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.
I sent a few of my Facebook contacts an invitation to my page and didn’t think about it again until one of those invitees sent me a message to tell me that he wasn’t going to my page because he has “zero interest in politics”. Before the 2016 elections, I too thought of politics as something that other people cared about, despite voting the Democratic ticket starting with Jimmy Carter in 1976. I got most of my information from watching local and national news on the ABC affiliate WPVI out of Philadelphia along with listening to KYW 1060, the AM all-news-and-traffic radio station. All things considered, I got enough accurate information to know which party had my best interests at heart.
Today, I have no concept of how anyone with skin in the game (like my 61 year old diabetic smoking friend) can be indifferent about politics. This election is for all the chips, because if Trump and the Republicans are not soundly defeated and removed from power, we will be living in an authoritarian dictatorship during all future Trump terms. I want my friend will read this one post in the hopes of inspiring him to participate in the democracy that has been so good to both him and his family by voting for Joe Biden and the Democrats down ticket. I’m going to refer to my friend as “Billie” (not his real name).
Billie, I read your message declining my invitation to my Facebook page and was disappointed that you have no interest in politics. I don’t believe that’s true; I think that there are a multitude of places where your life, health, financial well-being and future comfort are directly and inextricably intertwined with the outcomes of elections, such as right now, in the middle of the worst pandemic in over a century. If the federal government was being led by a capable, competent, empathetic and caring leader who placed the good of the country over all else, the awesome power of the office of the President would have done everything to contain and control this virus, issuing national orders for staying home, social distancing and mask wearing while also putting a robust, nationwide testing and contact tracing system in place to find everyone spreading the virus and limit the spread. Instead, we have a person so incapable of ever admitting he’s made a mistake that he prefers to watch more than 150,000 of our fellow Americans die while he exhibits magical thinking by insisting that the virus will “just disappear”.
The Republicans have been laser-focused since the Affordable Care Act was passed on overturning it and stripping health insurance from millions of Americans while making those of us with preexisting conditions like diabetes, emphysema/COPD and osteoarthritis pay exorbitant premiums if we can even obtain health insurance coverage at all. Trump and his cadre of former fossil fuel executives, Wall Street bankers and right-wing media pundits have used his presidency to roll back rules and regulations to benefit corporate interests at the expense of all the rest of us and the planet. Trump’s delusional belief that he is the holder of all knowledge has made him incapable of accepting input from those in his own government with specialized knowledge of all manner of subjects versus taking the word of assorted hosts on Fox News and OANN. There are millions of Americans out of work because Trump is unable to do his job to put people in positions throughout the federal government with actual experience and skills to handle a crisis like the one we’re living through now. Instead, Trump appoints sycophants who agree that their first priority is to praise the dear leader no matter the reality on the ground, while their second priority is to allow Trump’s corporate donors to run rampant over everyone and everything in their paths.
Billie, you mentioned that your roommate has Covid-19 and that he’s still sharing the house with you. Your diabetes and smoking history make your chances of having a negative outcome if you contract the virus much higher than a healthier individual. The reason you’re in this position right now is because enough people in the right states decided that voting for the most prepared individual in history to run for the presidency wasn’t an option if that person also had a vagina, so they instead voted for the most incapable, incompetent, incurious, inept, undiplomatic and self-serving individual to ever seek the office. A lack of ‘interest’ in the actual issues combined with centuries-old, systemic misogyny led millions of voters to either stay home, vote third party, or actually cast votes for Trump because they thought Hillary was going to win and their individual vote didn’t really matter. Sadly, some 70,000 of those individual votes mattered way more than they should have.
I know you don’t have kids of your own Billie, and I’m sure that affects your attitude about ‘politics’, but your brother does have kids that I’m sure you love like they were your own. Think for a while about the world that will be left to them and their kids, and ask yourself if maybe the things that we’ve been doing to the planet for the last 100 years or so have helped or hurt the environment. I don’t know what the weather has been like in Vegas recently, but I can tell you without qualification that the heat and humidity here in New Jersey has been oppressive and unrelenting. We have always had our hottest days of the year in July and August, but I can’t remember in my lifetime having so many consecutive days of high humidity and high temperatures like the one we’re in the midst of now. Your brother’s offspring will have to deal with the climate disaster that our generation has been particularly loathe to address, given the propensity for the Republicans to claim that some climate ‘scientists’ don’t agree with the 97% of actual scientists that climate change is caused by humans releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. They don’t mention that their ‘scientists’ are actually employed by the fossil fuel industry to spread their bullshit, or that those same fossil fuel companies are full of their political donors.
