I grew up on Carl Sagan, currently enjoy The Big Bang Theory, and have always fancied myself a lover of physics. Admittedly however, I know just enough to be a danger to myself and others, so I hope you will forgive the following analogy. In our understanding of quantum physics, particles can exist, simultaneously, in different states. A further prediction of the discipline involves the idea of infinite parallel universes, with infinite variance (Ronald Reagan might be a card-carrying communist in one, and Michael Moore a Ted Nugent doppelganger in another.)
The math of modern physics has left me behind (Calculus II was an experience in instant humility), but the quantum world has come back to me in the form of modern conservative politics. Rovian Political Theory is built on the simple notion that a candidate should attack an opponent’s strength as though it were a weakness, and further act and speak in a manner consistent with the idea that their own weaknesses don’t exist. What began as a necessarily extreme piece of political trickery (conservatives must convince working class Americans to vote against their own economic interests in order to win elections), has evolved into an accepted and refined part of the American political landscape.
Rovian Quantum Theory is, in my opinion, the defining stratagem of the 21st Century and, far from meeting its demise in the ashes of 2008, has found its way to an apex in 2012. The threat presented by Mitt Romney’s willingness to not only state absolute falsehoods, but to argue them with passion, was sufficient to keep President Obama from leaving his corner during 2012’s first Presidential debate. RQT, however, has moved well beyond the simple willingness to argue against empirically established reality, the study has expanded to paint numbers with the same quantum brush.
A friend of mine recently said the following; “The problem with statistics is that they can be twisted.”
Everything can be twisted, but numbers can at least be traced to their calculations (or to the guesswork that underlies them), whereas the twisting (or spinning, to use the political vernacular) of words and rhetoric are far more difficult to untangle. In a more enlightened age, rhetoric had a foundation in logic; such a notion is now sadly anachronistic. An argument by conservatives based on the Founding Fathers, but refuted by liberals using the statements of Paine and Jefferson, does not yield compromise or an adjustment in conservative thinking. Rather, they result in the banishment from the conservative canon of figures like Paine and Jefferson (see the Texas school history standards).
In RQT, any number that does not prove, or at least support, the prevailing conservative wisdom is deemed to be suspect. In RQT, arithmetic that contravenes a conservative notion of fiscal responsibility (that a deficit caused by tax breaks for the wealthy or increased military spending is not the same as one founded in domestic spending), is relegated to the wilderness of bias. Global temperature trends, budget scores, poll numbers, job reports, and now the number of trade agreements signed by the President are all seemingly up for debate.
That’s right, trade agreements. Not content with advancing a tax cut that doesn’t cut taxes, The Men Behind The Mannequin had Mr. Romney attack the President’s commitment to jobs vis-a-vis free trade. In Mr. Romney’s recent speech on foreign policy, he emphatically attacked the President for “not signing one free trade agreement in the last 4 years, not one…” One would assume that his foreign policy advisers would have known that this nation entered into free trade agreements with three separate nations during the last four years. No matter, in today’s quantum politics, it is entirely probable that President Obama signed precisely zero agreements in an infinite number of parallel universes.
In RQT, the CBO is a good source of bad economic information when there is a Democrat in the White House, and a bad source of good budget information when Democrats propose a deficit-reducing bill. In RQT, the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey (which yields the monthly unemployment number) is a good source of bad economic news in an election year, but somehow deeply flawed or rigged when the numbers favor the incumbent. We are asked by conservative pundits and pols to implicitly trust during some months, reports that conservative pundits and pols savage without evidence during other months. Rovian Quantum Theory may have failed to create a permanent Republican majority, but it succeeded in creating a permanent ideological deadlock. The only possible dialogue between conservatives and liberals exists when the liberal concedes a significant portion of their argument, which isn’t really dialogue.
The Rational Middle is listening…