Oath of Fealty

Not long again, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made some careless statements in public that suggested that he trusted the scientific consensus with respect to the global warming “controversy.”  These statements were not well-received by the core of the conservative movement, by which I mean, the folks who post on freerepublic.com.  I check freerepublic.com fairly frequently to gauge the reaction of the far-right to the events of the day.  It’s not for the weak-of-stomach, but their views are never less than interesting.

This is particularly true in the case of Romney’s pro-science statements.  Mr. Romney was accused of siding with the enemy and not being a True Conservative.  There were no comments that assessed the accuracy of what he’d said, which isn’t terribly surprising.  What did catch my attention was this: Not a single poster would allow for the possibility that anyone might genuinely believe that global warming was occurring. Romney’s apostasy was obviously for Nefarious Purposes.  He was siding with the (apparently exceptionally-well-funded) Green movement, which was paying literally every climatologist in the world to perpetrate this global warming hoax.  And, of course, the Greens don’t really care about the environment.  All they care about is controlling other people’s lives. 

This line of reasoning goes on quite a long ways, all the way down the rabbit hole.   I’ll spare you the details as that isn’t really the point of this post.

No, what I am interested in today is that Romney has repented and is now mouthing the words of a climate change skeptic.  He’s making the same red-herring arguments that seem to make potential Republican voters happy:  ‘There’s a lot of uncertainty about global warming.  We really don’t know what is causing it, and it would be foolish to make a lot of new regulations when it’s really just a theory.’  ‘Just a theory.’  I love that one. Gravity is just a theory, too, yet we seem to be perfectly willing to build bridges on as though it was a settled scientific fact.

I could be wrong about this, but I doubt that Romney believes the words he’s saying now.  He strikes me as bright enough to know that what he’s saying isn’t true.  His earlier statements lead me to that conclusion. 

I also find it hard to believe that any of the people he’s sending this message to are convinced that Romney’s beliefs have changed.  And yet, the reaction to his change-of-mind has been uniformly positive among the freerepublic crowd.

Why do you suppose this is?  Why are people pleased when a politician pretends to believe in something for the sake of winning votes.  Is it better that they’re obviously pretending (like Romney) as opposed to apparently really swayed by threadbare case against global warming (like Bachmann)?

I don’t think the content is the real message here.  I think what Romney is doing is reciting an oath of allegiance to his base.  The words themselves are gobbledygook, just meaningless syllables thrown together like a magical incantation.  It’s all symbolic, like wearing a flag pin or ostentatiously holding prayer events.  It goes beyond pandering and becomes a sort of ritual. 

I hope I’m wrong about this.  I’d really rather think that the entire Republican presidential field are just as scientifically illiterate as their base.  I can live with that.  I find that far less disturbing than the idea the willingness to recite words and claim to believe obvious falsehoods is somehow appealing to small but vocal group of American voters.

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