It’s not surprising to learn, from the Public Policy Institute of California, that people throughout the state look less favorably at nuclear power since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, that they remain divided by party on the question of drilling offshore, or that they strongly support auto fuel efficiency standards and state regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
No, the number in PPIC’s most recent survey that jumped out at us was this: more than one third of Republican likely voters in California believe “the effects of global warming . . . will never happen.” We kid you not.
That this is so actually makes perfect sense. There exists in the population a substantial group of people for whom denial has become an ideological construct. These are individuals who refuse to accept, or minimize, or avoid responsibility for certain uncomfortable facts despite overwhelming evidence.
Once the realm of psychoanalysis – first postulated by Sigmund Freud and researched by his daughter Anna – denial has evolved into a political theology, provoked and goaded by mercenary pseudoscientists and right-wing yakkers.
It is the ideology of denial that underlay the thinking in Sacramento that without extending modest taxes enacted by a Republican governor, California could avoid tragic cutbacks to education, higher education and social services. It’s the ideology that is guiding tea-party-petrified congresspeople to insist that it will not matter if the “full faith and credit” of the United States government is downgraded to junk-bond status.
It is, of course, a form of madness. But it has become the world view of a significant body of people. It’s this ideological world view – certain, rigid and unyielding — that prevents any form of reasonable and productive compromise in our political systems.
This is what former Vice President Al Gore was talking about the other day when he wrote:
Dramatic changes in the way we communicate with one another about issues affecting the common good have diminished the role of reason and fact-based analysis, encouraging ideological extremists to construct their own alternative version of reality and defend it against fact-based reasoning.
It’s what the New York Times was talking about in an editorial titled “A Denial of Reality:”
How can so many Republican lawmakers justify pushing their country toward catastrophic default just to score ideological points? The answer can be found in their statements and writings: They are constructing an alternative reality far different from that of most Americans.
The mainstream news media, including the New York Times itself, bears much of the blame for the rise of this alternate reality for its chicken-livered failure to label falsehoods, to deconstruct false equivalencies, to call out chicanery and manipulation – in short, to seek to maintain its “neutrality” when one side presents facts and the other presents fiction. In today’s pitched battle against aggressive, willful ignorance, emulating Switzerland during World War II won’t cut it.
If you don’t believe that denial is ideological, look at the findings PPIC pulled out for Calbuzz. Here’s the question:
Which of the following statements reflects your view of when the effects of global warming will begin to happen: They have already begun to happen; they will start happening within a few years; they will start happening within your lifetime; they will not happen in your lifetime but will affect future generations; they will never happen.
On the one hand you have Democrats and independents, liberals and moderates. On the other hand you have Republicans and conservatives. This is what the Calbuzz Department of Abacus Cadabra calls “significant.”
(BTW: We think “climate change” is a more appropriate term than “global warming,” but that’s another discussion.)
There are lots of other interesting findings in the PPIC survey, including this:
In a year that has seen both lingering economic distress and extreme weather across the nation, most Californians continue to support the state’s climate change policy. Most believe global warming is a serious threat to the state’s future economy, with 47 percent seeing it as a very serious threat and 28 percent saying it is somewhat serious.
The principle behind AB 32—the California law requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020—enjoys majority support (67% favor, 21% oppose, 11% don’t know). Most (57%) believe that the state government should make its own policies, separate from the federal government’s, to address global warming.
This issue, you may recall, was one Calbuzz pointed to throughout the governor’s race last year as a problem for Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, who cast themselves against California’s historic climate change legislation and thus on the wrong side of an issue on which they could have appeared more moderate.
But that’s the ongoing problem for Republicans in California: how to get themselves on the side of touchstone issues, like climate change, where most of the voters are. Complicating the challenge, for thoughtful Republicans, is the ignoramus wing of their party that is driven by denial.