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Joseph Wyatt: Future of conservatism is as a museum display

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Imagine it is 50 years into the future. A museum guide leads visitors into the Great Hall of Early Twentieth Century Misrepresentations and says:

"Here, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the most curious and altogether entertaining tenets of the conservative movement of the early part of the century. Interestingly, liberals failed to produce similar items of museum quality. . .

"Notice this display case. It contains what, in the early days of the 21st century, was a bizarre notion about 'death panels' within a system of insurance called Obamacare. Historians tell us this belief persisted among the under-informed, long after it had been disproven.

"And here we have another oddity. Obamacare was said to have been socialized medicine or 'government-run' health care. It was neither. As time went by, Americans came to understand that if they wished to see socialized medicine, they should have looked to the era's Veterans Affairs hospitals, where the government hired and paid the salaries of the professionals who worked there . . . 

"Over here is more on the president of that era, Barack Obama. Confabulators claimed that Mr. Obama was not born in America and, in some mystical and unknowable way, was not fully American in his thinking or philosophy. They clung to this piece of whole cloth like an alien movie face hugger. Donald Trump, pictured here, was the most visible proponent of this fiction. Mr. Trump was a featured speaker at the 2012 Republican Party's national convention . . .

"A chronic misrepresentation regarding the so-called 'stimulus' is displayed here in this diorama which pictures workers building a roadway. Dissimulators of the era consistently claimed that the stimulus, which was designed to create jobs and, thus, stimulate the economy, had failed. However, by any rational accounting, it had saved or created more than a million jobs, by 2012. Even so, conservative leaders of the era continued their assault on reason for several years to come, evidently not caring that their claim long ago had been debunked . . .

"On this shelf is an odder notion yet. Gifting wealthy people by cutting their taxes was a program said to have helped the middle class by creating jobs, even though every time it was done on a large scale, it failed. It is unclear why conservatives, other than the rich ones, preferred to believe this falsehood, rather than believing their own eyes . . .

"Now notice the group of peculiarities under this bell jar. Conservatives said that the president, Mr. Obama, was not a Christian but nevertheless was in thrall to a Christian preacher; and that he was secretly planning to take away citizens' guns, even though he had loosened gun rights laws; and that he had a habit of apologizing for America. The last of these falsehoods was perpetrated by a man named Mitt Romney who seemed not to have understood the definition of the word 'apology' . . .

"On the wall here, are portraits of conservatives Ronald Reagan, who had tripled the national debt, and George W. Bush, who had then doubled the debt. In an evident case of projection, conservatives of the era claimed that liberals were to be scorned because of their overspending . . .

"Last, observe what was, perhaps, the falsehood with the worst implications for us, today. Conservative politicians and television talkers alike had claimed that there were two equal sides to the global warming controversy. And they made that claim long after the science had been settled. But it is time to leave these displays. Let us move on, to the Hall of Vanished Polar Ice Caps . . .  .

Wyatt is a Gazette contributing columnist and a Marshall University professor.


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