Debt Ceiling Holy War: Why Do Conservatives Have Unshakable Faith in Ideas That Are Totally, Demonstrably False?
The Republican Party is holding the U.S. economy hostage. While the American people overwhelmingly support a solution to the debt ceiling impasse that includes a mix of tax hikes on the rich and cuts to the federal budget, the Tea Party GOP is deaf to their concerns. Moreover, even though President Barack Obama is willing to make painful concessions on entitlement spending—a move that hands the Republican Party a practical win—the Tea Party GOP remains intractable in its refusal to support even the most minimum of tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.
The American people, the world’s financial markets and the pundit classes remain perplexed by the Republican Party’s dangerous brinkmanship. Why would they risk financial armageddon? What is the practical gain to be had from such irresponsible behavior? Is this a ploy to undermine the Democrats before the 2012 election?
Observers remain befuddled because they have failed to connect the dots between the Republican Party’s intransigent stubbornness and a populist brand of conservatism where the world of facts has been made secondary to the intoxication of faith.
Consider the following: faith is based upon a belief in that which cannot be proved or demonstrated by normal means. Faith is also immune and separate from tests of empirical proof. Not to be overlooked, the contemporary Republican Party is home to the Religious Right. Consequently, the primacy of “faith” as the decision rule in political decision-making is both a perfect and logical fit for conservative populism.
When coupled with conservatives’ penchant for authoritarianism, their adherence to simple moral scripts, and a either/or binary world view, the allures of faith mated with fiction are irresistible to the Republican Party. Thus, the idea that politics should serve the common good for all is truncated and superseded by the pursuit of a common good that is only for the faithful, the few and the ideologically pure.
This cognitive framework colors a wide range of the Republican Party’s policies. For example, in the face of overwhelming evidence the Tea Party GOP continues to deny the existence of global warming. Doubling down, history is made into a plaything; the U.S. Constitution is transformed into a fetish object where the intent of the framers is almost magically divined by “strict constructionists” who pray at conservatism’s altar. School boards in Arizona and Texas rewrite the historical record at a whim in order to indoctrinate students into right-wing ideology. And conservative darlings such as Mike Huckabee and “scholar” David Barton pander ideologically correct, snake oil, flimflam versions of U.S. history to the Tea Party GOP faithful who are suckered into buying their books and videos.
In all, the Republican Party is possessed by a spirit of willful denial: aided and abetted by the right-wing media, Conservatives can bend the world to their wishes; reality is subject to their fantasies; any belief, however specious, is made true because they want it to be so. This is a pathology that extends both to the debt ceiling debate and the broader assault by conservatives on the country’s social safety net. Both are examples of a frightening pseudo religion called Free Market Fundamentalism —a faith based on a set of assumptions that are immune to interrogation, challenge or the collective weight of reality.
Myth Number One: The crisis over the debt ceiling is an artificial panic. There will be no serious consequences if the United States does not resolve this issue by August 2, 2011. In fact, President Obama and the Democrats are trying to scare the American people into thinking that a calamity will occur if the United States chooses to selectively pay its bills. Alternatively, the United States Treasury has more than enough revenue to push the debt ceiling issue down the road to a future date.