In The Washington Post today, Max Boot’s opinion article “Republicans are becoming the QAnon Party” attempts what so many like him have been trying since Trump took office – to place the blame on Trump for the party being full of white nationalists and conspiracy-mongers. This is a fallacy – Republicans have been the party of white nationalists since the Civil Rights Amendment was passed by Lyndon Johnson. Nixon and Reagan, using policies purportedly enacted to control illegal drugs, set in motion the incarceration of Black and Hispanic men for ‘offenses’ that White citizens engaged in with impunity, particularly cannabis use. Statistically, White and Black people use pot in generally the same numbers, yet those arrested and put in jails/prisons falls almost entirely on those of color. The Reagan administration’s sentencing decisions of cocaine versus crack cocaine (White versus Black use) further illustrates this point.
So white nationalists have been members of the Republican Party for decades. Conspiracy theories have also been more likely to take hold and flourish on the right as well. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that, while those at either extreme (left and right) are more likely to espouse and believe conspiracy theories overall, the tendency for those on the conservative side to believe them is significantly higher. While liberals can be led out of their conspiratorial holes by providing them with information that both debunks and increases their trust in institutions (scientists, academics, politicians), conservatives maintain their low level of trust even with increased knowledge, making it much harder to disconnect them from their conspiracy.
Right wing media outlets and social media have made things so much worse, given the speed of dissemination and repetition from platform to platform – Fox, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Sinclair Broadcasting, OAN –
boosts the suspicion and paranoia that is inherent in those most susceptible to believing in conspiracy theories. Those who limit their information only to right-wing media sources and social media reinforce their paranoid fantasies and are eventually unable to consider that their beliefs are based on bullshit, incapable of admitting that they’ve been wrong.
The Republicans have learned that this right-wing media bubble’s repetition of these conspiracies fires up their base, and an enraged base is a loyal one, more likely to vote because they’re convinced that the other side is out to get them, whether to take away their guns, force them to provide reproductive healthcare to women, prevent them from discriminating against those different from them, or to allow the LGBTQ to marry the person of their choice. They know that to deny the conspiracy theories their base spreads on social media will cost them votes; since remaining in power is the primary focus of Republicans; it is therefore beneficial for their futures and their bank accounts to spread the conspiracies instead of disproving them.
It is no surprise, therefore, that we are now living with a person in the White House who believes in any number of wild conspiracy theories – Birtherism, QAnon, Joe Scarborough as a murderer, Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK, etc. – and has a fervent and devoted base willing to believe pretty much anything that spews from his word hole. We have been brought to this precipice of disaster by a Republican Party more focused on ‘othering’ than on governing, on enriching themselves than on what’s best for the country, and on preventing everyone from voting than on changing to meet the country as it is now rather than as it was in the 1950’s.
Max Boot’s columns clearly reveal that he recognizes that the presidency of Donald Trump is a feature, not a bug, of the Republican Party and its policies, and I believe that he is sincere in stating that they all have to go. I just wish he wouldn’t give them any chance at using Trump as an excuse to remain as they are in any way, shape or form.
While it seems necessary for there to be two parties, one liberal and the other conservative, in order to have a functioning democracy, the inability of the Republicans to actually function within a democracy puts that premise to rest. Eventually, a conservative party may reconfigure itself in a way that does not automatically disenfranchise those outside itself, focusing the policies it espouses on making life better for everyone, spreading the wealth more equally to all without using divisive rhetoric and criminalization to hold down the ‘others’, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Until then, there should be no escape hatch for any of them.
The Republican Party must be crushed under the boot of democracy, and all those who have benefitted from their minority monopolization on the levers of power kept out of public life and media – no more ‘both sides’ crap. The Democrats want equality and equity, with safe, widespread access to the vote for everyone, since they know that encouraging the electorate to participate is the best way to ensure that they feel like their voices have been heard. Trump ran as a Republican because of their white nationalism and paranoia. He knew that he’d never convince Democrats to support him.