Republicans are like the Calvin character in Bill Watterson’s brilliant comic strip “Calvin & Hobbes” – except without any of the charm, innocence, humor or likeability. They’re the version that plays “Calvinball” the game where Calvin makes up all the rules as the game goes along.
Perversely, it’s almost like Watterson anticipated Donald Trump – and his amazing ability to change the rules on the fly and get away with it.
The first time Trump White House advisor – and Crypt Keeper lookalike -Kellyanne Conway used the term “alternative facts”, she should have been banned from the airways. For starters, “alternative facts” is a non sequitur. facts aren’t malleable as, say, feelings are. One can feel various different – even conflicting ways – about facts: here on earth, we all agree the sun rises in what we collectively call “the east” and then sets in what we call “the west”. Someone who insisted the opposite was true isn’t “living in some alternate reality” with its own set of facts, they’re making it up or, even worse, lying. Why they’re doing that is important – we’ll get to it – but first things first. We need to stop indulging childish nonsense – that if you close your eyes and wish the world was how you want it that – regardless of how it is – as far as you’re concerned? Your version – the alternative reality – rules.
Another literary character also comes to mind when I think about Republicans (conservatives as a whole) and their relationship with facts: Big Brother.
In Nineteen-Eighty-Four, history itself is entirely fluid. Truth is whatever the state needs it to be in any particular moment. They literally control reality by always being the arbiter of what “reality” is. That’s standard operating procedure for any authoritarian. As Chico Marx puts it in the Marx Brothers “Duck Soup” (and almost everyone gets this quote completely wrong) when Margaret Dumont’s Mrs. Teasedale insists that she’s seen more than one Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho’s character – who Chico and Harpo have been disguised as in order to steal war plans): “Who’re you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?“
In their defense, conservatives have a tough task. They want to convince diverse 21st century Americans that the America we all really want to live in is America circa 1850 – back when slavery was alive and well and everyone not white, Christian, land-owning and male knew their place. Of course no one who isn’t them wants to live in the white-worshipping (“All men are created equal” doesn’t actually mean what it says) America conservatives want America to be. Our founders had a great idea – self government – but just because they thought of it and tried to articulate it doesn’t mean they thought of it or articulated it right. Our founders absolutely didn’t get it right; by “All men are created equal”, they meant 1) only men and 2) white, Christian, land-owning men like them.
Conservatives like originalism because originalism rests upon a deeply flawed notion – that America as imagined by its white, Christian, land-owning male founders is the only way America can be. If conservatives and Republicans actually had to be honest about their version of America, they’d be put out of the retail politics business. They know they can’t sell the America they want to the masses because it’s a non-starter in E Pluribus Unum America.
That’s why Republicans resort to cheating in every way possible: gerrymandering, voter suppression and even co-conspiracy to commit treason. Nothing’s off the table for Republicans when it comes to holding onto power.
The “alternate reality” that Republicans want is one where they can finally stop pretending that they like democracy even a little.