Some day, no doubt, historians will ask how the most powerful country in the world could seriously debate whether the president of the United States was a Muslim, a socialist, or foreign-born, whether global warming was real, and whether discredited policies of austerity that failed to address the problems of the Great Depression should now be embraced to address the problems of the Great Recession. Historians will scratch their heads not over Americans having arguments but over the vehement hostility to reason and the shameful ignorance of fact, and they will be forced to conclude that a large swath of America in the early 21st century was, to be blunt, delusional.
Since so much of this comes from right-wing extremists, this group typically takes the brunt of the blame for denying reality. But right-wing know-nothingism could not have taken hold had it not been for another component of American life — one that that occasionally operates on the left as well as the right — the reverence for opinion above everything else. In America today, opinion is the new fact.