Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize are not the only residents of Fantasy Island. That far-off land of make believe is also the shipping address for many Republicans and the vast majority of the modern conservative movement. The ongoing Republican convention is the sort of evidence that would get Fred Thompson’s D.A. on Law & Order to nod knowingly and drawl “go to trial”.
Conservatives have spent a lot of time and money constructing their Fantasy Island. Some of it was planned, but much of it grew organically. From the think tanks propped up by rich lunatics and big business, the demagogic talk shows that blast out twenty-four hours of nonsense, to the television news shows and channels that regurgitate the propaganda and even the right wing blogs that were too pathetic to grow their own communities and instead had to be the product of GOP consultants, the conservative movement has a well oil machine that has sold the nation on ill-conceived wars, tax policy, and the like.
The problem the movement ran into is when it selected then re-elected a leader into the Fantasy that actually believed it. For all their faults, Ronald Reagan knew the religious right was simply his ticket to fortune, and George H.W. Bush recognized the economics as voodoo. On the other hand, George W. Bush actually believes this crap. And so do their followers and hangers-on. Why do you think they remain so loyal to the least popular president of the last two decades? Why, when every other American saw the Iraq War as a mess and the response to Katrina as a disaster and the idea that we should privatize social security in the same class as madness, do these people persist in holding on? Why do they wrap themselves in the death cult of Bush and conservatism? Because they surround themselves with media that tells them that’s the way to think.
Objective reality never comes into play. Rush tells them it’s a liberal plot of the drive-by media. Fox assures them that they are in the mainstream of public opinion no matter how fringe their beliefs. The Heritage Foundation and AEI show them cooked up numbers with “research” backing their assertions. It couldn’t be phony, it says so right here in the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal!
The convention unfolding is the product of that bubble. A convention where the keynote speakers on night one were a failed president, a b-list actor who couldn’t muster a single primary win because he thought he could campaign from a golf cart, and a senator who got drummed out of his own party and formed his own dishonest party to retain his seat. These speakers spoke in a poorly lit and laid out arena they could not fill. And when they spoke, they threw out red meat to the crowd that gained much applause – but out in the actual world it just looks like the fringe pandering to the fringe. They don’t care, because Hannity will praise it, and Newsmax will legitimize it. They can’t ever be wrong as far as the bubble is concerned.
The bubble leads to picks like Harriet Miers and Sarah Palin, both insults to American women by a movement that thinks shared genitalia is all that is needed to get women on board. They couldn’t possibly think folks like Sarah Palin are grossly unqualified and out of the mainstream. Why? Because even though he railed against just such a profile a few weeks ago, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol thinks she is magnificent too. The man was Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, how could he possibly not be a good judge of vice presidential character!?
The enemy of the bubble is always reality. It is not a spin machine on the left that can counterbalance the bubble, just cold hard facts. In 2006 bubble pundits like Hugh Hewitt assured their followers that Republicans were on the verge of painting the entire map red. As late as election day the flock was assured that there was no way Nancy Pelosi could ascend to Speaker of the House. It was insisted that polls were skewed and not to be trusted. Reality, in other words, had a liberal bias. And even after the Democrats took the House and Senate, conservatives used the bubble to convince themselves that their losses were not due to their unpopular president and his policies that had led to the deaths of thousands and global instability. Nope. It was earmarks. As if.
Last week the bubble worked with its regular ally, the mainstream media (who is easily distracted by the shiniest thing and the loudest noise), tried to keep banging the drum for numerous falsehoods about the Democrats. They each dropped like flies as Michelle Obama spoke and was not a militant, the Clinton’s spoke and called for unity with Obama, and Obama went on the attack and gave specifics while still giving the sort of speech John McCain could not give half of on his best day.
No militant Obamas. No Democratic disunity. No aloof Obama. No weakling Obama. Now, like any rational being did they accommodate this information into their understanding of the world? No, like zombies they shut it out and proceeded to put on this freakshow in Minnesota which will go on for two more days and then on the road with McCain and whoever his running mate might be.
I’m under no illusions that the bubble might pop with a McCain loss in November. The bubble is resilient! It wraps the right up like a cocoon of ignorance (many of the bubble residents resemble the cast of Cocoon) and allows no enlightenment inside. At this point, they couldn’t live without it.
I would say I pity them, but I’m not sure what positive purpose any of it serves. Good riddance.