07/25/2011 02:10 pm ET | Updated Sep 22, 2011

When Ideology Becomes Pathology

We all have belief systems -- religious, political, spiritual. Up to a certain point, they provide an indispensable architecture that allows us to operate in the world. Past a certain point, they function as cataracts, narrowing our worldview into an increasingly constricted tunnel vision. Instead of a ramshackle Victorian full of all manner of rooms with different views, we end up living in a windowless basement. We can decorate it all we want, but we still won't get any natural light.

Somewhere over the past 20 years, the ideology of the American right wing has morphed from a legitimate belief system into a reality-obscuring pathology. Its adherents are so committed to a particular perception that it has literally become impossible to reason with them. They are even imperious to the most reasonable man on the planet, the endlessly negotiating, bend-over-backwards compromiser of all time, Barack Obama.

Let's look at the facts. Bill Clinton leaves the Republicans a surplus (after 8 years of unparalleled job growth.) Does Bush make a speech asserting that finally, we will be able to pay down the national debt? No, he insists on two huge tax cuts exploding the deficit. Although the Republicans control both house of Congress, not one proposes a balanced budget amendment. They approve one debt ceiling increase after another, as the administration drags us into a hugely unnecessary and expensive war based on willfully faulty intelligence. In a mania for "deregulation," banks and Wall Street are allowed to do virtually whatever they want. The economy goes over a cliff as a result, hemorrhaging millions of jobs and leaving the current President an unholy mess to contend with.

Republican tax cuts proved to be an absolute disaster for the country, creating the worst income inequality since the great Depression. A tiny percentage of the population is doing absurdly well, while the middle class is stagnant at best. Let's not even talk about the poor. Literally. The only topic less popular to a Republican than the poor is George W. Bush, which is ironic considering how they continue to advocate so passionately for a continuance of his policies.

More tax cuts. Laws restricting abortion and voter rights. Attempts to eviscerate the social safety net, education, and all that frou-frou "discretionary spending." Massive layoffs of public employees and constriction of union rights. Increases in defense spending. And the prime directive governing it all: never cooperate with a Democrat. (You can take their stimulus spending for your state though. Just don't forget to smile for the camera when you present that big check.)

Bill Bradley was on Dylan Ratigan the other day, and proposed a simple and elegant jobs bill. The Federal government would pay 20% of the salary of new hires for a year, but the outlay would be capped at $50 billion. That means only those who hired new employees soon could take advantage of the subsidy, creating a huge incentive for companies to act now. In a few months, we could add millions to the rolls, inducing a huge multiplier effect that would lift all sectors of the economy. It's the kind of no-brainer idea that should cross party lines. But it would virtually guarantee the outcome that can't be borne by the right wing -- the possibility that Barack Obama is viewed as a successful president.

I really, really disliked George Bush. I don't like unintelligent people to be the leader of the free world, and I thought he was juvenile and snarky. But had his tax cuts worked, had the economy magically grown and filled the coffers and Iraq turned into a thriving democracy as Afghanistan was pacified, I might well have voted for him in 2004. In essence, my desire for the success of the country would have trumped by far my desire to be right about how to get there. I would have been considerably surprised, but I wouldn't have taken it as a personal rebuke.

The willingness to drive the United States off another economic cliff just to screw the president embodies like nothing else the diseased nature of right-wing ideo-pathology. It operates by the same logic as cancer -- metastasize, spread, take over. Like cancer, they ignore the paradox that in order to "win," you have to kill the patient.

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