Glenn Beck took advantage of his keynote address at CPAC on February 20th to embrace a fantasy America that, while it might appeal to the Republican base, does not exist. More, it can be proven not to exist. The problem for Glenn is that numbers don’t lie. So what do you do when you don’t like the numbers? You make up new ones.
His latest shtick is repeating the old claim that America is a conservative country. We’ve heard this before, of course: that America is “center-right.” A center-right country kept from its destiny by the evil machinations of the left; center-right candidates kept from office by the machinations of a liberal media elite.
It is a difficult notion to support given the facts of Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. I mean, you win elections after all by getting a majority vote. That’s how it works. Clearly, on Election Day, the majority of Americans were not center-right.
The conservatives lost.
But God promised, Sarah Palin had told the faithful; God would do the right thing for America on election day. But then the impossible happened. Republican beliefs found themselves at odds with the facts of Barack Obama’s election to the nation’s highest office.
How to get around inconvenient facts? Two tactics have been embraced by the Republican Party of late: either ignore the facts completely and keep talking (à la McCain and Palin in the presidential and vice presidential debates), or rewrite them in such a way that they support your contention. This latter could be called the “Facts as they should be” method.
Glenn Beck gave a demonstration at CPAC of how this latter method works. He whipped out his blackboard and as he so often does, pulled some numbers out of thin air to prove he is right. This is how he “divvies up” the American political landscape:
In his math, 20% are making 76% feel like the minority. “The majority does not rule in America,” he said, “but the minority shouldn’t hijack it.”
Immediately, you hear in the background Al Franken intoning “We’re not entitled to our own facts.” But Beck does believe he is entitled to his own facts, and because he is far from alone in this conceit, this is where the Republican Party finds itself at odds with reality.
For Beck, only one conclusion is possible: The conservatives are the victims, “isolated” and “alone.” He asks how this can be.
Well, to start with, Glenn, it isn’t.
This is just one more example of how pundits “invent” facts in order to make a case. Though Glenn’s forays into fantasy have gotten him into trouble before (think dueling black boards and MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan), he sticks his neck in the noose again and leaps.
The true numbers of conservatives vs. progressives vs. “moderates” in this country would not make Beck’s argument. So he resorted to fiction and some sleight of hand.
Facts, after all, must conform to the system and according to the system progressives are a “cancer.”
Let’s look at another set of numbers provided by two studies and see where Beck’s argument takes us. This is another view of the American political landscape, and one not made up on the spot:
15 percent as liberal
Doesn’t work, does it? 34% conservatives facing off against 31% progressive/liberal with a very influential block of moderates (29%) who mostly went Obama’s way in the 2008 elections.
It’s no secret that the centrists went for Obama, at least in sufficient numbers to elect him. The small tent of the GOP did not have room for them; the big tent of the Democratic Party did. The small GOP tent of 2012 will be even smaller, given the ever more strident rhetoric of the right and the new Republican purity platform.
But there is another flaw in Beck’s reasoning. He adds the inflated 36% he grants to moderates to his inflated 40% conservatives and somehow arrives at a majority. But moderates are not conservatives. Moderates rejected the conservative platform in 2008.
Why does Glenn ignore this fact? After all, you can’t escape it in the news – the GOP’s purity pledge, the cry that moderate Republicans aren’t really Republicans after all but Democrats. The only thing the Republican Party hates more than moderates are liberals and progressives.
The answer is simple: Because it’s inconvenient (remember above where we talked about two Republican methods of dealing with facts not to their liking?)
As long as the GOP refuses to accept that we live in a fact-based world, facts will continue to elude them. What you don’t know – what you refuse to know – can and will hurt you. This inability to grasp that moderates are not conservatives, and given the small-tent policies of the GOP will not likely ever be conservatives, escapes them.
The studies that provided our second set of figures show that,
After moderates are asked which approach they lean towards, the overall ideological breakdown of the country divides into fairly neat left and right groupings with 47 percent of Americans identifying as progressive or liberal and 48 percent as conservative or libertarian and the rest unsure.
In short? Nobody has hijacked anything.
Well, that’s not exactly true. Something has been hijacked: the facts – by Glenn Beck.
And he got wild applause for his application of fuzzy math. We can only conclude that the audience was fuzzy-minded. It was what they wanted to hear.
Remember the old nursery rhyme, “If wishes were horses…”?
The Republican Party has reached a point of cognitive dissonance in their rhetoric – two conflicting facts that must both be true but which cannot both be true: A majority – and America is center-right they say – cannot lose. So how do they put the facts of their defeat up against the fact of their majority position?
Something has to give right? Wrong. Why appeal to fact when you can appeal to a fantasy that lets you continue to embrace your illusions?
The only explanation is that America has been hijacked.
Of course, the fact that the numbers don’t support this solution isn’t really a problem, because as the Republican Party has repeatedly demonstrated, if you don’t like the facts, you can ignore them, or make up your own.
The applause will be deafening.