The GOP's ride back to reality will speed up with every presidential election they lose
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The GOP's ride back to reality will speed up with every presidential election they lose

Senator Moynihan's famous line about opinion vs. facts had power when MSNBC was born — and still has power now as Trump's influence wanes.
Illustration of MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell with Daniel Patrick Moynihan
“You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” — Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan MSNBC; Getty Images

Help us celebrate MSNBC’s first 25 years by joining us every day for 25 days as our anchors, hosts, and correspondents share their thoughts on where we've been — and where we’re going.

“You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” That statement had power when Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan would say it in Senate Finance Committee hearings in the early 1990s. The hearing witness or senator who got caught by the chairman misstating facts would quickly adjust course. Those words still had power in 1996 when MSNBC was born and Senator Moynihan was then in the minority on the Republican-controlled committee and the Republican Majority Leader of the Senate, Bob Dole, who was also a member of the Finance Committee, was running for president.

When I worked for Senator Moynihan he used to say, “There’s no sense getting involved in an issue if you’re not going to stay at it for 30 years.”

Senator Moynihan used his now famous line about opinion vs. facts maybe once — or at most twice — a year when someone drifted away from reality. He never said it to Bob Dole during the 1996 presidential campaign, because the Dole campaign against President Bill Clinton was about differing opinions more than differing facts. If Senator Moynihan were still with us, he would be saying his famous line all day every day. That’s how far the Republican Party has drifted from reality in the last 25 years.

The challenge of the next 25 years in governing is to bring the Republican Party back to reality. When I worked for Senator Moynihan he used to say, “There’s no sense getting involved in an issue if you’re not going to stay at it for 30 years.” So, forgive me if I think in long time frames.

Donald Trump will have a voice in our politics for about the next five years, at most, an ever-weakening voice thanks to his role as defendant in civil and possible criminal cases. President Joe Biden is more popular now than Trump ever was because of the reality-based way Biden governs. Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to four consecutive terms as president by governing the way Biden is now. Term limits now prevent a four-term president but four consecutive terms of Democratic presidents governing in the FDR-Biden reality-based mode is possible, especially if Republicans remain committed to Trumpian big lies. The ride back to reality for Republicans will speed up with every presidential election they lose. We can hope it doesn’t take 25 years.