Augusta Free Press

Andy Schmookler: If you’d believe that …

Two things preoccupy me these days: 1) the need for the truth to defeat the lie, rather than vice versa; and 2) the need to bring the good, decent conservatives of America back from the dark place to which the powers on the right have led them.

It’s not hard to see that these two are different aspects of the same crisis now besetting our nation. So much of what has led America’s conservatives to where they are today has to do with the constant stream of lies that they’ve been hearing from the authorities to whom they’ve given their trust and support.

But, for me, even if the two are parts of the same thing, these two aspects tap into different feelings.

My feelings about the truth are at the heart of my values. Both my parents made truth a big deal—my mother insisting on truthfulness among the family, and my father conveying to my brother and me his own commitment to making an honest search for the truth and to following the truth wherever it may lead.

And my whole life’s work, for the past fifty years, has been the search for true answers to important questions.

My strong feeling regarding the conservatives result from my having had – some years back — an important relationship with a mostly traditionalist radio audience in the Shenandoah Valley. Back in the 1990s, I felt real respect and appreciation for the virtues I saw in those politically, culturally, religiously conservative people. And I drew satisfaction from the constructive radio conversations we created together.

It hurts me to see what has happened to those conservatives since then.

It had already begun back then, under the influence of the likes of Limbaugh and Gingrich. But it was not until Fox News entered the right-wing messaging operation, followed soon by Karl Rove becoming the propagandist at the right hand of the President of the United States, that the change accelerated:

Instead of the set of beliefs and feelings brought into the political realm by these conservatives being infused with their native goodness, their role in the politics of our times gradually became almost fully shaped by liars using them to gain power and wealth for themselves and their plutocratic backers.

Outside the political realm, the beauty of these conservatives is often still visible. But one cannot long mistake the evil for the good – even if in only one (the political) realm – without its having some effect on the soul.

Which brings me to another part of my feelings about the conservatives with whom I used to feel, in some sense, deeply connected: how disturbing I find it to witness how it’s possible to bring people to a place where they will apparently believe anything they’re told by skilled liars — even against all evidence and logic.

To cite but a few illustrations, too many conservatives have been willing to believe

All this credulity now threatens the very heart of American democracy, as polls indicate a great many Republicans believe Donald Trump over Robert Mueller– despite Donald Trump being documented as an extraordinary liar (five lies told publicly per day as president, according to one study) and despite Robert Mueller being someone who would have likely won the contest, had one been held a year ago, for “The Straightest Arrow in America” or for “Most Integrity in a Law Enforcement Professional.”

Nothing less than the rule of law – the foundation of our liberties – is at stake.

Donald Trump famously declared that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters. But long before the rise of Trump, something similar was achieved by the Republican Party (with the help of media allies like Fox News): gradually, the Party molded its supporters so that it could tell them just about any lie without eroding their credulity or losing their trust.

American democracy is founded on the notion of “the consent of the governed.” But no genuine consent can be won by lies.

Making our politics more whole is going to require that good, decent conservative Americans start rejecting the lies, looking honestly at the world, and following the truth wherever evidence and reason take them.

Andy Schmookler – the Democratic nominee for Congress in 2012 in VA-06 – is the author of a blog called “A Better Human Story” which can be found at abetterhumanstory.org