“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” – George Orwell
Truth in America has been under assault for some time now, but in the past several months we have seen the fight become frenzied as the president of the United States tells his supporters not to believe what they see, only what he tells them.
Of course, lying politicians is not a new phenomenon. It is why we have the myth of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and Honest Abe. Where we find ourselves today, however, is the result of 30 years of sustained attack by those on the right, starting with the Republican Party.
Around the time of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” the GOP really began its effort toward a “permanent majority.”
The problem Republicans had in trying to create a permanent majority is that their ideas were not (are not) particularly popular. To overcome this existential flaw in achieving their goal, they set out on a two-pronged strategy of lies and rigging the structure of government and politics.
On the structural side, the effects of their efforts are clear, particularly when you look at their aggressive Gerrymandering that I have written about before. In 2016, for example, Republicans received a plurality of votes cast for Congress nationwide, 49.9%, but they received a greater share, 55.2%, of the seats. Democrats, as a result, won a smaller share of seats than they did votes: 44.8 percent of seats as compared to 47.3 percent of the votes.
Creating their world of alternative facts, while a long-term process, may have been easier. The Nixon “Southern Strategy” and Reagan and the Moral Majority were precursors to this effort. Building off of the Know Nothing movement-like racism and anti-immigrant sentiment (not just in the south), and the politicized evangelicals’ rejection of science (that they see as hostile to a literal reading of the Bible), the GOP set off a new anti-intellectual era.
This effort was aided by the end of the Fairness Doctrine, the rise of right-wing talk radio and especially the new Republican propaganda machine Fox News, and decades of attacks on the traditional “mainstream” media. Of course, the MSM itself was in a weaker position after Watergate, economically, with the corporatization of news outlets and in the “professionalization” of journalists leaving homogenous press pool to cover an increasingly diverse country. The digital age has not helped either.
By the time the Bush Administration had left the “reality-based community” behind, we were well on the path to Trump. We don’t yet know to what extent our Russian enemies were able to exploit this GOP strategy in 2016, but it certainly made their job easier.
But we are now at the point where the president regularly states provable lies. The president and congressional Republicans work against efforts of the FBI and the intelligence community to discover the truth about the 2016 election — actively seeking to ruin the careers of senior officials deemed in their way. And the GOP has reached the point of completing a takeover of the third branch of government, the court.
Republicans senators are trying to rush through the Supreme Court nomination of of Brett Kavanaugh by burying thousands of documents, of looking away from the potential he is compromised by whoever has paid his massive debts (they don’t want to know who), and is potentially a rapist. They want him on the Supreme Court to complete the coup and deliver the permanent Republican majority.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week on the accusation of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh may turn out to be just another battle against truth by the GOP, it also holds the possibility of being a decisive turning point, perhaps exposing this last grasping effort by the GOP.
It feels like we are at a pivotal point in history. We are trying to run our country on such an accumulation of lies that it seems unsustainable. A long, long time ago, my evangelical mom used to say “the truth will always find you out.” Let’s hope so.
Start this week with The Truth cocktail. This very tasty bitter cocktail (yes, the bitter truth) comes via Frederic Yarm at the Cocktail Virgin. The Truth is:
2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Strega
2 dash Orange Bitters (Regan’s)
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, and garnish with an orange twist.