This one’s a bit late in the telling, but worth mentioning nevertheless: last Wednesday, Ben Domenech of The Heartland Institute, a conservative think-tank, appeared on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes to talk post-shutdown politics. In a moment of startling journalistic integrity, Hayes, clearly exasperated after deflecting the usual set of conservative talking points from Domenech, had this to say:
“These hucksters tell you things that are false. They lie to you. Ted Cruz lies to you. Heritage Action lies to you. Everybody lies to you. There is a whole cottage industry before the election to tell you, you are winning the election, they are losing. They tell you, your ideas are popular when they are not. They tell you your party is winning when it is not. They tell you the president is losing this and he looks terrible because people are storming the WWII memorial — At what point do grass roots conservatives stop allowing their leadership to lie to them?”
I’ve got to hand it to Hayes for taking Domenech to task; the journalists who do are canaries in a coal mine, their career deaths a warning to the others to either turn back or tread lightly. Sadly, his question was asked in the relatively safe, final moments before commercial, failing to leave time for Domenech’s even more striking admission to be properly addressed.
“Well, I think that you have to keep in mind, the leadership lies to themselves, as well. They lie to themselves about their ability to control the situation. They lie to themselves about the ability to offer an alternative approach from the senate side that they could take it up by the house at the get-go. I think that essentially you are seeing a lot of people who are lying to each other about the nature of the policies and nature of the political strategy that they are employing.”
While his words are somewhat convoluted from a certain degree of backpedaling, their meaning their meaning should be quite clear: the Republican party is built on a foundation of lies, and they lie about everything, even when they don’t have to. As a party that defines themselves not by what they are for but what they are against, without their lies, the Republicans have nothing. Nearly every policy position they have advocated for in recent decades has done massive damage to our economy and our prosperity, and caused incalculable human suffering both here and abroad. They cannot ever admit to this, for to do so would seal their doom. This is why conservatives have shifted the debate away from ideas and over to facts in the public square; doing so allows them to maintain an appearance of altruistic productivity, while ensuring that their paper tiger politics continue to have teeth.
Domenech’s remarks seem to have gone largely unnoticed in the progressive community. One can never predict what will go viral in the Digital Age, but I believe it’s safe to say that, regardless of the level of exposure this nugget of truth receives, his misstep has condemned him to a life of political obscurity henceforward. After all, glitches in the Matrix cannot be tolerated, even minor ones. Rest assured, there’s a wide, shallow pool of conserva-clones waiting to take his place, and each one of them in turn will eventually become an aberration to the narrative. But as long as we chronicle those aberrations as they occur, and tack them on to the ceaseless recitation of our grievances, we can, in time, pin the paper tiger to the wall.