Last week, President Biden spoke at the opening of the John McCain library. In an impassioned address, he drew a bright line between the Republican Party of John McCain and others with whom he’d worked in a bipartisan fashion, and the MAGA crazies who now dominate the party.
The entire speech was excellent, and if time permits, it’s worth clicking through and reading it all, but a couple of paragraphs really stood out to me–striking me as especially accurate diagnoses of where we find ourselves today.
“[T]here is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.”
The MAGA Republicans, Biden said, are openly “attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.” They are “banning books and burying history.” “Extremists in Congress [are] more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people’s business be done.” They are attacking the military—the strongest military in the history of the world—as being “weak and ‘woke’.”
They are “pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him: This president is above the law, with no limits on power. Trump says the Constitution gave him…’the right to do whatever he wants as President.’ I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”
Biden spoke at a time when rational Americans were facing the intransigence of MAGA House Republicans who were clearly enthusiastic about forcing a government shutdown (and later, furious with McCarthy for working with Democrats to avoid it.), Their “impeachment hearing”–a hearing at which their own witnesses testified that they had no evidence of wrongdoing–was a pathetic attempt to distract the public from their refusal to do the jobs they were elected to do.
Those who read and comment on this blog probably share my reaction to the utter insanity of all this: disbelief. Who are the people who still support these extremists? How is it possible that any American citizen listens to Trump’s increasingly demented word salads and thinks, yep, that’s the guy who ought to have control of the nuclear codes?
How is it possible that roughly a third of Americans remain Trumpers?
The answer is pretty chilling. It turns out that–in addition to racism– a lot of Americans are nuts.
According to a Public Policy Polling survey, around 12 million people in the US believe that interstellar lizards in people suits rule our country. We imported that particular belief from across the pond, where professional conspiracy theorist David Icke has long maintained that the Queen of England is a blood-drinking, shape-shifting alien.
That research was conducted in April. In November, Trump was elected…
As the article pointed out, there are a number of equally…let’s just say unsupported…beliefs endorsed by millions of Americans.
Around 66 million Americans believe that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico; around 22 million people believe that the government faked the moon landing; and around 160 million believe that there is a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of former US president John F Kennedy.
In the years since 2016, we’ve seen the growth of various QAnon conspiracy theories, Bill Gates’ chips in Covid vaccines, vaccines causing autism…etc. etc.
Who are the people most susceptible to these beliefs?
Researchers say feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty trigger a need to believe in conspiracies. Or, as one scholar is quoted,
Conspiracies are for losers …
“I don’t mean it in the pejorative sense, but people who are out of power use conspiracy theories to strategically alert their side to danger, to close ranks, to salve their wounds,” Uscinski explains.
According to another researcher, belief in a conspiracy theory–alien lizards, the existence of Q, the ‘real purpose’ of vaccination– is a strategy fearful people use to regain a sense of control, even if the conspiracy theory is unrelated to what caused the lack of control in the first place. Conspiracy theories allow a person to make sense of what they see as otherwise senseless or unfair in the world they inhabit, and allow them to restore some sense of control.
Bottom line, there are millions of Americans for whom logic, evidence and demonstrable facts are irrelevant. And they vote.Comments