Oppositional Politics in the Extreme.

Environmentalists have gotten very frustrated with the increase in climate denial among Republicans in recent years, and one of the most frustrating things is that as scientists become nearly unanimous about it and real-world evidence increases, Republicans become more resistant to the facts. Why? It's Al Gore's fault. Sort of. You see, when Gore became the face of concern about climate change, Republicans in increasing numbers decided that whatever Gore was for, they just had to be against. As Matthew Kahn says, "An unintended consequence of liberals embracing carbon mitigation and turning it into a moral issue is that there has been active defiance among Republicans."

I'm beginning to think that this dynamic -- Republicans deciding that whatever Democrats are for is evil, evil, evil, and must therefore be opposed with every ounce of strength they can muster -- is becoming one of, if not the most important driving forces in American politics. Why is the individual health insurance mandate, which started as a Republican idea, now a threat to liberty so horrific it would make James Madison's head explode? Because it became part of Barack Obama's health-reform plan. Why is cap and trade, originally a Republican idea to use market forces instead of government mandates to reduce pollution, a despicable assault on everything we hold dear? Because Democrats embraced it, thinking it was a way they could get some Republicans to come along. Why is net neutrality, which ensures an even playing field for everyone on the Internet, a nightmare of government overreach? Because Democrats like it.

In none of these cases does the Republican position grow from obvious conservative principles. It's just that when Democrats warm to some policy solution, they're not just going to oppose it, they're going to oppose it like it was vomited from the mouth of Satan himself. In the world of the Tea Party and the conservative media, Democrats are not just wrong but evil; therefore their goals are evil; therefore every policy they support must be evil. Non-crazy Republicans may not actually believe this, but they obviously feel they have no choice but to go along with the prevailing conservative zeitgeist.

What do you do about this? I'm not sure, but it sure makes it hard to have a reasonable debate about policy.