Parallel Universes

E.J. Dionne cites the Pew Research Center survey from April to show that Democrats and Republicans are concerned about different issues. As a result, he fears that it will be difficult for the two parties to reach a consensus. The problem is far deeper than that. If it was simply a case of each party caring about different issues, it would be easy to reach a compromise in which each party gets some of what it desires on its most important issues. Reaching a consensus is difficult because Democrats and Republicans have entirely different world views. While liberals are reality-based, conservatives who dominate the GOP often base their views on faith and delusions.

If time allowed, I could easily find numbers to show where each party disagreed in these areas. Conservatives might disagree with me over how I characterize tehm with regards to reality versus faith, but I doubt they would disagree over the basic premise that liberals and conservatives view the issues differently.

Liberals and conservatives don’t agree on matters related to Iraq and terrorism as they disagree on the basic facts. Conservatives continue to believe that Saddam had significant WMD and ties to terrorism, while liberals do not. While both liberals and conservatives are concerned about terrorism, the problem is more pressing to conservatives as Republican leader have been playing on fear as opposed to reason. Democrats who have studied the issue remain concerned, but realize our chances for victory are better if we think first as opposed to making dumb moves such as invading Iraq without a plan. Conservatives are blinded by fear when they think of 9/11. Liberals, who are aware of all the warnings prior to the attack, see many ways in which the attack could have been prevented if we only had competent leadership in Washington.

Conservatives and liberals have totally different world views on matters related to science. Many conservatives fail to understand the difference between accepting something on faith, and accepting something based upon scientific evidence. To these conservatives, science and religion are two different bodies of opinion, and they lack any real understanding of the scientific method. Therefore we see conservatives who consider global warming to be a religion itself and ignore the consensus of the experts in the field. Similarly there are conservatives who reject evolution, geology, and cosmology based upon religious claims about the origins of life, the earth, and the universe.

There are many areas where the facts aren’t as clear cut as in these scientific issues, making it even harder for liberals and conservatives to find common ground. On health care, many conservatives find irrational means to avoid the problems, such as greatly exaggerating the potential impact of malpractice reform, and relying on poor solutions such as health savings accounts. Conservatives who have health insurance are less likely to be concerned about the 45 million who do not have insurance. In return, some liberals totally ignore the need for malpractice reform, and fail to understand that a majority of Americans do have health care and do not want to change to a government program.The same problems can be seen on many other issues. Such totally different views of the issues, and not just different priorities, makes it difficult for the two parties to communicate. With such an extension of the problem, I can end as Dionne does in saying, “And so the Democrats who debate on Sunday and the Republicans who debate on Tuesday will offer a portrait of an election in which our parties are speaking different languages to two very different Americas. This can’t be good for us, and it surely won’t help whoever is lucky or unlucky enough to be our next president.”

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