Con Games: Conservatism In Reality

08/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Michael Conniff Inventing the future of storytelling at The Isaacson School for New Media in Aspen

With all the numbers spewed by pollsters -- if you have to spew, spew here -- it is all too tempting to pick out a few choice morsels and yuk until you upchuck. These pre-selected numbers show no confusion in conservatism whatsoever -- and a core audience ready to frog-march in militant, military formation toward a future that looks all too much like those good old days that never were.

I have in mind three numbers that tell the tale like no others: (1) conservatives who believe see-you-later, soon-to-be former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a credible Republican figure; (2) conservatives who believe climate change is a load of hooey if not an outright hoax; (3) conservatives who believe comedian Stephen Colbert is not joking on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

Or look at it this way: conservatives tired of dealing with the real world are more than happy to go condo in the closet of the closest alternative universe.

Let's go to the numbers. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll two out of three Republicans want Palin to be "a major national political figure" in the future; if anything, Republicans say her resignation as Governor of Alaska means they are somewhat more likely to look even more favorably upon her. Quit on your state, duck and run -- Republicans don't much care, because Sarah Palin is the real deal...or something.

The trend toward dismissing the known world continues when Republicans are asked by Gallup about climate change. While three-fourths of Democrats say climate change is already happening, only 41 percent of Republicans agree -- a 35 point difference.

"The resulting 35-point gap," according to Gallup, "stands in stark contrast to 1997, when nearly identical percentages of Republicans and Democrats (47% and 46%, respectively) indicated that global warming was already happening. Thus, despite all of the attention given to global warming in the media, including coverage of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports, Republicans have become less likely over the past decade to believe that global warming is occurring."

Furthermore, according to another Gallup Poll, two out of every three Republicans believe news of global climate change is "exaggerated" -- the same margin as those who want Sarah Palin to remain "a major national political figure."

Stephen Colbert is the icing on the cake. His rapacious over-the-top depiction of a right-wing cable news host could not be possibly been seen as anything but parody, could it?

A study by The Ohio State University -- and reported upon first by HuffPo blogger Jason Linkins -- said the joke was on conservatives, who "were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism."

As Colbert once said at a Washington correspondents dinner: "Reality has a liberal media bias."

Put it all together -- Palin, climate change, and Colbert -- and you've got Humpty Dumpty after he was told to tear this wall down. With reality nothing more than a nuisance, the numbers reflect a conservative mindset slavishly devoted to wishful thinking, with the next new sign of reality never more than a single news cycle away.