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There's been a lot of talk lately about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. But there's another number that's at least as important in American political discourse these days. That number is the "crazification factor": 27 percent.
The crazification factor was first noticed by, of all people, television writer John Rogers. He first wrote about it as far back as 2005 on his blog, titled "Kung Fu Monkey." He'd observed the 2004 Illinois Senate election, in which Barack Obama ran against Alan Keyes. Keyes, as you may remember, was trotted in from out of state a mere 86 days before the election after the campaign of the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, imploded because of a bizarre sex scandal.
Keyes was clearly a sacrificial lamb, a guy no one expected to win; not only did he have no base in Illinois, but he was also, as Rogers put it, "plainly, obviously, completely crazy ... head-trauma crazy."Both candidates were black, so race wasn't a factor. And yet, Rogers noted, Keyes still got 27 percent of the vote in Illinois.
"They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever, ahead of rational judgment," he said. "Even 5 percent of Democrats voted for him. That's crazy behavior. I think you have to assume a 27 percent crazification factor in any population."
It seemed like a joke to me at first. But then I noticed that that 27 percent figure kept cropping up more and more, in poll after poll. Give or take a couple of percentage points, pollsters often find about 27 percent of Americans who believe in things that are against their own self-interest or that are just mind-bendingly ridiculous.
For instance, in the darkest days of the 2008 economic meltdown, after the bankruptcy of Lehmann Brothers, the federal bailout of AIG and the collapse of Merrill Lynch, approval ratings for President George W. Bush were still at 27 percent, and hovered around that figure for quite some time before taking their final nosedive.
(Yes, He Who Must Not Be Named, and not Barack Obama, was president when the economy tanked, with his beloved tax cuts firmly in place, something you probably won't learn from watching Fox News.)
After Sarah Palin flamed out in spectacular fashion and took John McCain's presidential campaign into the ground with her, 27 percent of people surveyed in one poll still thought she would have made a good president.
A poll in January of this year on the subject of gridlock in Congress found that 60 percent of those polled believed that President Obama was trying to work with Republicans; 27 percent believed that Republicans in Congress were trying to do the same. In January, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 27 percent of people still supported the tea party.
Give a couple of points margin for error, and crazification becomes more obvious. After the 2008 election, 26 percent of those polled believed that it had been stolen for Barack Obama by ACORN, even though there wasn't evidence of a single fraudulent vote actually being cast as a result of a few registration workers boosting their paychecks by signing up nonexistent voters. (No, Mickey Mouse did not try to vote, something you probably won't learn from listening to Rush Limbaugh.)
During the health care debate, when polled as to what kind of reform bill should pass, 26 percent of respondents told a CBS poll "no bill at all."
Note well: We aren't talking about people who simply don't agree with the administration. That figure is, of course, higher than 27 percent. We're talking about people who do so for reasons that are completely and incurably crazy, people wedded to "facts" that simply aren't true and opinions with no support in reality.
They're immune to persuasion. They're aided by right-wing media outlets that reject the idea of objective facts and objective proof; any evidence you care to provide that does not fit their narrative is, to them, the product of "bias" or an "agenda," no matter how unimpeachable the source. That's one of the hallmarks of true delusional thinking: It's immune to reality, and so are the 27 percenters.
So what can you do? Well, if you're one of those people who roll their eyes at the idea that President Obama is going to send federal agents to check on your light bulbs, or who shake your heads in disbelief when people, after all this time, still put up billboards and bumper stickers asking "Where's the Birth Certificate?" - then you need to get out and vote.
Because the crazies surely will.