Tuesday’s re-election victory for President Obama was a genuine squeaker, Electoral College totals aside. However, the GOP losses, both in Congress, in the Florida legislature, when combined with the presidential failure in what should have been a cake walk for any plain vanilla opposing presidential candidate, have failed to serve as a wake-up call.
Conservatives have contrived an incredible fantasy world that thrives in their social, political, and media echo chambers. Republicans seem incoherently and aggressively intent on ignoring realities as they shout down contrary perspectives and pursue the fantasies of their surreal worldview.
An article in The Economist entitled, State of denial: The real blow to Republicans may be not that they failed to take the White House, but that they did not lose more heavily, details some of the peculiar state of mind predominant in GOP circles, like how polls were rigged against them, how voting was rigged against them, how their most obnoxious views are mainstream and commonly accepted, like this:
Many [Republicans] seem genuinely uncomfortable with the new America. Republican gatherings are strikingly white-skinned and grey-haired. Many in attendance voice nostalgia for a time when American workers lacked global competition from places like China, when traditional American (meaning their) values were unchallenged and—to cite their most frequent complaint—the poor either worked or went hungry.
Had the Republicans lost more spectacularly, perhaps their manufactured worldview would have crumbled more completely, leading to the kind of reforms that are needed. Then we could return to an objective two party system instead of the status quo with a party of utter insanity and the party of better sanity.
The stunning craziness was chronicled by The Daily Show’s review of Fox News’s Election Night coverage on its November 7 show.
Although Jon Stewart needed to do no more than air the amazing clip of Fox’s newsroom turmoil as Ohio was credited to Obama – the utter collapse of its self-serving, self-designed fantasy – Stewart’s closing commentary echoes the reality that typically entitled, privileged, pampered, white Americans are witnessing the death throes of their familiar world.
The vitriol and bellicosity of many Republicans in the wake of the election results has been noteworthy as evident in Facebook posts and personal conversations. See today’s Ocala Star Banner Letters to the Editor for some real beauts. Expect more.
The reason for the extraordinarily harsh and bitter reaction to a single election is hard to fathom. A mismatch between emotional response and factual cause usually indicates there is something more at stake. And clearly it has been building and headed this way for some time. It is their swiftly disappearing world that needs a false reality to be sustained. This secure and understood world of theirs is being lost. This is grief.
Grieving loss typically proceeds in discernible stages as explained by the classic study of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Denial and anger are the early stages of coping with loss.
Simply denying the loss, acting as if nothing has changed or creating a pleasant fiction, provides a buffer to the changed reality. Like a shock absorber, like adrenaline temporarily masking an athletic injury, denial stays enmeshed in a world and vision that no longer exists because the loss of that world and vision is too difficult and too painful to accept. However, the changed reality becomes unavoidable sooner or later.
Weakened by the loss, cast adrift, and bearing pain from the loss – whether acknowledged or not – the next (or simultaneous) stage is anger. The display of anger masks weakness with a blustery show of strength, while an uncompromising stand belies being adrift, and blindly lashing out retaliates for the pain.
Of course, the anger cannot be targeted at the loss; it finds other targets who tend to be unsuspecting. These poor folks are unable to equate the expressed anger with any corresponding reference point, like “Where did that come from?”
Anger, too, is a shock absorber, serving to protect and buffer the one who is hurting, lost, and weak – the one who endured the loss – until the point when the new reality becomes inescapable.
The strange behaviors, attitudes, and thought processes that we are witnessing across our society are quite remarkable. No, I don’t think you’ll find a corresponding point in recent memory. The Great Depression and the Civil War are other occasions when the world changed and people endured loss in the same measure, although the 1960s and the Civil Rights Era would come pretty close. We live in an exceptional and difficult time.
Progressives have no reason to gloat. Moreover, there is no reason to reply to bitterness with ugliness, or vitriol with contempt. It is about as helpful as telling someone struggling with grief over the loss of their loved one to ‘get over it and stop being a jerk.’
By the same token, there is no way this corrupt worldview can be allowed to go unchallenged. It needs to be exposed, and done so repeatedly, until reality actually becomes accepted. We certainly don’t need to lose our cool, but we are responsible for continually placing a mirror before our counterparts (and sometimes ourselves) and pointing out the reality we actually share.
Then we can begin solving the problems of our shared reality instead of senselessly arguing over which reality is valid.