Truth and the Republicans

While you’re waiting for me to compile some thoughts on this week’s Pakistani elections (which will probably be tomorrow morning), enjoy this piece from Friday by Jon Chait on the conservative reaction to Barack Obama’s Johannesburg speech. (And if you haven’t read the speech itself, do so – it’s very good.)

Chait picks on just one conservative, National Review’s Jim Geraghty, but Geraghty is reasonably representative of the non-Trump Republicans: those who, as a result of the collective insanity that has taken over their party, are starting to question some of their political assumptions.

As Geraghty’s column demonstrates, the questioning still has a long way to go. He’s moved forward to the extent of acknowledging that Obama has good things to say, but he completely fails to reassess any of the standard Republican narrative about the Obama presidency as a result. On the contrary; the whole point of his argument is that it’s Obama that has somehow changed.

As Chait puts it:

Conservatives spent the Obama era whipping themselves into a racialized hysteria, imagining the consensus-minded moderate president was waging an attack on their way of life. …

Conservative intellectuals spent this period either stoking the backlash or denying it. Their most basic technique consisted of ignoring the conciliatory universalism of both Obama’s message and his agenda, while concocting out of thin air an imaginary Obama as a race-baiting radical.

The moral is a more general one. For about the last 20 years – since, I would argue, the time of the Clinton impeachment – the Republican Party has become untethered from reality and fallen under the sway of a paranoid worldview that has led, quite naturally, to the current Trump ascendancy.

Many conservatives, to their credit, have found Trumpism to be a bridge too far, and have spoken out against it. But with rare exceptions, this hasn’t led to any serious reconsideration of the steps that got them to this point.

Until that happens, it’s hard to see how the Republican Party can possibly recover its sanity. And without a reality-based centre-right party, America’s prospects look bleak.

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