Tag Archives: insanity

Killing Themselves To “Own the Libs”

Each morning, I get one of those “news of the day” emails sent out by the The New York Times. The version I get always begins with an introductory discussion of one of the main stories, and last Monday, that introduction was mind-blowing–at least to me.

The data shows that the racial gaps in vaccination that were worrisome have narrowed, although they haven’t entirely disappeared. But it also shows that the partisan gap remains enormous.

A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 86 percent of Democratic voters had received at least one shot, compared with 60 percent of Republican voters…The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state.

One consequence of differences in vaccination rates, rather obviously, is a difference in death rates.

Since Delta began circulating widely in the U.S., Covid has exacted a horrific death toll on red America: In counties where Donald Trump received at least 70 percent of the vote, the virus has killed about 47 out of every 100,000 people since the end of June, according to Charles Gaba, a health care analyst. In counties where Trump won less than 32 percent of the vote, the number is about 10 out of 100,000.

The story was accompanied by multiple charts demonstrating the salience of political identity to death rates and resistance to vaccination, and the obvious question is: why? Why has a decision that should be made on the basis of medical science and individual prudence become so politicized that Republicans prefer to risk illness and death rather than take elementary precautions to protect themselves and their families–let alone their neighbors?

As the article noted, other countries aren’t experiencing a political vaccination divide.

What distinguishes the U.S. is a conservative party — the Republican Party — that has grown hostile to science and empirical evidence in recent decades. A conservative media complex, including Fox News, Sinclair Broadcast Group and various online outlets, echoes and amplifies this hostility. Trump took the conspiratorial thinking to a new level, but he did not create it.

“With very little resistance from party leaders,” my colleague Lisa Lerer wrote this summer, many Republicans “have elevated falsehoods and doubts about vaccinations from the fringes of American life to the center of our political conversation.”

Evidently–as one pundit noted– a number of Trump supporters believe they are “owning the left” by refusing to take a lifesaving vaccine. (Presumably, dying is the ultimate  evidence of that “ownership.”) Even some Republican strategists are beginning to worry; as one was quoted, “In a country where elections are decided on razor-thin margins, does it not benefit one side if their opponents simply drop dead?”

I frequently accuse today’s GOP of fostering–and exemplifying–insanity. