At the risk of sounding like Glenn Beck, I'm getting increasingly afraid for America. What worries me isn't that our citizens, political parties, and Congress are deeply divided about how to solve the many problems facing the United States.
There's a more disturbing division which stands in the way of negotiating solutions to our financial, budgetary, environmental, educational, infrastructure, and other social problems.
A split between reality affirmers and reality deniers.
Now, from the title of this post you can tell where I feel most of the reality deniers hang out politically: in the Republican party. But many Democrats, independents, and politically uninvolved people are equally guilty of shunning "what is" for "what I'd like to be."
This is dangerous. Really dangerous.
If two fire trucks from different stations pull up in front of a burning building, there's no problem in having a brief heated (so to speak) discussion about the best way to put out the blaze. However, if one team of firefighters says, "Fire? What fire? I don't see a fire," a pile of ashes could be the result.
Almost every Congressional Republican denies the reality of global warming. Leaving Congress doesn't bring them to their senses, because yesterday former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum declared that global warming is a concocted liberal scheme designed to bring about more governmental control.
That's freaking weird.
The reality studied by climate scientists isn't conservative or progressive; it's nature, which doesn't subscribe to any particular political leaning. It's fine to disagree about what global warming means and how the United States should respond to it. But to deny what 98% of the world's leading climatologists tell us is happening -- that's super dangerous.
Countries that try the head-in-the-sand thing, pretending that everything is fine when actually is isn't...they won't prosper. Reality has a way of biting deniers of it in the butt.
Last year the National Journal wrote, "The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among political parties around the globe, even conservative ones."
Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is “no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of.”
It will be difficult for the world to move meaningfully against climate disruption if the United States does not. And it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to act if one party not only rejects the most common solution proposed for the problem (cap-and-trade) but repudiates even the idea that there is a problem to be solved. The GOP’s stiffening rejection of climate science sets the stage for much heated argument but little action as the world inexorably warms — and the dangers that Hague identified creep closer.
Today Mitt Romney got blasted by conservatives for saying that global warming is an issue that's real, but he disagrees with how the environmental community wants to deal with the problem.
That's what happens when a prominent Republican casts his lot with reality: he's vilified by the many members of his party who believe that truth is whatever they want to believe.
(This nifty flow chart sums up the situation perfectly.)
Witness the fact that 51% of Republican primary voters didn't believe that Obama was born in this country, despite all of the evidence that he was. And how Sarah Palin supporters rushed to Wikipedia to alter the truth about Paul Revere's ride to make it match Palin's personal view of what happened.
My mother was a deeply conservative woman. She was a passionately devoted Republican. Also a great lover of science. I know that she'd be appalled at how today's Republican Party is so willing to disrespect reality.
I hope our country's politicans learn how to embrace a common set of facts, while initially agreeing to disagree on what to make of them. Only in this way will we be able to deal with our problems in a meaningful fashion.