Inside Our Party Bubbles

Should the big things be of concern? Of course! Social Security, Medicare, the horrors of Gaza. But we're a parochial people and the big picture, foreign affairs, they're far down the list, sadly. Most middle-class folks are more worried about the price of eggs at Kroger.

Inside Our Party Bubbles
Come on. Evolution is only a theory, like gravity...

Why is it so hard to change a person's opinion, which you know to be wrong, with the actual facts of the matter? That essential question has puzzled psychology, science and political strategists for eons. It's called denialism and the reasons can be many. Religion, self-interest, financial concerns or simple laziness can all play a part.

For example, in the late 80's and early 90's, when a talented manipulator like Rush Limbaugh told his audience that there was no problem with the ozone layer, they could just relax and that no part of anything we enjoy as Americans needed changing, it provided an excuse for simply doing nothing.

Even when science said we needed to adapt, and later when President George H.W. Bush signed the Montreal Protocols, banning the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in everything from air conditioning to spray-on deodorant, the denial persisted. And unlike the dystopian nightmare of horses and buggies painted by the round mound of resentment, we still have AC and deodorant.

And who fought the Montreal agreement? The folks who made the stuff being banned, that's who. Of course they now make the substitutes, but you can insert climate change for ozone and the arguments today are the same, no matter how much information and how many facts your throw at non-believers. Of course, science doesn't give a damn what you believe, it just is.

By the way, Limbaugh made us comfortable with our prejudices as well.

Limbaugh, Dan Patrick...and I'm the uncomfortable looking one.

Look at the pandemic. We trusted science to give us the Salk and Sabin vaccines for polio. I'm of the generation that got the first shots. But while over a million of our neighbors died around us of Covid, we now think someone is trying to poison or control us or something.

And like Chubs Limbaugh, a cottage industry sprang up to convince us it was a hoax, it was spread by the government, the masks were to make us slaves or the vaccines had nanobots in them. And now members of the vast ignorami, led by Rand Paul, a self-certified ophthalmologist, now want to pin the whole thing on a real doctor and researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, of course, was trying , like most doctors then, to figure out the best practices for dealing with the first real pandemic we've seen since the Spanish flu. They weren't always right, and some things seem, in hindsight, to have been ineffective. But Paul's pinhead posse want answers for every mistake and Fauci locked up, if possible.

Before he was an outspoken senator, Rand Paul practiced opthalmology in Kentucky, and he still performs eye surgery on occasion. Over the August break, Paul travelled to Paducah to perform pro bono surgery for some Kentucky constituents. (Photos: Katrina Trinko)
Just ignore the mask. I don't really need it.

May I add that The American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO), the official certification board for the field, hasn’t heard from Dr. Paul since 2005, which was when his initial certification lapsed. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, Dr. Paul is now certified by an organization called the National Board of Ophthalmology (NBO).

Which is convenient, since when the NBO incorporated in 1999, the documents list one Rand Paul as both its founding president and director. The NBO went out of business in 2000, but Paul resurrected it in 2005, just in time to revive his lapsed board certification. In contrast to the ABO, which has a staff of 11 in its Philadelphia office, the NBO’s address is a UPS box in Bowling Green. Rented by, well, you know.

Did Somebody Say "Fringe"? | GQ
"Oh, dammit! Pants! Of course!"

But the pandemic inconvenienced, well, the whole world, and we are angry about it. Especially if we can pin it on some egghead elitist who thinks all that schooling and practice in the field makes him smarter than a Congressman named for that tedious hypocrite Ayn Rand.

So, denialism allows us to find a scapegoat for all that bothers us and so we swallow any fever dream-induced BS lobbed our way. For example...

A: We've added so much to the national debt that a President Trump wouldn't have added, right? No. Actually, he added 8.4 trillion dollars, more than any four year term in history.

B: Trump's economy grew more than President Gramps? No. Actually, Trump's average was 2.67%, down to 1.45% during the pandemic. Biden has averaged 3.4%

C: Jobs? The United States lost 2.7 million jobs during Trump’s presidency. If the pandemic months are excluded, he added 6.7 million jobs.

By contrast, 15.4 million jobs were added during Biden’s presidency. That’s 5.1 million more jobs than what the CBO forecast.

D: Both candidates have repeatedly promised to bring back factory jobs. Between 2017 and the middle of 2019, Trump added 461,000 manufacturing jobs. But the gains began to stall and then turned into layoffs during the pandemic, with the Republican posting a loss of 178,000 jobs.

So far, 773,000 manufacturing jobs added during Biden’s presidency.

E: Inflation did indeed go up from Trump's 1.9% to almost 10% under Biden after the pandemic. It is now down to 3.4%, less than H.W. Bush, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Carter. But it is still higher.

