Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, speaking last night at the Reagan Library on the future of the Republican Party, said that the GOP should denounce conspiracy theorists, “the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.” The party needs to embrace the truth: “Pretending we won when we lost is a waste of time [and] credibility.”
This in itself is not newsworthy. But a statement quoted in The Hill gives the game away: The GOP, Christie says, “needs to be the party that’s perceived to be telling the American people the truth.” Excuse me? This is a bit rich:
- We don’t need to tell the truth as long as we’re perceived as being truthful.
- Calling ourselves THE truth-tellers brands everyone else a liar.
- Divert public attention from policy differences by engaging in a food fight.
- Force opponents to defend against the name-calling.
- Above all, avoid an actual debate about policies that might help actual people.
When “public debate” is instead a shouting match, it’s the loudest voice — not the soberest reasoning — that wins the day. Screaming, “They are lying to you!” without evidence isn’t a factual statement, let alone a clear statement of policy goals. But it’s enough to distract from the real issues. Engaging baser emotions rather than logic and reason is both the tactic and the goal.
Such is the modern Republican Party: with no popular support for its few retrograde policies, it has become single-minded about clinging to power by any means necessary: Jim Crow registration policies, shorter early voting periods, constraints on voting by mail, removal of polling places. Ensure that the people who weren’t going to vote for you don’t have the opportunity.
Does Governor Christie include the hysterical allegations about non-existent voter fraud among the conspiracy theories his party should denounce? Or is that limited only to acknowledging that “Trump lost” and “vaccines work”? Someone should ask him that. Someone should ask him whether he thinks honest debate about actual policy proposals — rather than name-calling — wouldn’t be a better use of everyone’s time.