Thursday, June 30, 2022

Epistemic Closure

If you read much about politics, you probably have heard of the phrase, “epistemic closure”. Many in the conservative community have been talking about it for months now. It’s a way of describing what many conservatives do lately: ignore all evidence contrary to their beliefs.
When you find yourself unable to trust or believe any news source other than Fox News, or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, you have reached epistemic closure. When you want so badly to believe that President Obama is not a legitimate president that you think he is not Christian, or he was born in Kenya, or his college transcripts are faked, you have reached epistemic closure.
When you were surprised—thoroughly shocked, I tell you!—on election day to find that Mitt Romney only garnered an ironic 47 percent of the popular vote (please note that President Obama’s popular margin of victory is bigger than both of George W. Bush’s election wins in 2000 and 2004—and he claimed a “mandate!”) , and you thought Romney was a shoe-in, that’s epistemic closure. When you don’t believe in global warming or evolution, even in the face of mountains of scientific evidence proving both, that’s epistemic closure. When you insist that there are “death panels” in Obamacare, that’s epistemic closure.
Epistemic closure ignores all facts and historical precedence. In the last election, Republicans insisted time and again that President Obama, and Democratic principles on the whole, do not create jobs. Even though jobs have historically, without exception, been created at a much faster rate under Democratic presidents than under Republicans, as Millsaps professor Bob McElvaine laid out in a simple but important piece in The New York Times in August.
In a brilliant, much talked-about feature this week in arguably the best conservative media outlet in America, former conservative leader and ex-Reagan advisor, Bruce Bartlett, bemoans how he was kicked out of the Republican Party for speaking too much truth. “Rather than listen to me, they threw me under a bus. To this day, I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable.”
Only today, it was announced that every single solitary House GOP committee chair will be a white man. All 19 chairs. Republicans suffered defeat in the last election because they were unable to get the votes of enough NON-white men, yet they still have not learned from their mistakes. In contrast, in the new Congress, the House Democratic Caucus will have a majority of women and minorities for the first time in history. This is progress! This is representation!
I seriously fear that the Republican Party cannot learn from its mistakes. That they actually in large part believe that women and minorities are inferior, and that large swaths of Americans are “moochers” looking for a free handout. That all Democrats are minorities and women. That there are no white Democrats. When an Ole Miss student who participated in the protests over Obama’s election was interviewed on MPB earlier this month, he said this outright—that no white people vote for Democrats. How do people get so misinformed?
Our political system works best with two functional parties representing our country, compromising and working out their differences.  I *want* a healthy Republican Party, with good ideas they can bring to the table. A Republican party that is representative of America, that doesn’t seem to thrive on hatred for a large part of our country. But those two things are self-negating.
Conservative leader David Frum, a former speech-writer for George W. Bush, wrote after the Health Care Reform Act passed in March of 2010, “We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.” I sure wish conservatives would stop doing that.

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