DEVELOPING STORY

SOON: Comedian Bill Cosby to be sentenced

Opinion: Has reality become an outmoded concept?


According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 83 percent of Americans say that it’s important that the president be loyal to his or her spouse. Among Republicans, it’s even higher, with 86 percent saying that it’s important that the president be faithful in marriage.

The next question?

“Do you think President Trump has been loyal to his wife throughout his marriage, or don’t you think so?”

Just 14 percent of Republicans were willing to admit that Trump has not been faithful.

This finding comes days after Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence. It also comes after widespread coverage of Trump’s nine-month affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal, including publication of McDougal’s handwritten journal detailing the 2006 affair as it occurred.

In short, the evidence of Trump’s repeated infidelity is overwhelming. Yet only 14 percent of Republican voters can bring themselves to acknowledge it.

Let me be clear: On my personal list of Top 20 reasons that Trump should never be president, his marital infidelity doesn’t make honorable mention. But it does fascinate me to see the mental and moral contortions that Trump supporters will perform in order to keep believing what they need to believe.

It’s far from the only example. Historically, Republicans have been strongly supportive of the FBI; in a Reuters poll three years ago, 84 percent of GOP voters said they viewed the agency favorably. In more recent polls, however, that support has collapsed as Trump forces his followers to pick a side — him, or those liberals in federal law enforcement.

Likewise, Republicans historically have been very suspicious of Vladimir Putin and Russia, but loyalty to Trump has again altered those attitudes. The percentage of Republicans who express confidence in Putin has doubled in the last two years.

This isn’t just some polling curiosity; it has potentially grave consequences for how this country operates. If Republicans refuse to accept overwhelming evidence of Trump’s repeated marital infidelity, when the political cost of admitting that truth is relatively low, how will they respond if Robert Mueller comes back with evidence that the Trump campaign colluded or cooperated with Russia? The stakes there will be enormous, up to and including possible impeachment. What are the chances of that finding being given a fair, honest and reality-based hearing?

It’s a lot lower than 14 percent, I’m afraid.

We’re also wrestling with how best to combat the problem of fake news. Russia’s information war on the U.S. population is getting a lot of attention, and social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook are under pressure to cull fake news out of their feeds, either by human intervention or by changing the algorithms that determine which social-media posts get attention.

But the problem isn’t Facebook algorithms. It’s our own. When your belief system is contradicted by reality — and it happens to us all, every day — you alter your belief system to account for that reality. That’s really the basis of rational thought. But in the political world, people are increasingly taking the opposite course.

When their belief system and reality are in conflict, their belief system is set in concrete and instead they try to adjust reality. They aren’t merely susceptible to fake news; they actively seek and embrace it. And as long as there are millions of people demanding to be fed fake news, there will be people eager to supply it.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: University corruption

I’m thankful that increasing attention is being paid to the dire state of higher education in our country. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has just published “The Diversity Delusion.” Its subtitle captures much of the book’s content: “How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine...
READERS WRITE: SEPT. 25

Liberals’ policies, not guns, to blame for gun ‘crisis’ A recent letter asserted, “No easy solution for U.S. firearms crisis” (Readers Write, Sept. 9). On the contrary, we have a behavior crisis. In decades past, firearms were more easily available to the public than presently. Not once did the six guns in my room fire...
Opinion: Is Senate committee equipped to grasp Kavanaugh allegations?

For all their well-learned politesse, the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have scarcely been able to conceal their determination to get Christine Blasey Ford out of their hair. Ford is the last obstacle to confirming conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. And she’s a formidable one. She has alleged...
Opinion: The burden of proof for Kavanaugh

Last week, I wrote a column taking the view that conservatives supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court because they hope he will overturn Roe v. Wade should be willing to encourage his withdrawal if his accuser testifies credibly against him and the cloud over his nomination can’t be expeditiously cleared up. Even if...
Opinion: What the Times misses about poverty

It’s an affecting story. Matthew Desmond, writing in The New York Times Magazine, profiles Vanessa Solivan, a poor single mother raising three children. Vanessa works as a home health aide, yet she and her three adolescent children are often reduced to sleeping in her car, a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica. In the morning, she takes her two daughters...
More Stories