Self-deception is like weeds in a garden. The longer you allow it to linger, the more daunting and pervasive it becomes.
And I would submit that “alternative facts” is another name for self-deception run amok.
The people who savaged President Barack Obama and called him a communist and a Marxist are some of the same people who now vociferously support Donald Trump despite his cozy relationship with communist Russia and its president, despite Trump’s unwillingness to fully own up to the fact that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections, and despite Trump’s desire to delegitimize the fourth estate.
Many of the people who support Obamacare today didn’t support it as recently as 2016, when Republicans and then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s war cry of “repeal and replace” was the elixir of their lives.
A recent Gallup Poll, for example, showed that 55 percent of Americans now say Obamacare should remain in place, howbeit with changes. Yet, just last November only 42 percent of Americans supported the law.
Remember during the presidential campaign when candidate Trump called out Hillary Clinton for not releasing the transcripts of speeches she gave to Wall Street banks, such as Goldman Sachs.
“I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said then.
“They have total, total control over (Ted Cruz), just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”
Well, many of those who cheered Trump for lambasting Clinton for having close ties with Wall Street are still cheering him now as president even though he has appointed five Goldman Sachs veterans to his inner circle.
These inconsistencies would suggest that many Americans believe it is perfectly fine to lie to themselves, if the lie benefits them politically.
This self-deception has long flowered poverty, racism and unjust criminal justice practices and procedures in this country and it has gotten to the point where it seems the truth doesn’t matter anymore.
Indeed, a full-throated attack on anyone who tries to uproot a self-deception is one of the few reliable bets these days.
President Trump attacking the media for reporting on his lies and self-deception is an example of the “walk the plank” fate reserved for truth-tellers.
One of the most riveting and prescient stories of the 2010 midterm election, in which the Democratic Party suffered massive congressional and state office defeats, was a Mother Jones piece written by David Corn.
It was titled “Confessions of a Tea Party Casualty,” and featured former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was defeated in the 2010 primary because of his unwillingness to court self-deception.
He told Mr. Corn that while he was campaigning his constituents and potential funders were pushing him to among other things describe President Obama as a socialist.
“They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn (the U.S.) into a Muslim nation,’” Inglis told Corn.
He said he refused to call Obama a socialist, noting that “It’s a dangerous strategy to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible. … This guy is no socialist.”
When Corn asked “Why not give the voters what they want,” Inglis said he wasn’t willing to lie.
“For me to go around saying that Barack Obama is a socialist is a violation of the Ninth Commandment. He is a liberal fellow. I’m conservative. We disagree… But I don’t need to call him a socialist, and I hurt the country by doing so. The country has to come together to find a solution to these challenges or else we go over the cliff.”
If it now feels like we are heading toward that cliff, it might be because more politicians didn’t weed out the vigorous growth of self-deception during the 2010 election season.
We are now at the point where wholeheartedly embracing this self-deception as a natural part of our democracy seems a lot easier than weeding it out.