It was almost 20 years ago, that Republican operative Karl Rove invented the term “reality-based community” — pretty sure it was Rove, though he never owned up to it. He was using it to describe people like reporters, Congressional committee members and others who were not fully on board with then-President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq as a retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, which were carried out almost entirely by Saudi Arabians.

“We’re an empire now,” the anonymous White House staffer told journalist David Suskind for New York Times Magazine in 2004. “We create our own reality.”

The GOP’s alternate reality is a gangly teenager now, nourished by Birthers who insisted that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; mentored by the tea party, which pretended to get mad about taxes; turned out by head Birther Donald Trump, a man who might actually prefer to tell a lie, even when the truth would do.

It’s fully populated now, this alternate reality, its adherents completely spun into thinking that ivermectin is superior to a vaccination, that a Confederate statue belongs outside a courthouse or on a college campus, that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and it was stolen from him, that the Jan. 6 insurrection was just tourists and antifa, among other atrocious lies.

The biggest drawback to this other reality is that actual reality keeps rearing its head.

Parents in Guilford County protesting critical race theory in our schools lost a lot of support when people learned that CRT is not part of any K-12 syllabus, anywhere.

Pundits who kept referring to “Joe Biden’s failing economy” now must contend with yet another positive jobs report — more than half a million in October — and a surging stock market: the S&P is more than 1,000 points higher than it was when Trump left office.

And then there’s this pandemic, which in the right-wing echo chamber is just a hoax designed to make us give up our freedoms. COVID doesn’t exist outside the reality-based community — unless you look at a map: Marketwatch reported last week that since June COVID has killed 47 out of every 100,000 people in counties that went 70 percent or more for Trump; in counties where Trump got less than a third of the vote, it’s about 10 out of every 100,000.

That’s the thing about reality — the real reality: It doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not. It’s happening anyway.

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