Jeremy Corbyn on bus Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Ideological Infarctions

If the predictions of a narrative or ideology conflict with reality, one can either change the narrative or change the facts. The second option arises – and today is arising more often – because ideologies are not just learning devices; they also serve social and psychological purposes.

SANTIAGO – Donald Trump’s health-care bill – nicknamed “Ryancare,” after House Speaker Paul Ryan – would have deprived 24 million Americans of health insurance, according to the US Congressional Budget Office. But that was not the reason the most conservative Republicans rejected it. Even though it would have handed Trump and their own party a political victory, conservatives refused to vote for the bill because it did not go far enough in abolishing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) they hate.

Ryancare would have retained Obamacare’s rule preventing insurers from excluding people with preexisting conditions. And it would have provided tax credits to help low-income people buy health insurance. But to the conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus, both features, though popular, smack of socialism. Their opposition was a triumph of ideology over political expedience.

The return of ideology is not only a right-wing phenomenon, and it is not confined to the United States. Consider Jeremy Corbyn, who has moved the United Kingdom’s Labour Party sharply to the left and away from the pragmatic approach of Tony Blair’s New Labour. His dismal standing in the polls suggests that Corbyn, like conservative Republicans, prefers feeling ideologically pure to being politically effective.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.