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Denialism as an ethos

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Krugman is worth reading on why COVID-19 denial has dominated the Republican Party even though it’s not even in the self-interest of the party’s most powerful forces. (As Justin Wolfers puts it, the problem with framing the question as “the economy” vs. “aggressive containment measures” is that “Without faith that you aren’t going to die when you interact with others, you don’t have an economy.”) The key problem is that at a certain point bad faith becomes the way you approach the world, not something that can be turned on and off like a tap:

First, when you have a political movement almost entirely built around assertions than any expert can tell you are false, you have to cultivate an attitude of disdain toward expertise, one that spills over into everything. Once you dismiss people who look at evidence on the effects of tax cuts and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, you’re already primed to dismiss people who look at evidence on disease transmission.

This also helps explain the centrality of science-hating religious conservatives to modern conservatism, which has played an important role in Trump’s failure to respond.

Second, conservatives do hold one true belief: namely, that there is a kind of halo effect around successful government policies. If public intervention can be effective in one area, they fear — probably rightly — that voters might look more favorably on government intervention in other areas. In principle, public health measures to limit the spread of coronavirus needn’t have much implication for the future of social programs like Medicaid. In practice, the first tends to increase support for the second.

As a result, the right often opposes government interventions even when they clearly serve the public good and have nothing to do with redistributing income, simply because they don’t want voters to see government doing anything well.

Precisely. Fully Republican-controlled states have rejected the as-rewritten-by-John-Roberts Medicaid expansion not because it’s unpopular and doesn’t work, but because it’s popular and works. It’s a deeply revolting worldview, but it doesn’t suddenly vanish during a pandemic.

And, of course, the next step is scapegoating:

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