NEW YORK – There is a kind of war underway in the United States nowadays between fact and fantasy. President Barack Obama’s re-election marked a victory, limited but unmistakable, for the cause of fact.
Events in the days leading up to America’s presidential election provided a stark illustration of the struggle. Among senior aides to Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a belief developed that he was on the cusp of victory. Their conviction had no basis in poll results. Nevertheless, the feeling grew so strong that aides began to address Romney as “Mr. President.”
But wanting that to be true was not enough for them to make it true. It would be as close to becoming President as Romney would get, and he apparently wanted to enjoy it while he could, however prematurely. Then, on election night, when the television networks projected Romney’s defeat in Ohio and therefore Barack Obama’s re-election, the Romney campaign, in a further denial of fact, refused to accept the result. A very awkward hour passed before he accepted reality and made a gracious concession speech.
The same disregard for reality has been the hallmark not only of the Republican campaign but of the entire Republican Party in recent times. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report in October showing that the national unemployment rate remained “essentially unchanged at 7.9%,” Republican operatives sought to discredit the highly respected BLS. When polls showed that Romney was falling behind President Barack Obama, they sought to discredit the polls. When the non-partisan Congressional Research Service reported that a Republican tax plan would do nothing to foster economic growth, Republican Senators muscled the CRS into withdrawing its report.