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WORTH REPEATING: How The Big Lie Took

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ANDREW SULLIVAN: It seems to me that the last year or so in America’s political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama’s presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse – the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus – were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran’s regime – and destruction of its legitimacy from within – was portrayed as a function of Obama’s weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform – almost identical to Romney’s, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies – was turned into a socialist government take-over.

Every one of these moves could be criticized in many ways. What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of them to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion. But since this seems to be the only shred of thinking left on the right (exacerbated by the justified flight of the educated classes from a party that is now openly contemptuous of learning), it became a familiar refrain – pummeled into our heads day and night by talk radio and Fox. If you think I’m exaggerating, try the following thought experiment.

If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist. This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies – “death panels,” “out-of-control” spending, “apologies for America” etc. – designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people’s minds in the midst of a brutal recession. MORE

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