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Krugman's blog post today led me to this excellent analysis of conservative partisan groupthink by Chris Mooney.

Mooney finds that conservatives are immune to facts and reasoning, and are only more immune as their level of education increases:

I can still remember when I first realized how naïve I was in thinking—hoping—that laying out the “facts” would suffice to change politicized minds, and especially Republican ones. It was a typically wonkish, liberal revelation: One based on statistics and data. Only this time, the data were showing, rather awkwardly, that people ignore data and evidence—and often, knowledge and education only make the problem worse.
It got me thinking.

My 20-something son has dismissed strongly partisan progressives as equivalent to strongly partisan conservatives, but I've always believed in my heart of hearts that there is something essential that separates us. The nuclear power example cited in Mooney's piece is a terrific one, because the stereotype of the knee-jerk liberal collapses when you see the change in attitudes among the left on this topic.

I'm reminded of two things I've read on in the past decade.  First, Garry Wills' excellent Times op-ed piece, The Day the Enlightenment Went Out, which I read, literally, through my tears. the other was PKs blog entry (maybe??) on how he was radicalized by the incredible mendacity and disinterest in facts and reality of the infamous Bush White House.

And of course there's this, from Ron Suskind's book on Bush & Co:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Two points then. One, the post-partisan utopia that the President seeks, and some 20-somethings want to think is rational and just, is a false hope and a dead end. More facts, better reasoning, stronger arguments won't bridge this gap. Conservatives are now immune to facts, reasoning and argument. Sorry, I don't know a solution, but the post-partisan fantasy must stop.

Two, sometimes reality manifests itself in ways that academics cannot ignore. When the US becomes a banana republic and the peasants are on the street with pitchforks and torches, our reality and theirs will necessarily start to converge. When Florida looks more like Hawaii, global climate change science might be more persuasive.

Let's hope that we don't need to get there.

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