Guest post: The party where facts don’t matter

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Trump and framing.

Here’s my armchair theorizing about the rise of Trump:

1. Republicans became the party that refuses to compromise. Explaining why is probably a whole separate argument itself, but here are a few contributors. (a) The tyranny of 40% — hard-core conservatives don’t have an actual majority among the population as a whole, but they can control the Republican Party, and they make up enough of the public that they don’t think they need non-conservative allies. In part they’re right: they vote in higher numbers (especially in midterms), and aren’t “wasting” their votes by being concentrated in urban areas. (Progressives, by contrast, have generally learned to accept that they need to do business with squishy left-center moderates if they want to get something done.); (b) They’ve promoted an ideology that strong leaders don’t ever ever compromise, they just stand firm and wait for their opponents to capitulate. Some of them really believed that Obama would give up his signature piece of legislation (Obamacare) if faced with a government shutdown, while others just promoted that idea for personal gain (hi, Ted Cruz!), but it’s stuck; (c) their increasingly dramatic rhetoric makes it hard to compromise: it’s one thing to cut a deal with a president who is just another American who happens to be more liberal than you care for, but cutting a deal with a president who is a socialist Muslim atheist communist tyrant bent on destroying the country is practically treason. So everything in the Republican race became a competition to see who could outflank the others — “you say you want to close the borders? Well, I want to build a wall! And make Mexico pay for it! Beat that!”

2. Republicans became the party where facts don’t matter. Global warming is a liberal hoax! Tax cuts totally do reduce the deficit! Obamacare is failing! Ignore the crime statistics, you know in your gut that the country is more dangerous. Ignore the unemployment statistics, they’re rigged. The media are all liberals, experts are lying, data is faked. How can, say, Jeb Bush show that Trump’s tax plan doesn’t add up, when Jeb Bush’s plan doesn’t, either? Who cares what the factcheckers at the NY Times and WaPo say about Trump, given that we know they’re lying liberal media stooges?

3. Since facts don’t matter, it’s about appealing to the emotions of Republicans. And Trump won that game, “bigly,” because he recognized that restraint and dignity and looking “presidential” are secondary, if not counterproductive, to showing that you share their anger. Sure, all 17 candidates are anti-immigrant, but I called them rapists and murderers! They all say Hillary’s a crook, but I’m the one threatening to lock her up! They whine about the liberal media, but I’m going to sue the fuckers!

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