F: Unemployment? Trump 5.04%, Biden 4.11%. That's the first time it's been below 5% on average since Lyndon.

Part of the comparison problem is that the pandemic skewed everything. Gas prices did go down, but remember when no one was driving, oil got down to below a buck a barrel. It's $82 a barrel today.

Here's the problem though. These facts don't matter because people don't make decisions like that. You can spout this stuff until the cows come home, assuming you have misplaced some. But it won't change the minds of anyone who has fallen under the sway of an excellent salesman.

Now, add the resentments that have become fodder for Republican and Democratic campaigns since Nixon.

Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
I know, I know. Nixon. What was I thinking?

Kevin Phillips was an author, commentator and political strategist. In his younger days he worked for Richard Nixon and came up with the so-called "Southern Strategy." Phillips told a journalist during the 1968 presidential election that "the whole secret of politics is knowing who hates who." And he figured that after the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, white resentment in the south would more than offset losses in the north for Republicans.

In the New York Times Magazine in 1970, Phillips wrote...

"All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even 'Jake the Snake' [liberal Republican Senator Jacob Javits of New York] only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

LBJ understated the case when after signing the Civil Rights Act he said to Bill Moyers, “We've lost the south for a generation.” More like several. That's a lot of Negrophobia(?!).

Phillips had a bit of a personal epiphany after Watergate and the rising income inequality of the Reagan years. I interviewed him for a couple of his books, "The Politics of Rich and Poor" and "Arrogant Capital."

He knew the folks in flyover country were being financially screwed by the real elites, and as long as social and cultural issues were kept front and center, they'd keep voting for people who did things not in their best interest.

That is also explored in the 2005 book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" by journalist Thomas Frank. Think abortion, prayer in school, Homosexuality, religion in general. Frank wrote...

"Strip today's Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they're protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there's a good chance they'll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower."

And Democrats, particularly today, think Roe v Wade, Gaza, some vague notion of endangered democracy and making endless concessions on economic issues, welfare, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation and the rest of it is the answer. They have ignored the so-called "blue collar" vote when most middle class folks are more worried about the price of eggs at Kroger than those statistics I listed above.

Should those things be of concern? Of course they should. Social Security, Medicare, the horrors of Gaza. But we are essentially a parochial people and the big picture, foreign affairs, they come far down the list, sadly. Most middle-class folks are more worried about the price of eggs at Kroger.

I know, and have written way too much, that the cretin from Mar a Lago is a simpleton and liar, the latest being that an FBI super duper ninja hit team was after him and not the documents he was hiding. Not surprisingly, his MAGA Minions have lapped this nonsense up and are ready to storm the Hoover building next. He is the cream that actually sank to the bottom.


But he knows the buttons to push, and you see it in the latest Texas Republican Party Convention. There are planks in the platform that someone outside the echo chamber will find quaintly addlepated. Such as...

“We reject the certified results of the 2020 presidential election, and we hold that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected.” Really? Acting President?

“Texas retains the right to secede from the United States, and the Texas Legislature should be called upon to pass a referendum consistent thereto.” Incidentally, we can't actually do that anymore.

"A return of the US monetary system to the gold and silver standard." Somewhere Rand's dad Ron Paul is smiling.

One plank calls for a constitutional amendment to "require that candidates for statewide office carry a majority of Texas’ 254 counties to win an election," a plan that would deny Democrats any shot at statewide office. Not just a majority of votes, but a majority of counties, no matter how sparsely populated. That would probably violate the Voting Rights Act, but who cares? They want that gone, too.

It urges lawmakers and the State Board of Education to “require instruction on the Bible, servant leadership and Christian self-governance,” and supports the use of religious chaplains in schools.

It urges that the United State's "Judeo-Christian" roots be taught in school, echoing the sage advice of pseudo-historian and Christian Nationalist darling David Barton.

Never mind that pesky Establishment Clause in that Constitution thingy, or Jefferson's "wall of separation." Barton says that's all been misunderstood.

Did I mention that Barton is stupendously deficient in actual historical knowledge? But he is still in demand as a political advisor for, folks like Michelle Bachmann, for example.

Still crazy after all these years.

As dumb as a lot, well, all of this sounds, we make fun of these folks at our peril. We all live in an echo chamber of sorts, if we are honest. If you are blue through and through and spend your evenings with MSNBC, you wonder how anyone can doubt the simple rightness of your point of view. If your taste runs to Fox, you figure that everyone you know thinks that way, so what's the big deal?

And no one on either side wants to be told they've been played for a sucker. The conundrum is, that this stuff is impervious to logic. James Carville, for example, tells Democrats to climb down from the ivory tower and talk to real folks with real worries. Not over their student loans, but their jobs. That is if anyone will listen anymore. Carl Sagan probably said it best.

James Melville 🚜 on X: "Wise words from Carl Sagan. https ...
Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.