Sen. John McCain, Victim of Epistemological Closure
Since it was a holiday weekend, you might have missed the Senior (so very, very senior) Senator from Arizona on CNN. Leaving aside the reason that this failed presidential candidate gets a billion appearances on Sunday news shows, he said some things that deserve a little attention.
On the debt ceiling negotiations he said that Americans don’t want compromise. I get this feeling that John McCain does not really know a lot of Americans, because poll after poll shows that more than half of us want a balance approach combining cuts and tax increases for the solution to this BS crisis that the Republicans have manufactured and the Democrats have bought into. If we must have a solution to the non-short term problem of the deficit and debt, then this is the one they want, by overwhelming numbers.
That is bad enough, but he also said something worse:
To McCain, the danger from continuing to let the federal deficit expand without taking substantive cost-cutting steps is much greater than the threat from failing to increase the federal debt ceiling by August 2.
“I think that this catastrophe or short-term meltdown that we’re facing isn’t nearly as bad as the meltdown that we’re facing unless we get our deficit under control,” McCain said.
This is insane. I mean really bat-shit, howl at the moon, rub your own crap in your hair nuts. Sen. McCain is suggesting that if we default, for the first time in the history of our nation, and against the 14th Amendments requirement that the debt of the United States not be questioned, it won’t be that bad.
I don’t expect every Senator to know about every set of policies, it is really too much for any individual to be an expert in everything it takes to run the nation, but if you are a dumbass about economics you should, shut your gob.
As if that is not bad enough, he is actually saying that it would be worse for the nation if we continue to spend as we have than a world wide economic meltdown and increased borrowing costs for the US for decades to come. Like his assertion that Americans don’t want compromise this just shows how completely out of touch Sen. McCain is (maybe the clouds are provoking him…).
Sen. McCain used to have a (undeserved) reputation as someone who thought things through and who would stand up for what was best for the nation. So, how does a semi-reasonable person turn into a Teahadist know nothing? I think that it has to do with the epistemological closure of the Republican Party.
I’ve written before about the fact that the Republican echo chamber is a double edged sword. Sure it gets their base all on the same page on a near daily basis, but the prime tenet of the echo chamber, namely that any source of information outside it is untrustworthy, means that less and less real data gets in and the people caught in the echo chamber move further and further away from reality.
It used to be that Republican politicians were not completely sucked into this misinformation vortex, but that has changed with the advent of the Tea Party. The Teahadists are proud of their rejection of accepted information. They revel in their disrespect for expertise and prefer simple homely platitudes to complex policy that is required to address complex issues. And they have been a force in the Republican Party for the last two years.
This brings us back to Sen. McCain. You see he had to fight off a challenger from the Right in his primary election battle. It seems that moving his talking points to the Far Out Right has had its affect on the Senator form Arizona.
This malady of epistemological closure is now gripping the elected Republicans as well as the base. They don’t seem to be able process anything that contradicts what they hear from their preferred media sources. They can’t even seem to read polls, which is where you get statements like “the American people don’t want compromise”.
It is so bad that even conservative hacks like David Brooks are seeing it and pointing it out in their work. He notes that Republicans are being offered everything they asked for in budget talks just months ago and they won’t take yes for an answer. He is concerned that he does not know who the Republican Party is these days. From his column in the New York Times:
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no
All of this leaves us in a really crappy place. There have been those on the Left who, quite reasonably, argue that the Republicans will never let us default since it would hurt their patrons in on Wall St and in business. This is a good argument, until you add epistemological closure. Republicans have become so adept at ignoring new and contradictory information that they do not seem to be listening to Wall St. They are proceeding as if no ones point of view but their own is valid and they are likely to drive us off a cliff.
We do have a safety valve in that 14th Amendment, it will probably allow the president to give the insane Republicans a one finger salute if they really prove to be so lost in the echo’s that they can’t find reality. But that does not change the fact that they are still in control of the House and have a large plurality in the Senate.
They will still be there and they will still be insane. This issue of the debit ceiling may go away, but that does not mean that the inmates of the Republican Party won’t still be in charge of one third of the asylum. And the dear ladies and gentlemen is going to be a real problem for a long time to come.
The floor is yours.