Wikipedia tells us that
The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse.
The term is named after American policy analyst Joseph Overton, who stated that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. According to Overton, the window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time.
That leads to a question: what happens when what is considered “mainstream” in the bubble occupied by people on the political Right is wildly at variance with what is “mainstream opinion” in the rest of America?
Most Americans find assertions about deep-state elites running the world while drinking the blood of young children to be unlikely, to put it mildly, but on the MAGA right, a significant number of QAnon folks actually believe those things. Fervently. A troubling number of MAGA “warriors” believe Jews and Blacks are trying to “replace” White Christian Americans. An even larger percentage has fully bought in to Trump’s Big Lie, despite overwhelming evidence that has led more rational Americans to find it preposterous.
I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of incompatible Overton Windows until I came across a report by ProPublica about the Right’s effort to brand The League of Women Voters as a leftwing–probably “woke”– organization.
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has been facing a nationwide backlash after decades of going about its business of surveying candidates, registering voters, hosting debates and lobbying for its causes with little fuss.
ProPublica reported in August how the volatile political climate has caught up with the league, with conservatives increasingly portraying it as a decidedly liberal entity. Since that story was published, we’ve seen candidates reject invitations to debate and try to undermine the league’s work in registering new voters. In September in Illinois, then-Lake County Board member Dick Barr, a Republican, publicly apologized for a Facebook post in which he called the league “partisan hags.”
This week, the group found itself once again in the middle of a political controversy. This time it was in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has sought to reshape a wide range of discourse, including by making it easier for public officials to sue for defamation and restricting discussions of systemic racism in workplace trainings. The league revealed that it had been denied permission by the Florida Department of Management Services to hold an outdoor rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee under a new DeSantis administration rule requiring groups to first get sponsorship from a sympathetic state agency.
The League’s Florida president was asked about the “increasingly difficult environment” occupied by the 103-year old league, due to positions that it has long championed– positions that used to be seen as nonpartisan, and that have historically been considered entirely “mainstream” by both Republicans and Democrats.
As she noted, the League promotes civic discourse, freedom of academic thought, and ready access to the ballot box. It has never supported or opposed any political party or candidate. Which raises a question: when, exactly, did those positions make the organization “leftwing”?
I think I know.
The website of the Indiana League opens with the following statement:.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan civic organization
that encourages informed and active participation in government,
works to increase understanding of major public policy issues,
and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
There’s the evidence! Talk about an admission of “wokeness”! “Informed” participation? “Understanding” of major policy issues? Those goals are clearly part of the liberal-left effort to encourage knowledge and education (and–gasp!– maybe even respect for science and fact…).
Woke, woke, woke!
The League became Leftwing when “education is dangerous” became an article of faith on the Right– when some 25% of the American public decided that teaching really is a subversive activity, that learning accurate American history is a commie conspiracy, that letting Black people vote– and for that matter, entertaining the very concept of “inclusion”–are signs of the Beast, or at the very least, anti-American.
How long have demonstrably untrue (and arguably insane) ideas been embraced as “mainstream” in the bubble inhabited by Fox “News” viewers, MAGA warriors and Christian Nationalists?
And more consequentially, how do we repair a breach between irreconcilable world-views? How do we penetrate the information bubble that insulates a troubling number of our fellow Americans from reality– and produces a separate, manifestly delusional, Overton Window?