What happens when Republicans get together to talk about current issues? Michael Bersin, of Missouri’s Show Me Progress blog, recently sat in on a “listening post” meeting led by a staffer for Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler [R -MO4]. The results are instructive for progressives, like me, who live in our own lefty bubble and don’t get to hear this stuff very often–or just avoid it as best we can. Bersin’s inside look at the proceedings reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live skit, called “White Like Me,” in which Eddie Murphy disguises himself as a white person, gets on a bus, and witnesses the previously hidden-to-him interactions of white people after the last African-American gets off the bus. That’s a hilarious comedy sketch. Unfortunately, Hartzler’s listening session isn’t. It’s just scary.
Bersin calls what he witnessed an example of “epistemic closure.” I had to look that term up.
According to Wikipedia, “epistemic closure has been used in US political debate to refer to the claim that political belief systems can be closed systems of deduction, unaffected by empirical evidence.” Bersin’s characterization is right on the money; The facts/opinions stated by the listening-post constituents come out of nowhere, but appear to be stated with a great deal of certainty.
See for yourself in the following excerpts:
The opinions voiced at the beginning of the hour long session were a catechism of right wingnut talk radio – when will impeachment of Obama happen, why was the Senate giving away our rights to the United Nations, what about the implementation of an international currency by July, and atmospheric engineering (chemtrails)?
…At around forty minutes into the meeting immigration came up. It was an interesting context, though. Apparently if immigration reform takes place those individuals who benefit from it in California and Texas will make it next to impossible for any republican to ever win the presidency once they start voting.
…The conversation then turned back to healthcare. When it comes to those who are presently uninsured one individual stated, “…There’s also a lot of government, what do you call ’em, uh, programs to help people who do not have insurance. So if you go in there and you have a catastrophic, um, incident you have access to government monies to pay that, especially hospitals, hospitals have that…” The conversation moved along a vein where, if it had continued, would have reached a logical conclusion that the personal mandate (from a personal responsibility standpoint) was the thing to do, though I don’t think they were aware they were going in that direction.
At around fifty-nine minutes – “…Apparently a lot of Americans are being detained [by Homeland Security] randomly trying to come back into the country…” When did that start? Just asking.
Bersin concludes by saying:
…Yep, epistemic closure is a powerful drug. America is a zero sum game – if someone else gets something that means you get less, or nothing at all. How did we get to this point?
Meanwhile, the 0.01% are laughing all the way to the bank.