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The Epistemic Closure of the Epistemic Closure Pundits

The Epistemic Closure of the Epistemic Closure Pundits

Not THAT again.

More “right-wing epistemic closure” rhetoric.  It’s all the rage these days in the wake of Mitt Romney’s loss (keeping a large House majority and gaining in the States conveniently is ignored or belittled).

The theory goes that the “right wing” lives in a media bubble and ignores contrary information.  I already have demonstrated this is not true

But wait, questioning the epistemic closure argument means I have epistemic closure.  Drats!

The latest is by Bruce Bartlett in The American Conservative, who makes some good points about the Bush administrations mistakes in expanding government.  He practically sounds like a Tea Partier at times in discussing the fiscal and political irresponsibility of the Bush administration.

Bartlett then goes all epistemic closure on us. 

The dead give-away was the title of his article, “Revenge of the Reality-Based Community.”  When people criticizing Republicans need to start their argument by announcing that they are “reality-based,” you know an epistemic closure argument cannot be far behind:

At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.

Sure redistricting helped — that’s a result of huge gains in 2010 in the states.  Those gains continued in 2012.  That should tell you something right there.  But there also were places where Democrats massacred Republicans through redistricting, like in California.  To dismiss that Republicans held the House by a substantial margin as the result of mere gerrymandering suggests to me a bit of closure.

The issues Bartlett discusses, such as outreach to blacks and latinos, are being hotly debated in right-wing circles.

There is no epistemic closure, except to those who aren’t listening to the debate.


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legacyrepublican | November 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Quite an epistle there Prof! 😎

Bruce Bartlett left out a few things, like:

the free stuff for votes paid for with borrowed money the tax-paying 50% will be on the hook for including interest on the unpaid balance,

the liberal media – with their wholesale racist demonization of the white race and wholesale sexist demonization of the male gender (as if only conservatives are white with a 50% male component),

the glorification beyond reproach of Liberalism as a divine religion,

the Soviet-styled liberal war on the yet to be legally delineated rich,

oh, and lets not forget the cultured & groomed Hollywood rock star image of the Liberal Holy Prophet, Barack the Second. Last time we saw this was Hitler Mania which swept the Wiemar Republic.

Bartlett was more right than he was wrong. And, as usual, Republicans just want to ignore it. They’re stuck with the version the most vocal pundits lay out for them.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | November 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I read that Bartlett article on his blog a few years ago. He dusted it off and made a couple of minor changes and additions to it and republished it at The American Conservative magazine.

He has repeatedly trashed his former party and his former Republican colleagues after morphing into the Benedict Arnold of the Republican Party over six years ago. And he’s surprised the highest ranking people of the party no longer respect him enough to invite him to go for cocktails any more. Go figure.

    Brucie gets most of his attention from trashing supply-side economics. Which is Reaganomics. Which he could perhaps spell during the Reagan terms.

    He’s BIG on Bill Moyers show. Which is why I never see the man.

BannedbytheGuardian | November 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Never heard of the guy. He sounds like one of those awful people who go on that cruise.

Back on land has anyone noticed how the Democrats are flailing. They have no leaders coming up .The treasure box will have been plundered . They lost 7 millionor over 10% of their 2008 turnout.

They have been reduced to Ghettoing The Vote.

The “problem” with Republicans is not epistemic but existential — a total loss of faith in their ideas and principles (and the accompanying fear of confronting the Left over these ideas and principles). How it has morphed into these kinds of stupid agonized internal debates is a classic example of how a simple problem, through a refusal or fear or inability to face it, can accrete into something seemingly overwhelming.

All it takes is one courageous and clear-thinking leader to turn epistemic closure into exhilarating renewal. It’s that easy and simple.

    Yeah. OK. Smaller government. Fine. Excellent. I’m awaiting a National R to get out in front and say: “End Federal pot prohibition – it is a waste of money and promotes big government. I’m a small government guy. And I mean it.”

