Cognitive Dissonance and the Republican Denial of Reality

paulryan-1There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t walk away from reading some of the comments I get on Forward Progressives  or Right Off A Cliff and wonder to myself, “What must reality be like on whatever planet Republicans seem to live on?”

Because it damn sure isn’t the same planet, or in the same reality, where I live.

These are the people who claim to be the party for “fiscal responsibility,” yet haven’t had a president from their own party balance the budget since President Eisenhower who served over a half-century ago.  Hell, Ronald Reagan (the man many of them champion as the epitome of conservatism) drastically grew our deficits and our national debt during his time in the White House.

Tell me again how that’s being “fiscally responsible?”  I still don’t get that.

These are also the people who call themselves “Christians” while condemning the poor, vilifying the needy then supporting policies that perpetuate greed and selfishness.  All things which are direct contradictions to the values for which Jesus Christ lived and ultimately died for.  Yet millions of these people still continue to believe themselves to be “Christians” basically because they oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and attend church frequently.  Two things which Jesus Christ never even spoke about, and church being something he did warn people to be wary of as often times people speak of God to benefit their own selfish ambitions.

And don’t even get me started on their stance as the party for “small government.”  They love government.  They constantly support big government when it benefits something they support or oppose.  They only really oppose government when it goes against their ideological beliefs.

Now we have this government shutdown, where somewhere in the delusional minds of Republicans they believe they’ve been given some kind of mandate that allows them to shut down our government in a pointless attempt to stop “Obamacare.”

Never mind the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected or that Democrats were given more seats in both the House and the Senate — somehow, Republicans think the “American people have spoken” and have given them a mandate.

Well, the American people did speak.  They re-elected the man who signed the health care bill into law and gave more seats back to the party which supports the law.

Then as John Boehner sits there, refusing to let the House vote on a clean version of the Senate’s resolution which would reopen the government (he’s simply saying there aren’t enough votes—though refuses to prove it) they still blame the shutdown on President Obama and Democrats.

Yet they really can’t answer how it’s their fault if Boehner won’t let the House vote.

But none of this really matters to Republicans, and there’s an easy answer as to why.  See, most of them suffer from what’s known as cognitive dissonance.  To put it simply, cognitive dissonance is the brain’s inability to handle two conflicting realities, so it creates an alternate one which often defies actual reality.

The first time I heard this term was in reference to abusive relationships and how individuals somehow convince themselves that abuse equates to love.  While to an outsider the abusive behavior is a complete contradiction to love, the person being abused creates some alternative form of reality in their minds where they deserve the abuse.  They feel it’s justified.  They love the person abusing them, want to believe that they love them back, but the abuse completely contradicts these feelings.  Therefore, their mind simply creates some delusional reality where “abuse” and “love” seemingly go together.

That’s how I view most Republicans.  What they want to be real doesn’t correspond to what is real, therefore instead of facing the stark reality that their whole political ideology is wrong, they’ve simply concocted some alternate form of reality where facts, science and history don’t matter.

They’ll scream at the top of their lungs that “Obama is the worst president in history!” yet can’t tell you any factual reasons why.  Sure, they can spout off a bunch of right-wing talking points taken directly from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, but they can’t actually recite much of anything factual.

Many will stare you straight in the face and tell you that President Obama made the economy worse, while ignoring the fact we’ve created around 7 million jobs in the last 3 1/2 years.

Republicans will blast President Obama for his spending, while ignoring the fact that year to year deficits have been reduced by their largest margins since WWII.

They’ll talk about how “Obamacare” is a failure, yet can’t list 5 factual statements about the health care law.

Patriotism is a word they often use, just before they talk of secession whenever they don’t get their way.

They’re simply suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance.  The reality they wished existed doesn’t, therefore they’ve simply created an alternate reality where their rhetoric makes sense.


  • You’re fiscally conservative—while running up giant deficits.
  • You’re for small government—except all the times when you want government to support your side of the argument.
  • You’re a patriot—while talking of secession and revolution whenever the Constitution doesn’t support your ideology.
  • You’re for the Constitution—yet that same Constitution rarely supports your policies.
  • You’re against the government shutdown—even though many members of your party had been calling for one.
  • You’re a Christian—while supporting policies which contradict the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • You’re for the middle class—by supporting policies which screw them over for the benefit of the rich.
  • You’re against government programs—while living off government programs.
  • You’re against people on welfare—while you live in a state that takes in more federal dollars than it pays out.

The list could honestly go on and on.  The absolute hypocrisy within the Republican party is rampant and seemingly endless.

And the simple explanation is that many of then suffer from cognitive dissonance.  What they want to be real isn’t, therefore the only way their brains can handle such conflicting events is by creating a version of “reality” that doesn’t make sense or exist.

Which is exactly what many of them have done.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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