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Thursday, Nov 15 2012 11:00 PM

PAM WILDERMUTH: Narcissism and closed minds are GOP's biggest obstacles

By The Bakersfield Californian

Knowledge and objectivity are powerful assets. That's how Nate Silver, publisher of the FiveThirtyEight blog for The New York Times, so accurately projected the 2012 presidential results. Knowledge of the facts and figures established by the 2010 census, and nonpartisan objectivity, resulted in a fact-based prediction about which presidential candidate would be victorious, as well as how the parties would do in congressional races. Republican pollsters and prognosticators had access to the same data but something happened on the way to the victory speech -- they chose to ignore it.

Stunned silence and tears of disbelief rolled across crowds of Mitt Romney supporters on election night like a rising evening tide washing away the day's sand castles. Granted, it was a close election with only about 3.5 million votes separating the two candidates (as the votes were still being counted a week later), but the electoral tally surpassed even Silver's expectations -- 332 for Barack Obama and 206 for Romney. It was a decisive win, and though there might be confusion in the minds of some (including Paul Ryan) as to the definition of the word "mandate," it is a mandate. It is permission, authorization, consent for Obama to pursue his agenda.

Most Republicans chose to engage in some retrospect, to ponder their defeat and re-examine their strategy. But a few chose to wallow in their rejection and lash out at an electorate they consider selfish, stupid, un-American and ungodly. They can continue to rant and rave; they can spew bushels of sour grapes; they can believe that America is dead; and they can fret because they are convinced that the re-election of Obama is hastening the end times, but their misdirected hostility will neither change the results nor result in change. If they are to truly understand the America in which they now live, they must emerge from The Bubble. Sure, it's warm and fuzzy in that ideological comfort zone where they're right all the time and no fact-checkers are allowed, but burying their heads in that familiar old security blanket makes it impossible to experience the reality of the world around them.

As David Frum, the journalist and former George W. Bush speechwriter, recently commented, right-leaning voters need to realize they "have been fleeced, exploited and lied to by the conservative entertainment complex." The demagogues who make their fortunes on radio and television, and by selling books, have profited from prejudices, benefited from bigotry, and laughed all the way to the bank.

It's a free country. They're entitled to make a buck, but similarly to the rabble-rousers before them, they've impeded intelligent, productive debate in a nation that desperately needs it, for it's impossible to engage in a conversation about immigration reform with someone who only thinks of undocumented laborers when he hears the word "Latinos," and cannot envision a second-generation pediatrician who worries about the deportation of her beloved grandma.

Someone who still questions whether or not the president was born in Hawaii is definitely not capable of participating in a discussion about how to secure Social Security for future generations. Those who have so little respect or consideration for women as to deny them abortions in cases of rape or incest, or to want to extend 14th Amendment rights to a zygote, can't be expected to contribute worthwhile opinions regarding the Lilly Ledbetter Act. And the curmudgeon who doesn't understand that Medicare is government-run health care is too obtuse to discuss the pros and cons of universal coverage.

Their ignorance is forgivable. To be ignorant is simply to be uneducated, to be lacking in knowledge. However, to remain ignorant in the face of an abundance of information is indicative of either unwillingness or incapacity to learn -- serious mental flaws implying stupidity. If the Republican extremists -- the birthers, the misogynists and the science-deniers -- refuse to absorb knowledge or practice a little objectivity they must be purged from the party, for they will never be able to provide anything constructive to the public debate. Their narcissism and illogical close-mindedness will condemn the GOP to the same fate as the Whigs and the Know Nothings. (Yes, there was a party called the Know Nothings. Google it.)

Pamela Wildermuth of Bear Valley Springs is an award-winning painter and sketch artist and a former president of Women Artists of the West. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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