Generally speaking, I agree with the idea that there are two sides (or, to quote Donald Trump when he’s explaining why neo-Nazis aren’t all bad, “many sides, many sides”) to the problem when it comes to the rapid deterioration in the quality of civic discourse in America.
That is, I realize that when I call the President a “semi-retarded orangutan” (for instance) on Twitter, I’m making things worse by perpetuating a state of affairs where everyone spends a good part of the day hurling absurd insults at one another in 140-character bursts from anonymous accounts on a social media site that, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, is driving everyone to the brink of insanity one tweet at a time.
But like most people who espouse a liberal point of view, I get frustrated with what to me looks like a combination of paranoid schizophrenia, overt bigotry and an almost primitive inclination to not only believe things that aren’t true, but to advocate for public policy based on what are, in the final analysis, fairy tales about religion, the supposed sanctity of this or that institution, and a creeping tendency to couch everything in terms of national identity and/or racial stereotypes.
To be clear, all of that is manifest bullshit and whereas some of those tendencies and beliefs have always been part and parcel of conservatism, some of it is a byproduct of this fucked up populist-nationalist-GOP hybrid ideology that basically represents what would happen if you asked Americans to list their secret prejudices, superstitions and biases, then rolled up the results into a nightmarish political platform.
There’s only one thing that could make that situation any worse and that’s if that ideology morphed into a personality cult and the personality in question was a textbook narcissist with the mental acuity of a lab chimp and the temperament of a spoiled child.
That’s where we’re at.
And the particularly unnerving thing about the current state of affairs is that very much unlike the “good” old days when Fox News was generally harmless and actually served a utilitarian purpose to the extent you could always count on them to entertain your live-in grandparents who were too old to be worth talking to but not quite senile enough to justify having them committed, Fox is now literally engaged in an ongoing effort to undermine the fucking FBI by brainwashing viewers into believing that the bureau is engaged in a conspiracy to subvert the democratic process by negating an election. As if that needed to be any more outrageous, that ongoing effort is being carried out in the service of the guy who actually did conspire to subvert the democratic process with the help of a hostile foreign government run by a literal KGB agent-turned dictator.
This same road to insanity has helped partially legitimize people like Alex Jones, who the President claims has “an amazing reputation.” That statement is true, depending on your definition of “amazing.” Over the course of the last several years Jones has, among other things, suggested that Sandy Hook was staged by actors, pushed a theory about Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor, postulated that Barack Obama is a literal demon, and entertained a guest who claimed there are colonies of child slaves on Mars. So yeah, that’s pretty “amazing”. Equally “amazing” is the fact that the President was getting his news from Alex right up until John Kelly reportedly put a stop to it.
That same Alex Jones “sources” his material (the mountains of papers that are always piled on his desk) from the Right-wing blogosphere and thanks to the fact that Alex shows screengrabs from the websites he prints his papers off of, we know what those blogs are and they are all – every, single one of them – batshit crazy. Those same blogs have enjoyed the same meteoric rise to prominence as Jones and Breitbart and now, they’re all parroting the same Fox News FBI conspiracies that Trump is pushing on Twitter.
This echo chamber has served to make American heroes out of the likes of Julian Assange who basically runs a hostile foreign intelligence service, a service which we know had contact with the Trump campaign because Don Jr. tweeted screenshots of the messages.
What’s going on in America is emboldening Right-wing firebrands in Europe and as if the political spillovers weren’t bad enough, Trump is now running roughshod over trade agreements and if last week was any indication, is prepared to upend global commerce by actually implementing the protectionism he falsely claims will resurrect the American middle class.
Republicans could stop this, but they won’t and the reason they won’t isn’t because they don’t realize how crazy it most assuredly is, but rather because they see in Trump an opportunity to advance their agenda. They’re effectively gambling the future of America (and in some respects the world) on the idea that Trump can’t do any irreparable harm in the time it takes for the GOP to get what they want out of him. They’re betting that this will all be worth it because once Trump crashes and burns, we’ll just get together and pick up the pieces of our democracy and once we put them back together, we’ll have a functioning republic again only with the laws rewritten in the service of the Republican agenda.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s looking like less of a safe bet every, single day. The GOP agenda is being implemented at a snail’s pace while the damage Trump is doing to America’s reputation and to the country’s system of governance continues to pile up.
And see that gets at the real tragedy here, which is that the conservative agenda is bullshit in the first place. So we’re being asked to watch the country descend into authoritarianism in the interest of giving conservatives the time they need to pass legislation that, by virtue of the fact that it emanates from the Republican party, doesn’t advance society in the first place.
That brings me to the overarching point, which is that there really aren’t two sides to this argument. Trump and the ideology he’s fostering are poison and the people who are letting this happen have been persisting in increasingly antiquated ideals for far too long anyway.
For years, we’ve let conservatives champion legislation that perpetuates income inequality, is implicitly (if not overtly) racist, and perhaps most insidious, impedes societal progress by tying public policy to Christian “values” which are themselves based on a “holy” book full of fairy tales that purports to convey the wishes of a make-believe deity that everyone who is any semblance of rational knows doesn’t exist.
Now, we’re expected to stand around and watch the country fall apart just so these same conservatives can advance that same bullshit agenda that has absolutely no place in modernity. Enough is enough.
To the extent the Republican party and conservatives more generally are willing to i) do what’s right and help impeach someone they know is a hapless demagogue, and then after that ii) start acting like they know what century they live in when it comes to making public policy, then great. Let’s keep them in the loop. But if not, American voters should relegate this party and the conservatism it’s built on to the dustbin of political history where, based on its current incarnation, it most assuredly belongs.