By Jason Taylor
No one promised the American experiment would always improve. As the anti-intellectual, anti-science population grows and education falters, our country can easily reverse course. With the election of such a retrograde con man, we may be in an unstoppable decline.
For almost 30 years, millions of conservatives have subjected themselves daily to the brainwashing rants of Rush Limbaugh and others of his ilk. Add Fox “News” to this mix and Americans can watch and hear right-wing lies, half-truths and “alternative facts” 24/7. As an avid conservative recently told me, “Rush tells me what to think so I don’t have to worry about it.”
Yale professor of history, Timothy Snyder, writes in his important book, “On Tyranny” that we must:
“Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”
The biggest wallets of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, and others have indeed purchased the allegiance of millions of Americans. I’m beginning to think the Republicans won’t care what Mueller finds because, in the end, they may choose to do nothing. This is the same party that, before Trump, stonewalled Obama’s Supreme Court nomination for a year. Anything is possible.
“Last week a new Pew Research Center poll showed that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now believes that colleges and universities — the flash point of our current culture wars — have a negative effect on the country.”
There is nothing surprising about the outcome of this poll. Authoritarian leaders and those willing to be led by them–and the Republican Party has a surplus of both–feel threatened by complexity, ambiguity and “Others.”
They might feel differently when a whole new generation of Republican kids doesn’t have the skills required to keep the country, and the stock market, running. There is only so far you can take fake news — since the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, I think you’re going to want your kids to have some set of common understanding about the world.
But as for how this all came to be, ponder this: last night I heard for the very first time an expert on Russian goals and tactics who served in the state department for various administrations. This man reported that Russia has been busy seeding the sites that came out most strongly for Trump, that in effect allowed someone of his ilk to get elected.
The media all presume that Russia hacked our elections, but apparently, they’ve been mucking with right-wing think tanks and publications for a full two decades before 2016, priming the intellectual pump to not only accept but actually push forward all sorts of alternate versions of realities. Yes, Trump had help from Russia, but this help started more than 20 years ago.
Denial of facts and belief in fantasies has become a key part of the GOP street gang (masquerading as a political party) world view of the world for over 10 years. This is coupled with the disappearance of so-called moderate Republicans from elective office in Washington. They believe in nothing except money and power — and even more money and more power. They absolutely do not care about the average American or the long term future of the United States.
Clinton and Obama hatred grew to the point where right wing extremists abandoned ethics, morality, truth, and loyalty to true democratic principles. No lie, no method is off the table in service of this extreme agenda. Collude with the Russians? No problem — the end justifies the means.
History teaches us that people can be herded into thinking almost anything when frightened. The witch burning in medieval times is an example. The German people’s embrace of Hitler and his Nazis is an other. When scared, otherwise normal people will search out a savior and try to find a scapegoat.
Those of us who thought this couldn’t happen in our modern society have been proven wrong. As a more educated and well-informed population tended to abandon Religion and Conservative values, the Right, starting with Reagan and his “Government is the problem” mantra invented new bogeymen and played to all the peoples’ fears in order to corral them in their tent even when it was against their own interests. They also attacked critical thinking and now, Colleges and Universities where all those dangerous lefties come from. It’s quite a success and as long as the GOP keeps benefiting from this hallucination, it’s not about to stop.
Think about it for a moment. We are living in a world where Donald Trump is actually President. Just one year ago, that was deemed so outlandish as to be absolutely impossible.
It’s clear that a great deal what energizes right wingers now is anything that offends, infuriates, or dismays the “liberal left”, even if, say, that involves depriving themselves of health care. It’s a tribal, zero sum game, and the enemies are the liberals and the mainstream media.
If the Russians were proved to have tipped the election in favor of Trump while colluding with the Trump campaign, I believe the 85 percent of Republicans would believe that would be a good thing for a country. A great thing, even. Not ideally done, but the ends justify the means. I think they also care less and less about policy and more and more about infuriating the left, just as the provocateurs go on a college campus to infuriate the ‘snowflake’ PC students.
This is the culture war they’re fighting. The left doesn’t need to try to “understand” Trump supporters with a middle of the road policy or fake cultural poses. The best liberals can do is to offer policies that benefit most people and explain why they do and avoid the cultural wars. They will always lose those, and ever since Reconstruction, the right has been using culture wars to get their followers to go against their own interests.
The real question is whether or not there’s a way to recover from this. I don’t see any sign that the 40% who supports Trump will ever change. They are either immune to fact or they simply have developed a different value system, one that admires a more authoritarian and nationalist approach to government. Currently, our electoral system empowers them so they actually have as much, if not more, political clout than the 60% whose views of America diverge from theirs, whether weakly or strongly. There’s no sign this electoral system will change, and even if the 60% were to regain power, the enraged 40% are unlikely to give up the fight — and, in fact, are likely only to intensify it.
The situation with the Trump presidency goes far beyond mere politics. Worry about foreign interference should be a high concern with any patriotic citizen. Other aspects of Trump holding office have near equal potential to harm the nation. This week we saw what happens when consistent lies about Russian contacts crashed down. Republicans should realize that their own future, and that of the nation, is greater than this one person.