As Election Day 2010 approaches as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation the consequences of the nation's three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.
Yet, despite the danger, the nation can't seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck to waist deep, then neck deep.
Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation's decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.
Instead of seeking paths to the firmer ground of a reality-based world, people from different parts of the political spectrum have decided to embrace unreality even more, either cynically as a way to delegitimize a political opponent or because they've simply become addicted to the crazy.
The latest manifestation of the wackiness can be found in the rise of the Tea Party, a movement of supposedly grassroots, mad-as-hell regular Americans that is subsidized by wealthy corporate donors (such as the billionaire Koch brothers) seeking to ensure deregulation of their industries and to consolidate their elite control over the political process.
The Tea Party madness is aided and abetted by a now fully formed right-wing media apparatus that can popularize any false narrative (like Islam planning to conquer Christian America as represented by the building of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero).
The Right sees an advantage in spreading even the nuttiest of smears against President Barack Obama. So you have right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich concocting a toxic brew of racist nonsense about Obama somehow channeling the anti-colonialism of his late Kenyan father.
"Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s," D'Souza wrote in Forbes. "This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."
The "factual" basis of this "analysis" apparently is that Obama entitled his touching story about his youth, Dreams of My Father, which was a book that focused on the absence of his father from his life.
In a less crazy time, one might have expected D'Souza's claptrap to be denounced by politicians across the political spectrum, but that is not the time we live in.
Instead, Gingrich, a leading figure in the Republican Party and a potential candidate for president in 2012, praised D'Souza's racist psycho-babble as the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama," adding that D'Souza unlocked the mystery of who Obama is by addressing his "Kenyan, anticolonial behavior."
Gingrich also pretended that he and D'Souza were the truth-tellers here, not just propagandists spreading a smear. Gingrich said they simply were unmasking Obama who has "played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president."
How It Happened
But how did the United States of America get here? How could the most powerful nation on earth with a sophisticated media that is constitutionally protected from government censorship have stumbled into today's dreary place filled with such up-is-down commentary?
As a journalist in Washington since 1977, I have had a front-row seat to this sad devolution of American reason. As the process advanced, I have at times felt like a Cassandra trying to warn others about the risks of abandoning fact and rationality in favor of propaganda of whatever stripe.