Surely It’s Richard Feynman!

Richard FeynmanOn this day back in 1824, French academic painter Jean-Leon Gerome was born. English illustrator Walter Goodman was born in 1838. The great American songwriter Irving Berlin was born in 1888. Choreographer Martha Graham was born in 1894. The great Salvador Dali was born in 1904. Comedians Phil Silvers and Foster Brooks was born in 1911 and 1912.

The brilliant political comedian Mort Sahl is 86 today. And so is the bumbling Colonel Crittendon from Hogan’s Heroes, Bernard Fox. And Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is 80.

It was hard to pass up Irving Berlin and Salvador Dali, but the day belongs to physicist and curious character Richard Feynman who was born on this day in 1918. He was one of the founders of quantum electrodynamics, which is basically quantum mechanics and relativity all rolled into one. Most people know him from his book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! It is a fun book to read, although I was never sure if I believed him. I suppose now I do. When I was younger, I thought he had a good too many wonderful adventures. But now I know it is all in the telling; there isn’t anything especially exotic about the stories. He’s just a good and funny writer.

Happy birthday Richard Feynman!

Republican Expectation Mistakes

Josh BarroJosh Barro made an excellent point a week and a half ago, How Conservatives Are Helping Obamacare. It isn’t the focus of the article, however. He noted that the Republicans are managing expectations about the implementation of the new healthcare law. So if next year comes without riots and a syphilis pandemic, people will likely be relieved.

This is interesting. You may remember back to the debates of the 2012 presidential election. Normally, each side tries to keep expectations low. “I’m just hoping my candidate can get through the debate without urinating on himself.” In fact, this is so expected that it is the major focus of discussions by the pundits in the lead up to debates. But this last year it was different. The Republicans set expectations high for Romney. It all worked out for him in the first debate, not so much because he was strong, but because Obama was so weak. I wondered at the time why this was, but that was about it.

Now with Republicans setting expectations for Obamacare so low, I have a thought. The Republican Party is more and more a closed system. It has its own media sources and interacts as little as possible with normal, middle of the road, media, which they consider to be liberal and biased. As a result, they convince themselves not only that they are right but that the other side is so obviously wrong that conservatives needn’t even worry about it. This was certainly seen in the last presidential election where a lot of conservatives thought Obama was such a weak candidate that they thought of course he would lose.

Another result of this kind of thinking is the extreme politics. Conservatives are not worried about working with the Democratic Party because they think that soon the Democratic Party will die off as we see riots in the street, inflation at 200% per week, and of course the coming syphilis pandemic. So why compromise when total control of the government is only one election cycle away.

Regarding Obamacare, they don’t think it will be a disaster, they know it. And so they don’t even play the expectations game. In fact, they think that it will be so bad that they could hardly overstate the catastrophe that is to come. This is a major error of judgement, of course. The facts indicate something else. Jonathan Cohn wrote a good article about this. The biggest issue is that the vast majority of people will see no change in their healthcare at all—they won’t even notice the Obamacare implementation. The people most affected will be those who don’t currently have health insurance and will get it. So they are likely to be pretty happy. Regardless, these are mostly poor people who vote Democrat anyway.

But facts really do not matter when everyone in your circle just knows that hyperinflation is right around the corner. The next step is for the conservatives to turn to conspiracy theories. Many conservatives even now argue that there really is hyperinflation and that the government is just hiding it. This kind of thinking is also at work with the “voter fraud” obsession on the right. They knew that Obama couldn’t win in 2012, and in fact he didn’t, because of voter fraud.

The irony is that thinking liberalism is in its death throes is causing the Republican Party to become less and less relevant. Eventually, it must create a critical imbalance in the party that causes it to go back to its roots as a conservative rather than revolutionary party. I look forward to that, because a real conservative party is needed—not just for the health of the Republicans but for the Democrats as well.