27 defines delusional as: “1. having false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions; 2. Psychiatry. maintaining fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts, usually as a result of mental illness” Now I am no psychiatrist but Tea Partiers, Republicans and lately Ted Cruz have recently demonstrated delusional thinking in either sense 1 or 2. I know they are politicians and they are trying to win votes among an electorate many of whom share their delusional thoughts, but their arguments are no less delusional for being  a part of a performance. I was reminded of this while reading this article on the site about Rep. Kevin Cramer R-ND. The article says “who last week made headlines after invoking a Biblical quote to slam the impoverished. Cramer was responding to constituent (and probable Satanist) who opposed his calls to drastically cut food stamps for the young, elderly, and poor. … Cramer’s overall point is that the poor don’t want to work, and thus, need to be kicked off of aid for their own good. The idea that the poor don’t want to work is a long perpetuated falsehood from Cramer’s ilk. To wit, in an op-ed posted on his site, Cramer echoed the “We cut your aid to help you!” sentiment by asserting, “Our reforms to food stamps also address the larger benefits of work and its value to the human spirit.”

What makes this demonstrably wrong? As Paul Krugman argued in the New York Times in answer to a similar statement by Sen. Paul Ryan “last year, average food stamp benefits were $4.45 a day. Also, about those “able-bodied people”: almost two-thirds of SNAP beneficiaries are children, the elderly or the disabled, and most of the rest are adults with children.” The caricature of a poor person in these beliefs does not describe any poor person who I have ever met. On what evidence do they base their picture of the poor? What makes this delusional? Ryan, Cramer and the others should, could, or do know these facts but “maintain fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts.” Cramer even used the New Testament to support his beliefs though ignoring that Jesus feeding the poor part.

I was having a conversation about such delusional realities the other day and the other person asked the “emperor has no clothes” question.  What is wrong with living in a delusional reality?  If one accepts that there is no usable objective reality all we have left are competing relative realities. If some of those competing realities are delusional, so what? He said the question is not how much your delusion corresponds to reality but how well you are able to live in your delusion. It would be narcissistic to judge somebody’s delusion by how much it differs from my subjective reality. On what basis should you judge someone else’s delusional reality?

One method would be to judge whether one of its consequences is to harm other people. Take the D.C. Navy Yard shooter.  His delusional reality led him to take the lives of innocent people as in most mass shootings. If terrorists hold a delusional belief that leads to a suicide bombing or an attack on the World Trade Center, I think that’s enough to condemn the delusion. It is clear that the decision to cut food stamps (the SNAP program) is one that will ultimately harm people and so I condemn it.

For a second method I am not willing to give up on distance from reality. I can’t help thinking that eventually there will be a cost for denying a reality, even a subjective reality, that conflicts with one’s delusional reality. If you are a politician who believes that the electorate wants your delusion when it really doesn’t, you will be voted out of office. They may indeed hold subjective, delusional or at least different realities, but if it is not the one you are preaching then you will lose. If you try to cross a chasm on a delusional bridge you are going to fall. It has not been shown that enough of the electorate does not support this view to not elect politicians who do.  To a large extent those in the electorate who share this view, ignore this view, or do not vote, have been the enablers of it.

If we do not remove from Congress this and similar delusional views as well as those who hold them, we will continue to have Congressional gridlock, silly things like Cruz’s faux filibuster of a bill he favors (please don’t get me started on this) and attacks on the poor, women’s right to choose, gay civil rights and the middle class. Delusional realities especially when held by members of Congress can lead to tragedy as much as delusional realities held by people with guns.

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