Saturday, June 8, 2013

The GOP and Cognitive Dissonance

The Concise Encyclopedia explains cognitive dissonance as

Mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The concept was introduced by the psychologist Leon Festinger (1919–89) in the late 1950s. He and later researchers showed that, when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists. Cognitive dissonance is nonetheless considered an explanation for attitude change.

This is exactly what South Dakota John Thune and Kristi Noem seem to be experiencing.  The Argus Leader reports today that despite calling repeated times for the complete doing away of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Thune and Representative Kristi Noem filed for money for the Community Health Center of the Black Hills (Johnson also supported the application but he has always supported the ACA) for a five million dollar grant provided through a provision in the ACA.

Noem then proudly points to the fact that she has voted to repeal the ACA 40 TIMES!  Noem is quoted as saying, “There’s been a few exceptions, but if South Dakota organizations do seek my support on something, I always try to ask that that agency give them their full and fair consideration,...”   This seems to meet the basic definition of cognitive dissonance to me. She advocates for a group and then works to end their source of funding that she had asked for.  This is just one example of many from Kristi.  From claiming to end government reliance and then advocating  for a stronger farm bill to ending the game of picking winners and losers and then being a strong advocate for ethanol subsidies and ending subsidies for big oil.

Thune is also not exempt.  He too has called the end of the ACA which would have ended the funding that he was requesting.  Thune supported the idea of a sequester, but doesn't believe that saving money on military budget cuts that might impact Ellsworth Air Force base are wrong.  He thinks government spending is damaging to the country, but between 2008-2010 requested over 526 million dollars in earmarks.  The only way to justify action like this is to embrace cognitive dissonance.  I think the comments reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December of 2010 show the level of cognitive dissonance.

"Senator Thune, I was just looking at the list of earmark requests that you requested this year and it adds up to over a hundred million dollars," said another reporter, asking the South Dakota Republican - who has been talked about as a Presidential hopeful - if he would strike those earmarks.

"I support those projects, but I don't support this bill," Thune answered.

Time for another question.

"Going through this bill, there is earmark after earmark from the both of you, millions of dollars in earmarks," asked another scribe with a jab.  

"Why do you have any credibility on this?"

"Because we're going to vote against the bill," answered Cornyn.

"It appears like you're saying one thing and doing another," another reporter pressed.

"Not at all," said Cornyn, as Thune also stepped in to defend their stance on the Omnibus.

I know that this is not a Republican only problem, but it seems to happen much more on the right side of the world.

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