Billie, I know that Whitey was your grandfather by blood, but you only saw him occasionally. During the ten years that my Mom and I lived with Whitey and my grandmother, I spent every day with him, and I think I can say with some degree of certainty that he was NOT just interested in the Phillies and the Eagles. Whitey knew that politics wasn’t just about the people in Washington; it’s about all of us, and what we want for ourselves and our families as part of a functioning democracy to which we pay taxes for services that said government is supposed to provide to us all when things happen that affect a large swath of us here in the United States. There is no way that Whitey would have remained completely uninformed and uninterested in the damage being done throughout our government and around the world by a lawless, incompetent president and the complicit Republicans. I know that he watched the evening news on a daily basis, because we all watched the evening news together back then, and I used to watch him reading the entire paper – not just the sports section – so I know he had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the government and the world before he exercised his right to vote.
The Republicans’ goal for decades has been to prevent as many people of color as possible from entering the US from anywhere else; had they been successful back in the fifties, it’s quite possible that you and your brother wouldn’t even exist. Your Mom marrying a man from the Philippines back in the fifties was a big deal back then, and I’m sure that your parents were on the receiving end of a lot of racist crap during their marriage. The point is that the people who win elections get to make the rules about who to let in and who to keep out. It is abundantly clear that leaving Republicans in charge of anything related to immigration or equality for all is very much like the fox watching the hen house. Electing a person uniquely unqualified for any of the tasks a US president must address along with keeping Republicans who have not interest in governing or legislating in office leaves all the rest of us subject to Trump’s whims and his inability to ever let any real or perceived insult or negative opinion go without a fight. Trump has never cared at all about the country; he entered the 2016 election in order to get free publicity so that he could start his own cable network; then, the unimaginable happened.
Trump didn’t want to win; he’s spent his whole life not working at a job he couldn’t get fired from that he didn’t have to apply for – just like his three older children have done – and the last thing he wanted was an actual job that required him to focus for more time than he ever had to in his entire life on someone other than himself. The look on his face in the photo above says all that and more.
Billie, right now the Republicans in the Senate, after refusing to consider the HEROES Act that the House sent to them May 12th to provide additional stimulus during the pandemic have taken two whole days to ‘legislate’ the Heals Act behind closed doors that gives businesses, hospitals and schools five years of liability protection retroactive to 2019 while cutting the weekly emergency unemployment payments from $600 to $200, because of course Republicans have to insist that it’s the $600 weekly benefit check preventing people from going to work, not the pandemic raging through a country without any plan to stop it or even slow it down. Apparently, these professional politicians don’t understand that the only reason that the “economy” has done as well as it has through the pandemic so far relative to the number of people out of work has been that $600 bonus, which has permitted millions to remain in their homes, buy groceries and other necessities, and keep their heads almost above water. Republicans also fail to see the irony when they indignantly point out that some people are making more money now than when they were working – because of course the answer to that wouldn’t be increasing the pay for those workers, right? The moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and other legal actions due to a lack of payment are going to expire, and who knows how many families will be forced our of their homes in the midst of a pandemic; state and local governments are going to have to significantly reduce services to help their citizens because the HEALS Act includes only funds for schools, although just a tenth of what the House proposed. Student loan deferments are also ignored in the HEALS Act.
The HEROES Act addresses state, local, tribal and territorial governments and provides stimulus funds for them all; along with the HEALS Act, it recommends a second $1,200 stimulus payment to every adult, but that is the only major similarity in the two. The House bill expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, unemployment, and payments to farmers. It also eliminates cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and treatment in addition to a range of other policies. The bill passed because of the Democrats – only one Republican supported the bill.
Elections have consequences, Billie. An uninformed electorate distracted by social media posts that often have no basis in fact while they avoid any of the actual journalism still available in multiple formats is a large part of how we ended up here. Once upon a time, when it was unthinkable that someone so completely lacking in ability, restraint or a willingness to follow norms and laws could be elected to the highest office in the country, it may have been acceptable to proudly proclaim yourself to have “Zero interest in politics…” The last forty years or so have demonstrated that those among us who have chosen to abdicate their civic responsibility by simply ignoring everything political including refusing to vote is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million. It is unacceptable in the time of viral social media posts and massive disinformation from the president’s Twitter account for anyone eligible to vote to remain on the sidelines, or to stay ignorant of the facts before they cast their votes.
Billie, you owe it to your country, your fellow citizens, and the next generation to take some time out of your life (maybe every time you go outside to smoke) to learn why you should care about these things.
I hope you understand that I’m only telling you this because I have been paying attention to ‘politics’, not because I like them, but because what those people do matters. No one should sit back and let others make the big decisions, because everything that the government does and does not do has an effect on every one of us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cars we drive, how our homes are built, how efficient our appliances are…. All that and more than I can write in this post are affected by the government, and how much or little you are personally touched by those things is also a function of some part of government. You have no legitimate excuse for remaining uninformed and disinterested in the political landscape while your country literally burns around you.