The Reality-Based Fallacy
Now that we're in the midst of the Day After soul-searching, I see an emerging theme coming from smart liberals, including Steve Gilliard and Mark Schmitt: namely, now that Bush is re-elected, he will be "fully responsible for the consequences of his mistakes" as Schmitt puts it--they can't blame Clinton or Daschle, and if the next 4 years go as disastrously as we all expect, the Bush administration will finally be held accountable for its misdeeds. This is a perfectly logical and well-reasoned argument. It's also precisely the type of naive "reality-based" thinking that we have to disabuse ourselves of.
As this election has shown, the Republican Party and its base lives happily ensconced in its own Orwellian funhouse, where up is down, war is peace, and ignorance is strength. Now, suppose that the economy does melt down and Iraq descends into full-fledged anarchy during a second Bush term. Do you believe they will then step out of their protective cocoon to confront the harsh reality of their actions? I don't think so. As these last four years have shown, the Republican Party and its media apparatchiks will do whatever it takes to place the blame on the MSM (that's mainstream media to you, pal), the DemocRATS, and the French.
And you know what? They may very well get away with it. This is the most insidious thing about the now-infamous Suskind article in the NYT Magazine. Republicans know that they can in fact create their own reality, because a timid media and a faithful (in many senses of the word) party base will lap it up every time.
This is why we cannot be reactive these next four years. It's tempting to fold our hands, watch the fires burn and then have the last laugh while sifting through the ruins. But we won't get that chance in this post-reality environment, nor should we.
Now, the key question, obviously, is how the Democrats respond. The emerging consensus is that we have to embrace "values." However, as I will discuss tomorrow, this strategy is fraught with peril, and could very well prove a repeat of the DLC's misguided late 80s/early 90s strategy. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: In the comments, James Kroeger from Tax Wisdom offers some excellent pointers on how Democrats shift the "frame" that voters have of the Republicans. A sample:
It will also be important for Democrats to spend more and more time ridiculing the stupidity of Republican policies and---implicitly---those who embrace/defend them. This is necessary in order to socially isolate those who belong to the Republican Party (or to at least counteract the social pressure on Swing Voters that is created when Republicans ridicule Democrats). If the Democrats fail to do this, the Average American will not even listen to what they have to say re: “the issues.” If their image of Democrats is sufficiently negative, they won’t want to be persuaded because they’d want to protect an identity that had become very important to them.