Political opponents are always our fantasy. Sometimes its dangerous. Jonathan Bernstein shows the GOP perils. http://t.co/FP5GAbA2

Scott Yonkers Bill, that column was snarky and over simplified. Very lazy reporting. Anyone can read message boards (which are rife with ignorant people) and write a column. Wouldn’t be surprised if an intern wrote this for him.

What caught my attention was how pop partisanship can generate conflicting narratives. So for instance, a village in Texas was missing its idiot, and then he was a scheming proto-theocrat. Folks, take your pick, but only one to a customer. Same process now for the GOP. What matters is when you start breathing your own fumes, when you believe your own hype. Partisans of all stripes do this all the time.

Indeed, the very nature of political discussion means that you make the other side into something of an abstract. In a debate, I never entirely address the other side, and I certainly do not appreciate the other side (otherwise I would be like them, right?). So in that sense the other side is always something of a construct, a fantasy. To underscore, this is non partisan, or perhaps pan-partisan.

The danger — the one that Bernstein was pointing out — is that one not only builds these fantasy constructs (a natural), but then begins to act as if they are true. The danger is actually two-fold: first, acting on fantasy can lead to unproductive or worse, disastrous decision making — decisions that are not grounded in actuality. This can be by over-reaction, or more typically by the misapplication of resources, focusing on the wrong avenue (think Maginot Line) or responding in ways out of tune with the public. That’s how it usually goes.

The second danger is that the “fantasy” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if in your fantasy you vilify the other as x, say by thinking that Republicans don’t care about education, then you increase the likelihood that the other side will in fact go ahead and be “x” — to or Republicans then do not like education (after all, what’s there to lose?). This is sort of the Game Theory Lose-Lose scenario.

While in a log-and-speck world, I can more easily see this in the foolishness of the Other Side, I am also old enough and experienced enough to know how it haunts My Side too. Whether Left or Right, the fantasy political life ends up with worse electoral results and often in worse policy outcomes.


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