Monday, November 28, 2011

"Conscious Cynicism"

Anyone who's been following the Republican primary process this electoral go-round knows that it's taken on the characteristics of a slow motion car crash, with bets being placed prior to every debate whether one of the candidates or the audience will deliver the most cringe-inducing viral video moment. As he's been doing evermore frequently of late, David Frum (one of my favorite sensible conservatives), again ponders the question of what happened to the Republican party in a lengthy new piece for New York magazine. Taking aim at the essential intellectual disconnect at the heart of current conservative orthodoxy, he says:
Some liberals suspect that the conservative changes of mind since 2008 are opportunistic and cynical. It’s true that cynicism is never entirely absent from politics: I won’t soon forget the lupine smile that played about the lips of the leader of one prominent conservative institution as he told me, “Our donors truly think the apocalypse has arrived.” Yet conscious cynicism is much rarer than you might suppose. Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another. If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves.  
Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.
Check out the rest -- and oh, there's so much more -- at the link.

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