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US conservatives are detaching themselves from reality, and the media is helping

It’s interesting. Last night, Barack Obama has for the first time made explicit reference to the purist, batshit insanity of some Republicans. Yet there’s almost no commentary out there talking about it. The media is sticking to the analysis-free “balanced”, “issues on both sides” approach. The substance on a matter of global impact remains buried under superficial analysis of political games and media strategy; governance and hard reality barely get a look in.

When did it become acceptable for journalists and editors to give up and say, “Objectivity is an unattainable ideal, so why bother even trying?”

The debt crisis debate in terms of negotiation stance is fairly simple: one side is proposing 75/25, the other 100/0.

The former is negotiating; the second is more akin to terrorism by other means. Yes, objectivity is difficult. It’s not that difficult in situations where it is so easily quantifiable, however.

In terms of politics it is fairly simple: the side with majority support and veto power is being held hostage by a minority willing to cause untold damage if they don’t get their way.

Again, there are ¬†numbers (seats in House and Senate). There is also a long established set of rules (the US Constitution). A degree of objective analysis wouldn’t be that difficult.

In terms of governance it is fairly simple: the side trying to conduct negotiations based on long term problem solving is confronted by one determined to discuss serious economic issues only by the political calendar.

Politics and economics are not always easily separated. But in this instance, we have a 100% track record of post-war Republican presidents choosing to increase the debt ceiling without fuss. There is no Republican economic or ideological basis for brinksmanship on the debt ceiling; this is pure politics at the expense of competent economic governance.

Yes, it would suit the Democrat’s political agenda to avoid pre-election showdowns. But again, this is where hard reality is more important than politics. Nations need administration. It is an ongoing process, and it requires a long term view. The modern Republican “death by a thousand cuts” approach to being in opposition is dangerous. You will not find an example anywhere of a large organisation performing to a high standard through never-ending, short-term brinksmanship over every detail. Once more, this is something that can be analysed with a degree of objectivity.

Republicans have gone far beyond the point where even a half-assed attempt at objectivity would leave you questioning whether one side is more problematic than the other. By a long list of quantifiable measures, the modern Republican party have a consistent track record of being not only anti-government but anti-governance: deficit increases, recess appointments of unqualified candidates, refusal to approve qualified candidates, resorting to emergency measures (e.g. filibusters) as a matter of course, emphasising ideology over evidence, etc.

The extent of Republican detachment from reality is neatly (and unwittingly) summarised by conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer. He says of the speech, “It was purely partisan .. appealing to independents, that’s all that this is about.” Appealing to independent voters is a purely partisan approach? Even George Orwell would be stunned by the doublespeak of modern, “fair and balanced” conservatism.

I feel sorry for America. Once upon a time conservatives could vote for a Republican party full of mature adults and well developed spines. Now they’re reduced to a bunch of political contortionists who bend over at the first whiff of cash, and drug-addicted media icons who can’t make a marriage work.

And their media largely treats it like entertainment instead of business.

(just to be clear: the drug and marriage references are made because they are supposed to be major conservative issues. How times change…)

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