Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Conservatives No Longer Can Conceive of Non-Partisan Motives

There's something very odd about how conservatives frame calls for investigating Russia's attempted interference in our election. They insist that it is a product of Democratic self-delusion that Russia was the cause of Hillary Clinton's defeat. They crow that this is proof of liberals' inability to accept responsibility for their own policy decisions. They mock Democrats for supposedly believing that Americans will care about Russia in the midterms.

That might all be true. Counterfactuals are hard, and voter attention spans are fickle. But what's strange about this apparently widespread conservative view is that it seems utterly perplexed by the idea that one might want to look into attempted Russian interference into our elections simply because it's a good thing for America to guard against attempts to subvert our democracy from hostile foreign governments -- regardless of whether they redound to the clear benefit or detriment of any particular political party. In fact, "perplexed" isn't even the right word -- it doesn't seem to occur to them that such a motive could possibly exist. They don't respond to it, or even ignore it -- it's just beyond the horizon of their understanding that a political actor might try to do something for no greater reason than the good of the country.

If conservatives are right that the issue of attempted Russian interference isn't a political "winner" for Democrats -- and they may well be -- that should make the case for an investigation easier, not harder. After all -- if it's not something that will make a partisan impact, than it's simply a matter of good governance. But Republicans have lost the ability to understand that as even a theoretical motive for action. As far as they're concerned, once partisan politics falls out the picture, we're left with nothing but a gaping empty void.

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