Makebelieve

Why do people hold beliefs? Think about it on a mundane level. If you get in your car, and turn on the radio, and you hear the weatherman talking about rain, why do you believe him? A disembodied voice is telling you one thing or another about the future, and we all know that voice is wrong sometimes, but we go on and believe anyways. How does that work?

It has seemed clear to me for a long time that competing political groups in the United States simply do not believe each other. Conservatives, and therefore Republicans generally, do not trust–do not believe–Liberals, and therefore a leading minority of Democrats. Please note that between Liberals and Conservatives there are a bunch of Democrats, because the Democratic Party is still the acknowledged center. It seems important to develop a sense of gravity in politics.

When I read Erick Erickson over at Red State (oh, the irony), I am persuaded to believe that he really does think Ted Cruz would make a good President. This does not mean I think Ted Cruz will make a good President. But it does mean that Ted Cruz is Erickson’s idea of a good President. Erickson is no slouch. I’ve been following him for years, and he’s a smart guy. And I’m pretty sure he’s not a racist. He might even be a nice guy. But he is definitely really, really conservative, and that means endorsing Ted Cruz–Ted Cruz!–for President.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. To take a phrase from Richard Pryor, “That honky is crazy.” Imagining a world where Ted Cruz is an improvement is frightening for me. Probably as frightening as a world where Hillary Clinton is President for him. Part of my political view is that, if I had my way, it would be oppression to many conservatives. If it was up to me, gas would be more expensive, and people would call it oppressive. And if it were my call, I would say environmental and financial regulations ought to be more strict, and many businesses would call that oppression. Ted Cruz’s entire political career has been based on a moral objection to the Presidency of Barack Obama, because for many conservatives, that administration has been oppressive.

Some time ago, one of my Professors at Roosevelt recommended to me The Rhetoric of Reaction by Albert Hirschmann, which breaks down reactionary writing categorically, demonstrating how it is more or less a function of language. In elucidating the hallmarks of reactionary thought, I noticed that is was always some sort of response to an event. Something happens, and the reactionary says “No it did not!” Please note that the reactionary acknowledges the event that did not happen, while insisting, loudly, that it most certainly did not occur.

Remember 2010? Barack Obama had become President, and the Democrats had majorities in both houses of Congress; the stimulus had passed, the ACA had been passed. Obama had been elected in the aftermath of the financial crisis, a reform President on a platform of “Hope.” Two years later, you get the perverse response: “Fear.” That was the year of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck frothing at the mouth. 2012 you get the jeopardy response: “Mitt Romney, you’re our only hope!” It was the last gasp of an establishment party before the reactionaries really took over. In 2014 you get the futility response: “Ignore Obama, focus on intraparty feuding.” Rather than fight Obama directly, they can simply focus on repealing everything he ever did, and squabble over strategy and leadership.

Believing and not believing are both activities, with means and ends. How I understand the world matters for how I believe and do not believe. “Make-believe” usually refers to childish fantasies, but I often wonder how, indeed, are beliefs produced? In this world of infinite production possibilities, where anything and everything can be commodified and quantified, how do we make believe?

There’s more, but I have to get dressed.

 

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