is. All viewpoints, no matter how readily disproven, are legitimate; none are more legitimate than others; and rational scrutiny amounts to oppression.
Call it Democracy Extreme: not only are you entitled to your own opinion, you’re entitled to your own facts.
The last time the intellectual left strayed that far off course was during the interwar years with nihilism, and that led, indirectly but traceably, to national socialism.
So even the smartest and most deliberative among us can succumb to delusion, and can find a satisfying rationalization for doing so. Therefore we should not celebrate that the rulers of the Republican Party, described by former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum as products of “a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion,” exposed the depth of their detachment from reality by failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act after promising for years to do just that.
True, it’s a big win for those of us more incentivized by prudence, moderation, and compassion (especially compassion) than intransigence, radicalism, and anger.
True, it’s likely to hamper the Republicans’ plans for a massive transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to those who already have more than they will ever need.
And true, it proves once again, perhaps even to their base, that Trump, Ryan, and the party as a whole have been using anger and resentment to further tribal identity rather than to make tangible improvements to average Americans’ lives (which are actually delivered by the elitist Democrats).
But how do you feel when you fail for the world to see and have no one to blame but yourself? Does it make you think “they’re right, I’m wrong, I need to change my whole worldview?”
The Obamacare repeal debacle will only make the Republicans and their true believers more certain of their delusions.
I’ve always thought that when you win, it’s important to stop competing. Don’t mock the loser. Extend a hand and show respect. The fact that Trump doesn’t do this — and Republicans generally don’t do this — shouldn’t stop us from going high when they go low.
So now is a good time for Democrats to say “dudes (because all of them are dudes), the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. If you’ll concede that once and for all, we’ll concede that it can be improved and work with you to make it better.”
I don’t know whether the Republicans would be interested in that, since they have so much invested in portraying politics as a Manichean struggle against us weak libtard snowflakes deluded by science and blind to the perfection of Christian and capitalist dogma. Most of them recognize that the Democrats didn’t beat them, they beat themselves. If the humiliation of losing motivates them to start compromising with one another, there won’t be any more wins for us to exult in.
So let’s keep in mind that anyone can make the mistake they’ve been making, even humanities professors, and treat this as an opportunity to find common ground.
Which doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. I’m rooting for the Democrats to scuttle the Gorsuch nomination. Politics aside, Gorsuch’s dissent in Transam Trucking, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board is disgraceful. (You’ll need to scroll most of the way down the link to find his opinion.) For any halfway fellow-feeling human, Al Franken’s direct examination should be dispositive.