Ok, I’m going to lay off Orrin Hatch for now, unless there’s some other development in the case. I just wanted to post one last comment about my little tirade of the past few weeks. As plain spoken (i.e., “mean”) as I have been about Hatch’s reasoning about climate change, I still think of him as a decent guy. Consider what Ed Kilgore had to say about him in a New Republic article about conservative senators who are in the Tea Party’s crosshairs for the 2012 election.
Utah’s Orrin Hatch was considered a right-wing zealot when he came to the Senate in 1976. Six terms later, conservatives tend to think of Hatch as a Fifth Columnist always ready to sell out “The Cause” if it means a chance to co-sponsor legislation with leading Democrats (his history of collaboration with Ted Kennedy remains a major sore point). Since it’s a taste for bipartisanship that sank Hatch’s Utah colleague Bob Bennett earlier this year, he has reason to worry, particularly given his state’s convention-based nominating process, which gives conservative activists extraordinary power (a poll of delegates to the April 2010 state convention that dumped Bennett showed only 19 percent favoring a seventh term for Hatch). Hatch is also pushing 80 years old, and could face an especially tough challenge from Congressman Jason Chaffetz. But unlike the rest of the names on the bulls-eye list, Hatch may still be able to defend himself by drawing upon his old, semi-dormant relationship with Utah’s hard right.
In my book, any conservative Republican politician who knows the meaning of the word “compromise,” nowadays, is a keeper. I’ve voted for Hatch twice, and I would vote for him again. But if he’s such a good guy, what’s with his web page on climate change?
It looks to me like he did something that most other people (including me) do all the time. That is, if we are given information that seems to fit well with everything else we think we know, we don’t usually bother checking on that information very rigorously (or at all). It’s called “confirmation bias.”
Let’s face it–nobody has time to rigorously check into everything they hear–but when something really important is at stake, people (especially elected officials) need to take a little more time to examine things. If they don’t bother to do this, it isn’t easy to change their minds. According to modern theories of conceptual change, if anything is going to happen, these people need to be confronted with “anomalous data,” i.e., hit over the head with data that doesn’t fit easily with their preconceived notions.
That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish, here. Whether I could have done it more politely, or not, I’m hoping that Sen. Hatch will see that many of the things he’s been told about climate change are either flatly wrong, strongly debated among specialists, or somewhat irrelevant. I’m hoping he will have a flash of insight in which he sees clearly that some of his preconceived notions might not be 100% correct. I think a conservative Republican who became a close friend of Ted Kennedy could probably manage that.