Partisanship has reached the point where truth can’t penetrate politics.
THE LATE SEN. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked that a person is entitled to his own opinion — but not his own facts.
Apparently, Senator Moynihan was wrong. He failed to anticipate the poisonous partisan atmosphere overwhelming America’s political culture today.
It seems one’s partisan identity may indeed establish the set of “facts” one chooses to accept — or reject.
And that’s alarming because the first step toward solving any given problem is understanding what it is, by application of available data. Reason and flexibility are the first casualties when emotion and ideology rule.
AN ANALYSIS OF polling data by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ought to raise a few eyebrows.
More likely, though, it will just encourage partisans on both sides to point fingers and yell even louder at each other.
• A Marquette University poll showed that although data indicate Wisconsin ranks 44th of the 50 states for job creation only 26 percent of Republicans believe it. More than 70 percent reject the data and do not believe Wisconsin lags other states by that much. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Democrats do believe Wisconsin has fallen behind.
• Nationally the numbers are reversed. With President Obama in the White House, more than 60 percent of Democrats believe the economy is getting better; meanwhile, nearly 65 percent of Republicans say it’s getting worse.
• In Wisconsin, backers of Gov. Scott Walker say the economy is improving while the governor’s opponents say it’s going the other way. Nationally, whether one sees improvement or not appears to be determined by what one thinks of Obama.
THOSE MUCH-MALIGNED independents — the ones radio motormouth Rush Limbaugh ridicules for “not believing in anything” — appear to be impervious to the partisan coloring of facts. Independents in the polling tended to view economic trends in accord with the data, not with a lean toward talking points of one party or the other.
None of this should surprise those who have been paying attention to the evolution — perhaps devolution is a more appropriate word — of politics as practiced in this era. The hostility the two partisan camps have developed toward each other is increasingly untethered from reality and colored by emotional antipathy for the other side. This is just further proof that facts have been overpowered and can’t penetrate opinion and slick message marketing.
Obviously, one side isn’t always right and the other side always wrong. But don’t try to tell that to a partisan. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to confuse them with facts they don’t want to hear.
Moral of the story: Say a prayer for more independents.