    Yackums in reply to raven. | November 27, 2012 at 6:41 am

    You couldn’t be more right about conservatives’/Republicans’ total loss of faith in their ideas and principles. The 2010 midterms and the Walker recall rebuff proved that conservative ideas, expressed confidently and unapologetically, are enormously popular, but 2012’s contestants for the most part gave up their greatest advantage before stepping foot in the arena.

    Bill Whittle, in this amazing speech, laments this phenomenon, and imagines what it might be like if they actually had the courage of their convictions. Enjoy.

      Yackums in reply to Yackums. | November 27, 2012 at 6:42 am

      While I’m on the subject, the complete works of Bill Whittle should be REQUIRED reading/viewing/listening for any serious conservative.

      MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to Yackums. | November 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Terrific speech. I enjoyed listening to that with my morning coffee. Thanks for linking.

actually MANY of us were so shocked that we were 100% RIGHT on what would happen.
and we are pissed.

NC Mountain Girl | November 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Then the new reality must be an intentionally uninformed electorate. Back in 1997 I saw a blurb in an American Enterprise Institute publication. Someone had asked Clinton voters and Dole voters to identify the candidates with their positions on the issues. The Dole voters were far more capable of correctly identifying both candidate with the platform planks. I’d love to see the same survey done with a representative sample of 2012 voters.

This election marked a complete failure of tactics by national Republican party leaders and the consultant class. Our side spent a fortune chasing a very small sliver of the population identified as likely to turnout swing voters in key states, They did this mostly by advertising in the same time honored venues with a largely economic pitch. In making that pitch they both overestimated financial ambitions and underestimated the roll fear plays in support for federal government spending in hard times.

The Democrats ran a much more savvy media campaign. They played on the fears of often socially isolated single mothers and minorities now accustomed to a government safety net. They also reached out to far more people, especially to low information voters in media outlets where there was no Republican presence at all to rebut the misinformation and offer a counter vision. If you wanted to read an article on a celebrity culture website you had to sit through the 20 second Obama ad. Ditto downloading music and games on popular free sites. Obama was also on the cable TV entertainment and sports channels favored by people who intentionally avoid the broadcast networks and the cable news channels. The Obama campaign was then able to motivate many of those who don’t pay much attention to the news to get to the polls. With many young people who are at least partially dependent upon their parents and with affluent urban singles this was done by packaging the election in terms of current lifestyle/self image rather than as a referendum on the long term economic prospects of the nation.

When the humanoids start their “argument” by saying they’re reality based you know it’s time to break out the shovel and hip waders.

Joan Of Argghh | November 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm

The closure of the mind resides in the heads of the body politic of the GOP. If one would direct the entire essay toward GOP leadership, I think it manages the right tone and proper targeting.

Okay, Professor. I now have suffered through reading Bartlett’s thing. It wasn’t about Republicans at all. This guy is grasping for something ostensibly objective, enlightened, different and relevant to say. The article really was all about Bartlett and his lack of pundicity ever since he criticized Bush.

In short, the Republicans are up against the GIMMIE (Government Is My Mother In Everything) generation. The Dems have been relentless in their “1%/2%” rhetoric, even though catastrophic tax increases against “the rich” will not even put a dent in the massive spending increases they managed to ram through and embed into the budget in Obama’s first two years.

Rush is right. We’re fighting Santa Claus, and he stole our credit card.

    PhillyGuy in reply to georgfelis. | November 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

    You know, I thought that at first. But now I actually think many of these voters have a stereotypical view of the Party. Perhaps Republicans should start working on ways to make our principles “cool.” Put Newt in charge of that. He’ll make it happen.

      NC Mountain Girl in reply to PhillyGuy. | November 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      The stereotype has gone almost entirely un-rebutted on most sitcoms and even a few TV dramas for three decades. It shows up in many popular novels, too. Indeed gratuitous Republican bashing is a staple in both the entertainment world and in academia. It is almost never actively countered at its roots. We complain among ourselves when what we need to be doing is to go among them and literally turn the other cheek.

