In American politics, faith is the new fact

I’ve had a revelation about the true nature of our political debate in this country, and it’s simply this: Believing you are correct is more important than being correct.

Consider how recent attacks on Barack Obama from the political right have boiled the blood of American liberals. “It’s all lies and propaganda,” the left responds weakly as the Obama-haters tear into the administration with obvious joy and abandon.

But it wasn’t so long ago that hate-fueled lefties like me were painting Hitler mustaches on pictures of George W. Bush and calling Dick Cheney a fascist war criminal. We watched helplessly as the Bushies had their way with America and we were horrified by what we saw.

But was Bush the craven monster we portrayed him as, or is Obama – as many tea party conservatives claim – the new anti-Christ, destined to lead America into the Apocalypse?

The answer must be somewhere between these two extremes since both of these propositions cannot be true. Most rational observers of this debate would encourage the two opposing camps to simply present their separate arguments and let the facts determine whether liberals or conservatives make a better case.

But this is where rational observers of the political debate in America have gotten it horribly, tragically wrong. Sound arguments based on proven facts are not what interest American voters.

I’ll put my speculative opinions up against your verifiable evidence any day and I’ll usually hold my own. As Stephen Colbert has observed, “truthiness” is usually a lot more convincing than the truth. “Keep your facts,” The Colbert Report’s motto exhorts, “I’m going with the truth.”

Before you assume I’m concocting another whiny, elitist diatribe against the ignorant American electorate let me state for the record that my thesis is in no way a complaint. Rather, it’s a joyful, liberating epiphany that can help salve the open sores of our country’s infected political conversation.

I believe this revelation first came to me in a dream. It was a powerful vision of President Bush that came to me one fitful night after his reelection in late 2004. We were seated together in the Oval Office and we were both laughing in long, breathless guffaws at some unknown joke.

Last week, as I listened to Sarah Palin promoting her new memoir, I finally understood what that dream meant. It boils down to this: Confidence is more important than competence.

Now, I’m not slamming Gov. Palin here. In fact, I was one of the few liberals who argued she was clearly qualified to run for the vice presidency in 2008. My point is that she understands something most liberals have yet to grasp – that style trumps substance in American politics.

Again, let me say this is not meant to impugn the intelligence of voters in the United States. Our great country is populated with no more drooling knuckle draggers than is any other nation.

But we are very busy and easily distracted. And honestly, we’re not that interested in what our leaders have to say. That’s not unusual in a universe of false-hearted politicians who are more concerned with status than with statesmanship.

So faith is the new fact. I don’t have to be able to prove Republicans are all theocratic fascists shilling for their big business paymasters – I just need to believe it, and it’s true.

And in the same way, conservatives don’t have to prove global warming is a cruel liberal hoax and government is the problem not the solution – they simply need to believe it, and that makes them right. Anyone can dispute your facts but no one can disprove your faith.

Before you dismiss my revelation as the nothing more than the ranting of a disillusioned liberal, consider your own cherished political viewpoints, and ask yourself how many of those positions you can really prove.

Consider the yawning chasm between what you think you know and what you know you know, and the elegance of my argument should become apparent.

If you’re honest with yourself, you just might agree with me that when it comes to politics in America, seeing isn’t believing, believing is believing.


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