To thrive in the real world, we must uphold truth above all else. That may sound cliche, and perhaps it is. It nevertheless remains true. We cannot function in the long term, individually or collectively, if we ignore what is real in favor of a fantasy.
Prompted by a profile in Politico, I subscribed to the Charlie Sykes Podcast over the weekend and caught up with Friday’s show. The Wisconsin-based broadcaster made an essential point regarding this moment in politics. He said:
… it’s the difference between being an advocate and being a shill, the difference between having a point of view and… just engaging in complete propaganda… [living in] an alternative reality bubble…
The perfect example of it — it happened right here in southeast Wisconsin, involving Breitbart… If you got your news from Breitbart, you thought Paul Ryan was going down [in the face of his recent primary challenge]. I mean, day after day after day [Breitbart was] just relentlessly obsessive, just ripping Ryan and talking about how Ryan was on the run and Ryan was panicking and Ryan was slipping in the polls and Paul Nehlen was surging… This is the alternative reality bubble. If you were sitting in, you know, Austin, Texas, and you were reading [Breitbart], you would have thought that Wisconsin was on fire with anti-Ryan sentiment. And then, of course, you woke up the day after the primary and saw that Ryan got 84% of the vote. Paul Nehlen, for all of that, got 16% of the vote.
Sykes offered his recollection in response to a recent exchange between Dana Perino and Bill O’Reilly on Fox News where Perino made the case that Republicans need to take presidential polls seriously.
I absolutely believe that these polls will tighten between now and Election Day. But I do not think, by any stretch of imagination, that it is right to tell people that just because [Donald Trump] has very enthusiastic rallies… that means that there’s going to be a surprise and the polls are wrong. Polls in America, the presidential polls, have been correct since 1952, and we should believe them. And I didn’t do that in 2012 [with Mitt Romney], and I learned a lesson from it.
These commentators and others have begun a thankless effort to uphold truth over fantasy. It’s a quest which one might think conservatives would welcome. But it has been greatly opposed. Check out the comical exchange between CNN’s Brianna Keilar and Trump attorney Michael Cohen on the next page.
Hilarious though the exchange may be, it’s indicative of a widespread sense among many that polling data and other electoral analysis cannot be trusted. It’s an attitude which manifests as “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” Republicans are largely expected by their fellows to act as though the Trump campaign is chugging along just fine.
Forget the election. This newborn tendency to reject reality in favor of baseless fantasy has broader implications for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If we refuse to recognize truth as such, we will lose that which distinguishes us from our opposition. Instead of a movement of, by, and for truth, we will become just another conglomerate of disjointed interests made up of people who care not how those interests are served. Indeed, one might argue that we’re already there.