      A theologian who was also into martial arts explained it thus. The aggressor always leads with his strongest side, which usually will land on the defender’s weak side. By offering the aggressor the other side, the defender both forces the aggressor to use the weaker side and places himself in a favorable position to counter the next blow and thus make the aggressor look rash and foolish. Specifically, the left endlessly talks of compassion but their results are always disastrous for the very people they claim to be helping. That can and should be used against them.

And then you have the Party’s total opposition to med pot despite 70% to 80% public support.

Or ask the question Charles Murray does. Why don’t Asians support Republicans. His answer: a certain very vocal part of the Party is batguano crazy.

    Willy in reply to MSimon. | November 27, 2012 at 1:05 am

    For the life of me, I can’t even imagine why marijuana would be an important issue. How one could feel passionate about legalizing it or illegalizing it is beyond me. It’s just so shallow. Must we examine the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks? Or are there bigger fish to fry?

He gets it wrong right here:

most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

Conservatism is not stupid and not unpopular if explained and adhered to correctly. Never heard of this Bartlett guy, but he is typical of the left pontificating to the right.

It’s difficult to win elections when the primary messaging sources in society come from a leftist media and leftist Hollywood/entertainment industry. Obama would have been toast if there hadn’t been a complete abdication of journalist ethics, and if they had delivered just a few of the scorching headlines they pounded Bush with over and over again – about unemployment, the wars, the economy, etc. etc.

“They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris.”

He doesn’t mention Gallup. Does he?

Or the many normally-liberal papers that SWITCHED to endorse Romney. Does he?

He does not mention M. Barone, one of the most respected (by both sides) students of American politics in this generation. Does he.

Brucie went tapioca a few decades ago, and never came back. Like some others I could mention, he thinks he’s smarter than you and I are, and he doesn’t care how he bends logic or the truth to try to prove it.

Like Maggie Thatcher said, the facts of life are conservative. Conservatives might be doing a bad job convincing their fellow countryman that their ideas are the right ones or their countryman might want to indulge in fantasies, but it doesn’t mean that there is an “epistemic closure”. In fact, it’s the liberals who are living in epistemic closure — until history will catch up.

It’s not all that surprising that conservatism doesn’t get anywhere when we’ve basically ceded academia, entertainment and journalism to the left.

And while I get scorn heaped on me every time I bring up this inconvenient fact, it nonetheless remains true that the overwhelming majority of people of consequence who do battle with the left in these fields of endeavor are from where the left lives. Can you think of anyone aside from Rush Limbaugh who makes any impact at all on the right who isn’t from a blue state?

I think epistemic closure is kind of a stupid concept, but to the extent that it has any validity, the left doesn’t suffer any less from it than the right does. The only problem is that the left suffers from it while possessing all manner of powers to assert their will, whereas Republicans by and large seem content with having things to complain about.

Bartlett is for tax increases (like fellow traitor David Stockman) but ignores the fact any new revenues will be spent on new programs, not used to reduce debt. There is empirical data that indicates this, but they choose to ignore it. I have no use for them. Give the beast more money and he only gets bigger and more greedy.

Bartlett lost me when he defended the New York Times and claimed that Paul Krugman is right. And that Daniel Frum and David Brooks are . . (wait for it) . . conservatives!!1!!!!

That’s just crazy talk!

I don’t remember a lot of discussion about gerrymandering as a source of congressional political hegemony when Democrats were controlling statehouses, except in right-wing bubbles suffering from epistemic unclosure.

I’ve been incommunicado for some time now, so I didn’t get to stick my “I told you so!” jab in.



