Monday, August 23, 2010

Extremism is the Issue

I'm agreeing with E.J. Dionne that Democrats have to make a major campaign issue of Republican Tea Party Foxnews extremism.

The bigotry for sure. The news today is, what else, a poll, which purports to indicate that an additional 5% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. It's gone from 13% in polls before the 2008 to 18% now. Apart from how little statistically this might be, here's one set of experts' conclusion:

A 2009 study on this question by University of Michigan opinion research scholar Brendan Nyhan and Georgia State University political scientist Jason Reifler conducted experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that contained misleading claims from politicians.

Those who were then shown corrections to the mock news often were not swayed by the update. They had more faith in the original, misleading piece, particularly if it conformed to their ideological preconceptions. Messrs. Nyhan and Reifler even documented something of a backfire effect: corrections made some participants cling even more tightly to their mistaken beliefs.

Corrective information in news reports may fail to reduce misperceptions and can sometimes increase them for the ideological group most likely to hold those misperceptions,” concluded the pair.

So it's not enough to correct the misinformation, because the actual facts don't matter to these people. The truth about them must be exposed: it's extremism, it's prejudice and bigotry. And this is dangerous, and must be named. It is also a hell of a way to govern. Do you really want to elect these people, just because you're pissed off? Their entire qualifications are bigotry and lies.

Moreover there is plenty of evidence that this is not just the Republican party welcoming bigots, it's the Republican party fomenting bigotry and extremism. Frank Rich (with a nod to Salon's Justin Elliot) chronicles how the current hate-fest over a mosque in Manhattan is pretty much the product of Fox News. Not even GOPer conservatives were upset about it when it was first announced.

But bigotry is just the obvious and ugly face of extremism. There is also the plain and simple extremism of their economic policy. Like the only federal measure they apparently support, the Bush tax cuts for the rich. As Paul Krugman writes:

What’s at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent."

What does this mean? Instead of continuing Obama's tax cuts to the middle class, the GOPer proposal amounts to cuts: averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.

That's the essential extremism going on here. The rest is bigotry, orchestrated and fed in order to make sure the favored 120,000 get their millions.

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