Talking Points Memo recently considered the response of the “Christian” Right to the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.The article described a “smorgasbord of persecution complexes, whataboutism, conspiracy theories, lies, and misinformation about law enforcement and the judicial process.”
The Christian right and its GOP allies are counting on their base consuming a steady diet of these radio shows, podcasts, social media posts, and email blasts, tuning out any coverage that conflicts with their image of Trump as both a virile hero and a victim besieged by radical leftists at the FBI. For them, God anointed Trump, choosing an “unlikely” leader to restore Christian America. It is precisely because Trump is singularly capable of resurrecting the Christian nation, this thinking goes, that the radical leftists of the deep state want to bring him down.
For those of us who remain residents of the reality-based community, the belief that any God worth worshipping would choose Donald Trump to “resurrect” anything is utterly gobsmacking. Yet the article went on to quote prominent figures of the Christian Right–Tony Perkins, who runs the Family Research Council and Franklin Graham, son of Billy– ranting about the perfidy of the FBI. (Graham invoked the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, and the conspiracy theory, evidently pervasive in right-wing circles, that “funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to boost collection of taxes owed by the wealthy was “a step in weaponizing the IRS to act against anyone voicing dissent against the government.)
If the Talking Points Memo report wasn’t sufficiently horrifying, a recent description of Trump supporters in David French’s newsletter certainly was. (French, by the way, is a conservative.)
French begins by differentiating between Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 and those who currently support him. He says that voters in 2016 were populist (a nicer word than racist…) but that today’s case for Trump is different– and even more harmful for American politics
Here’s the new narrative—and I have no doubt that a number of readers have heard all or much of it from their MAGA friends and family members—goes something like this:
The Trump presidency exposed the true evil of the left. They persecuted Trump more than any other president in history. First, there was the Russia hoax, then the impeachment hoax, then they shut down the economy and schools to destroy Trump; they shut down churches to destroy the Church. They burned cities. They hollowed out our police forces. They were tyrants. They forced us to wear masks that didn’t work and to take an experimental vaccine that has killed tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans.
They hated Trump because Trump was God’s anointed leader to save the nation, and it’s no surprise that the forces of hell came against him.
Even then, they knew they couldn’t beat him. So they changed election rules. Dead people voted. Thousands of “mules” stuffed the ballot boxes, and then they tried to stop Trump from investigating fraud. And if anyone’s to blame for January 6, it’s Nancy Pelosi for leaving the Capitol unguarded. They just let people walk in, and now they’re holding political prisoners in solitary confinement. Second impeachment was a joke, another hoax. But still they can’t keep Trump down. Joe Biden is senile. He can barely walk or talk. Trump is coming back, and they know it, so they’re attacking him again.
The inescapable fact that there are millions of Americans who actually subscribe to this loony-tunes view is nothing short of terrifying. But as French says, once you become aware of this narrative, you see evidence of it is everywhere. He points to wild claims that 44 percent of pregnant women in the Pfizer COVID-vaccine trial miscarried; accusations that a Pennsylvania Senate candidate is “satanic;” and a new book by a right-wing radio host arguing that the COVID lockdowns and other public-health measures were “the worst evil in our history” and the “worst oppression in global history since the Third Reich.”
Meanwhile, well-meaning liberals urge Red and Blue Americans to engage in civil discourse. Really? The likelihood of having a respectful discussion with people who hold such views is somewhere between zero and “are you kidding?”
French says there are tens of millions of Republicans who don’t hold these views (or at least don’t hold them as intensely), but as he points out, those who do hold them intensely are reliable Republican primary voters.
This changes what it can mean to tack right in the primary and then move to the center for the general. The story above is so dire and so radical that tacking right often precludes moving left. Where do you go after you’ve declared the election stolen or after you’ve declared that your opponents are pure evil?
And where do the rest of us go?