The Republican Narrative and Cognitive Dissonance

Listening to the Republican narrative, one has to assume that either,

a)      They’re being gratuitously stupid; or

b)      They’re being gratuitous liars.

It’s not a happy choice; it says nothing good of the Republicans either way.  It’s seldom true that there are only two alternatives but it’s extremely difficult to find a third that might apply. It’s very difficult to believe that they seriously mean what they say. It’s like catching your child with his hand in the cookie jar and crumbs all over his face, and saying, “You can’t eat any cookies, Johnny” and his response being, “I know, dad!”

Obviously he doesn’t know or he wouldn’t have his hand in the cookie jar. If they do seriously believe they know then the only explanation can be is that they are stupid. It’s pretty obvious, with your arm buried to the elbow in the evidence that you are lying.

So why attempt the lie in the first place? We can all see the crumbs all over their faces. It is no secret what they’ve been up to. Just turn the cookie jar into the “United States” and you have a measure of the problem faced by America’s voters.

Are they stupid too?

One wouldn’t think so, given the outcome of the 2008 elections. The voters rejected the Republican narrative then, and in two years, as John Stewart recently – and hilariously – demonstrated, it hasn’t changed. Will people honestly believe a lie they’ve already seen through?

On the other side of the coin, it’s difficult to believe that having once been caught Republicans would try the same lies again. That they are seems to indicate that they think the voters are stupid. Or are they counting on voters memories being short?

Sure people are fed up with the rate of recovery. We didn’t get out of the Great Depression overnight either. But consider the fact that it took George W. Bush eight years to reduce the American – and global – economies to utter ruin. It’s simply unreasonable to expect President Obama to fix everything in two years. No economic policy, even if passed, can have an effect that quickly, and Republican obstructionism has meant that Obama has not been able to do everything he has wanted to do to fix it.

Polls demonstrate that most Americans recognize this. Bush still gets the blame from the majority for wrecking our economy. Yet the Republican narrative insists that the voters are fed up with the Democrats and will oust them. There seems to be some sort of disconnect here.

Keep in mind that the Republican narrative also insists on a few bald-faced lies, for example that the Tea Party is a grassroots, populist movement, when it is in fact funded by rich conservatives who are manipulating the masses for their own gain. Another is that the Democrats are the party of big government and deficit spending, when it is in fact demonstrably untrue that the Republicans are not guilty of huge deficit spending or huge increases in the size of government.

They seem to be insisting that 2+2=5.

Of course, some of them have been able to convince themselves that Obama was president when 9/11 took place, or that it was Obama who invaded Afghanistan.

Cognitive dissonance seems to run through the Republican narrative. Cognitive dissonance was first proposed in the 1950s by Leon Festinger. He explains it in the following terms:

Whenever an individual holds two cognitions (beliefs, ideas, opinions) which are psychologically inconsistent, he will experience a drive to reduce this inconsistency. Dissonance may be reduced by changing either or both of the existing cognitions or by adding new cognitions which reduce the conflict by putting it in a new perspective.

Since it is impossible that 9/11 could have happened on the Republican watch, it must have happened under a Democrat. Many other “impossibilities” mean that whatever the historical record says – and modern history is extremely well documented – certain things must or must not be true.

In layman’s terms, the Republican narrative is divorced from reality. So perhaps this is our third choice:

c)       They’re suffering from cognitive dissonance.

Since their narrative sells very well to the base, it’s not an unlikely explanation; the base too, might be suffering from the same form of debilitation.

Is there a remedy? Intervention might be suggested, but the 2008 election outcome could be seen as a form of intervention and it seems to have had no effect at all. Since they represent the will of the American people they could not have possibly lost the election, Even Sarah Palin promised that “God would do the right thing on Election Day.”

As a result, Republicans seem unable to grasp the fact that they lost. Instead, they see Obama as a usurper and themselves as a government in exile. Instead of an election defeat, they have fashioned a narrative in which a left-wing coup has displaced them from their proper place at the helm.

The possibility that the American voter could reject them doesn’t seem to exist in their warped version of reality.

So it is quite unlikely that another intervention – defeat in 2010 – will have any discernible effect on their symptoms or on their disease. They continue to insist that the popular rising none of us are seeing has displaced incumbents nationwide when in fact this is not the case, and polls do not demonstrate that Democrats facing re-election are as unpopular as the narrative insists they must be.

It is to be hoped that the delusions of the Republican base are not shared by those on the left and – in particular – by those in the center. The independent vote was essential in Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and their vote will be critical in the Midterm elections. The American voter must not be fooled by the Republican inability to discern fact from fantasy. When they tell you that used car was never in a flood, the water still sitting inside it should be evidence enough that what they’re selling you is a lie – a lie you don’t have to be part of.

11 Replies to “The Republican Narrative and Cognitive Dissonance”

  1. “Republicans seem unable to grasp the fact that they lost. Instead, they see Obama as a usurper and themselves as a government in exile.”

    given the actions of the Republican Party in the last two years your quote above seems to be absolutely true. This has been the most unbelievable two years in American politics I have ever seen, and worse, what does it say that the American people today by polls think that this very same Republican party will do a better job of straightening out the economy than the Democrats would.