Sumbitch couldn’t win. Worthless effing GOP Establishment…………

Let the current party die. Build from the ashes. Oh yeah, K Street won’t let that happen.


    punfundit in reply to punfundit. | November 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Oh, and whatever this Bartlett character said, don’t care. He’s just another David Frum near as I can tell. The last thing we need is advice from another Frum.


jdkchem: When the humanoids start their “argument” by saying they’re reality based you know it’s time to break out the shovel and hip waders.

It’s important to remember that the term “reality-based community” was coined by Republicans during the Bush Administration.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

It was this attitude of mind that led to the debacle in Iraq and the financial meltdown.

    Crawford in reply to Zachriel. | November 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    You actually believe that tale? Unnamed source, NYT published… it’s fiction. Clumsy fiction, flattering to its intended audience.

    The surest sign of not being in touch with reality is believing that’s the origin of “reality-based community”.

Mr. Jacobson, I’m sure you know that Democrats received more total votes than Republicans in Congressional races and that Republicans ended up with fewer seats this term. What gains by Republicans are you referring to? Further, I’m sure you know that California redistricting was controlled by citizens and not partisans from one party or the other. That massacre wasn’t the result of Democratic gerrymandering.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to slothrophth. | November 27, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Re California redistricting, Dems put up phony citizen groups to get their maps in place. Was reported on widely, see this link

    Re total national vote — Dems won by 0.8 if you aggregate Basically even and closer than presidential race. House is by District, not national vote, so focusing on national vote is irrelevant. Never said Republicans made gains in 2012, said held House strongly — lost only 6 seats after enormous gain in 2010. Part due to redistricting, part due to shift of seats to red states as result of censuse, but can’t ignore that Republicans held the House big time. That’s your epistemic closure.

    Per Larry Sabato, “It’s not uncommon to win a significantly different share of House seats than the total national vote would indicate. Back in 2008, for instance, Democrats won 53.9% of all House votes, but 59.1% of the seats.”

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to slothrophth. | November 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Look at the state level.

    I’ll summarize Barone. 25 states chose one party Republican government – meaning they chose a Republican governor and a state legislature with majority Republican control. Those states represent 53% of the national population.

    On the other side, 15 states chose a Democrat governor and a Democrat majority control of the state legislature. (Barone did not do the work to determine what portion of the national population is represented by this category or I would mention it.)

    Then there’s my home state of Missouri. We re-elected a Democrat governor but for the first time in the state’s history both legislative houses have veto proof Republican majorities. So we have a very moderate Democrat governor (who often acts like a conservative and refused to campaign or even be seen at public events with Claire McCaskill during her re-election campaign – which infuriated the state Democrat Party), but he has virtually no power aside from ceremonial perfunctory duties.

    The nation is effectively engaged in a gigantic experiment. Californians and other “blue” states have relinquished state sovereignty to public employee unions like SEIU, AFSCME, and NEA. Will the public employee unions govern better than genuine self government in the Republican states. I know who I’m betting on. We’ll see soon.

Could someone please tell me what is conservative about The American Conservative? I’ve happened upon the site a dozen times and each time I’ve been bombarded with such vitriol aimed at conservatives & conservative ideas that I’ve wondered if the site is satire.

AS other noted above, Barlett long ago went wobbly on conservative values and now sounds much more like a typical Krugmanite. But he fits right in with a party that has such titans as Lindsey Graham, McCain and Saxby Chambliss and the others who are going to genuflect to the Communist party line of raising taxes on small biz owners just like ObamaLenin.

Here’s the real problem. A friend of mine, a lifelong liberal, admitted to me that she almost voted for Romney, but that she felt that Obama had “empathy” for all the downtrodden folks such as herself. He had a broken home childhood…back-and-forth to different places with different parents and who-knows-who-else. My friend grew up with bitterly angry divorced parents, went back and forth from one to the other, and never fully got straightened out (though, to her credit, in spite of a lot of problems, managed to always work, gets some help from her mom and sister when she’s been down due to a chronic illness…

I pointed out that Obama wasn’t merely from a broken home, he was incompetent or deliberately malfeasant. My friend did not care. Empathy was her most important value, and she felt that Romney was out-of-touch, born with the silver spoon and would never be able to relate to the average person out there. She actually thought that Romney might be smarter and would fix more problems, but IT DIDN’T MATTER.

