Why do conservatives have such a hard time with hypothetical questions? The Bush Admin uses the “Can’t answer hypothetical questions” as one of many excuses to avoid answering questions they don’t like, as if it would be unethical to tell people your plans (and god forbid if you try using one as a follow-up question). But even regular conservatives have a hard time with them. If you ask a “what if” type question, they will inevitably insist that things aren’t that way, and revert back to their standard line.
If you ask: “What if global warming is real?”
The answer is: “Global warming is not real.”
They’ve received their marching orders and nothing else matters.
And I think the answer is simple: Because it requires them to answer questions based on a separate set of facts than the ones they need to believe in. Their system is entirely dependent on the idea that all facts line-up exactly as they need them to, and so they refuse to even consider alternatives. For them, we have to prove beyond any shadow of criticism that our facts are real before they’ll even contemplate any of them. Outside of that, we’re merely being delusional for not admitting the exact set of facts that they need to believe on any particular idea.
Of course Saddam had WMD’s and wanted to give them to terrorists. Of course removing Saddam and installing democracy is the best course of action. Of course the invasion will go well. And so they don’t consider what might have happened if they were wrong, and consider us to be traitors for not demanding the same outcome that they were screaming for. After all, if their facts were correct, we really are idiot traitors for not agreeing with them. If they were correct.
And even once hindsight shows that they were wrong, they still refuse to contemplate the existence of an alternate set of facts. To them, it wasn’t their facts that were wrong. It wasn’t their theories or their conclusions. It was some outside influence that was impossible to have deduced, and shouldn’t have been avoided. And if things are bad for us now, they would only have been worse had we not invaded. Or had we not cut taxes repeatedly. Or had Bush excused himself from reading about a pet goat to learn more about the biggest terrorist attack in American history. Or anything. No matter what mistake a conservative makes, it would always have been worse had they not made it.
For conservatives, the facts are already settled and agreed upon by everyone. The only question is whether you’re honorable enough to accept their implications, or whether it’s cowardice, treason, or both that’s causing you to ignore them. And so by mentioning hypothetical facts that aren’t established in their minds, they see you as delusional or that you’re just trying to muddy the issues.
It’s ok to torture terrorists because we know that they’re terrorists and that they’re withholding information from us that can only be obtained by torture. And it’s ok to wiretap phones without warrants because we know who the bad guys are and we know the Bush Admin would never abuse them. And it’s ok to plunge headfirst in whatever dangerous policy they want, because they already know all the relevant facts, and have foreseen the outcome. To them, hesitation is the enemy, not ignorance. So there’s no need to consider anything else or muck around in fictional facts.
But life isn’t like that. If you plug-in different facts, you must get different answers. And they don’t want to imagine the possibility of different answers, because it undermines everything they say. Their conclusions are dependent upon specific facts being absolutely correct, so they just ignore the alternatives.
If the answer they need is 4, then the facts must be 2+2. It’s that simple. And anything else is simply unfathomable. They might be willing to accept 1+3, but only if it comes from an established rightwing source with impeccable credentials. And even then, only if it turns out that Ted Kennedy likes the number 2. They need a good reason to waste time rethinking any facts, but that damn drunk Ted Kennedy ruins everything.