    The things that the Republicans say and do give witness to the fact that they do not recognize any other party nor do they believe any other party should be in power. The Republicans have acted in the most horrendous manner and basically shouldn’t even be allowed to run for office if it were not for our Constitution. for two years they have resorted to lying and intimidation. For as much as they are now forced by the tea party to talk about the Constitution, I don’t think our founding fathers would find much that they like about them

    good article Hraf

  2. My favorite term, cognitive dissonance and it explains this phenomenon exactly. Just listening to the news last night, as every single conservative went on about how the American people wanted to redo healthcare and lower the deficit, I wondered how on earth these folks get the gumption to think they speak for us. They, of course, have healthcare, so their narrative that we need to do it but do it right (and no one ever asks them if that is the case, then why did they never try it before and why didn’t they offer any solutions this time around) is fine for them — meanwhile, millions of Americans are losing their healthcare, don’t have any at all, or are being turned down by their insurance companies for life saving procedures.

    My goodness the amount of screeching we hear from them when Obama tries to do something for the people.

    And then these small business owners who keep trying to explain that with lower taxes they create jobs (proven false under Bush where unemployment grew as taxes were lowered) because they can “reinvest” in their business belied the very small business bill Obama just passed regarding 100% tax break for reinvestments in your business. Also, too, most “small businesses” are not the million dollar corps that can be defined as small businesses under the government definition. They are usually mom and pops, lucky if they are making in the 6 figure range.

  3. Thanks, Shiva. I agree with everything you say. There should be a loyal opposition but we don’t have that anymore. Republican ideology does not allow for the possibility and their pretensions are starting to smell an awful lot like the “divine right of kings” with the “divine right of Republicans to rule.”

  4. I can sit open-mouthed in front of FOX for hours on end, astounded by what I am hearing. It has no basis in reality – none of it. It’s like an alternate reality America and through some fissure in the dimensional structure of the universe they are leaking through into ours. I’m not worried about the base – there aren’t enough lunatics to elect anyone nationally – I just hope the independents use common sense and stop to think before they vote.

  5. …and NOW with Jim DeMint basically “shutting down the Senate, probably through January”, the stonewalling will continue even more. The American people have come to believe that this stonewalling and obstruction is “normal”. It isn’t. These people are being paid to do the People’s business and they are NOT. They are doing NOTHING for anyone but themselves.

    I am SO incredibly totally disgusted with the Senate – and yes I include Harry Reid in that comment. These Senators are worthless. In fact, they are taking OUR money and doing exactly NOTHING.

    So here we sit for 4 months, NO tax relief, NO judge appointments, NO action on the Dream Act, DADT OR the Defense Act, basically NOTHING. They will allow NOTHING to happen for 4 MONTHS.

    There are over 300 bills passed by the House that need action – they will SIT.

    I remember when they shut down the Government in the 90s and it did not go well for them. I can only hope the American people realize that they are paying these jerks a lot of money to sit on their fat white asses and obstruct anything and everything.

    Disgusting…just blatant racial hatred and totally disgusting.

    VOTE … and VOTE DEM.

  6. We can only hope that we can scream loud enough to be heard, to make everyone realize that the Republicans have no intention of letting the Democrats, who won the election, run things, and no intention to run things themselves.

    They simply want the whole system to crash to the ground, whatever the consequences to the country and it’s people. Their rigid adherence to ideology permits no flexibility, no common sense. It’s like some sort of collective insanity.

  7. My main bone of contention with the republicans is, where are the solutions that will lead us to a faster recovery? All I ever hear from them are complaints and criticism. There is definitely cognitive dissonance among members of the republican base. They say the republicans have the solutions to our problems, but at the same time, they keep accepting the same old, failed policies. Calling these policies new and improved, doesn’t change the fact that they never work. Neither does Boehner and Pence saying that the republicans have learned their lesson about fiscal responsibility and are willing to change mean anything when their party’s “new” pledge is the same as the one they unveiled in the 1990s.

  8. The same whiny Republicans I know who swear that racism has “nothing to do with this” laugh loud and long at our President and First Lady dressed as pimp and ho. It is “disgusting”. I can think of no better word to describe it.

  9. I totally agree with you. Although WHAT that will accomplish is still not clear. The tax cuts WILL expire with no middle class tax relief … no jobs bill … no Defense bill .. no DADT or Dream Act.

    And the toothless white old farts in their hover chairs will rejoice and happily turn their Social Security over to Wall Street because they are too dimwitted to realize they will lose everything!

    This country is rapidly becoming a NONwhite country – which is fine with me. I have no problem with diversity nor am I threatened by them.

    On the flip side, the GOP has become so Lily White that it borders on blinding! So when do the Latinos and the African Americans catch on that the GOP HATES them, every one of them, because of the color of their skin? And the GOP IS afraid of “the coloreds” (regardless of what hue that means). They demonize minorities.

    But if you wrap up all the minorities into one group, what happens to the whites? We become “the minority”. And ..????

    The GOP has proven time and time again that they are anti-nonwhite human beings. That will not change even if the nonwhite human being SUPPORT THEM. They will STILL hate Hispanics. I seriously doubt that the GOP likes Jews although they do tend to tolerate them during elections.

    We are in a world of hurt here. And it’s going to get a lot worse.

  10. They have NO solution except to elect “them”. They have NEVER had answers – only complaints. They are toothless and driven by money.

    It’s all money – every bit of it. They have been bought by Corporations. They aren’t even functioning as a Congressional Body. They are an army of racist HATERS.

    We have to stop this … and we can do it by voting them out.

  11. Sorry, Hrafnkell, but this ‘article’ is unsupported leftist dogma.

    Our cities are teeming with the results of 40+ years of liberal policies that are destroying the nation. Our cities are teeming with millions of fatherless welfare thugs, welfare super-breeders, illegals, and their anchor babies.


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