What’s the upshot? We are a country of not merely single moms (my friend is not a mom, just single and in her late 50’s, so kids are not in the picture) or dope-smoking old hippies….we have an entire country (or whatever percent…47, 51, 53, name your number) of folks who need THERAPY. Michael Savage, for all his goofiness is absolutely right. Liberalism is a MENTAL DISORDER. Libs identify with these sick individuals…and yeah, even with repubs. that lie and have no principles and are just trying to “survive” and retain their power.

Yeah, I’m making a broad thing out of the conservation with one friend, but I think it’s a valid idea. Academically challenged, ignorant kids and adults…a nation of people on anti-depressants and worrying more about the pot laws and the PC nature of…everything…than the 16 trillion and growing by millions a SECOND deficit…the inmates are running the asylum, with the main insane Cuckoo’s Nest leader of POTUS and the many Nurse Ratched’s (male and female) he surrounds himself with.

Until or unless we can start figuring out how to deal with that…and I’m only being mildly facetious, or maybe not at all…Repubs don’t stand a chance. Oh, wait, maybe by sticking to principles and yet…yet…showing how those principles DO tie in to help those in need in both the working classes and the lower income or no income classes…that’s how to turn this boat around.

Reagan had a way of doing that. He didn’t dumb things down, that’s not what I’m advocating. But he had a way of speaking and could put forth his big ideas in such a way that anyone at any level could understand what he wanted. I’m not talking about going full populist, but at least address some of the issues. Romney, for instance, I fully believe is a truly decent individual, but refused to toot his own horn, to talk about how he and yes, the Mormon religion advocates helping each other (and I’m not a Mormon). Others should have been trying to help that narrative, since it was true, that Romney was, is, a mensch, a decent human being (and Romney refused, like McCain before him, to attack Obama. Why, I have no idea, since Romney was STILL labeled a horrible racist who was going to be murdering everyone anyway.

This has nothing to do with giving in and abandoning conservative ideas and values, like Bartlett long ago did. I would argue the opposite, but it just has to be done in such a way that doesn’t insult or scare the “empathy” crowd. Lastly, my friend said that I almost swayed her…she had such grave misgivings about Obama, in fact felt he had not been a very good POTUS, but bought in to the Alinsky tactics against Romney.

We need someone who will fight…who has solid principles…who can explain complicated conservative principles to any group, from the intellectual folks to the dropped out of kindergarten crowd! We don’t have to pander to one ethnic group or another, nor women vs. men (unless it’s to allay specific fears or counteract the lies of the Left.

I heard Rubio speak from Iowa. He’s young, he makes mistakes (the GQ article) etc. Others have touted him as a Reaganite Hispanic…I don’t know about that…and I know or believe Reagan was NOT perfect, as if we’ll ever see a perfect POTUS. I’m not ready to say Rubio is “the One”, but he made a wonderful speech that I think could have wowed my empathy friend as much as it did me. Rubio laid out some nice basic ideas, clearly and in such a way as to not insult…anyone…best I could tell…and in fact, attempted and I believed succeeded in being inclusive and more about the greatness and opportunity still to be had in this country (if Obama doesn’t bring it down in the next 4 years).

[…] » The Epistemic Closure of the Epistemic Closure Pundits – Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion Sure redistricting helped — that’s a result of huge gains in 2010 in the states.  Those gains continued in 2012.  That should tell you something right there.  But there also were places where Democrats massacred Republicans through redistricting, like in California.  To dismiss that Republicans held the House by a substantial margin as the result of mere gerrymandering suggests to me a bit of closure. […]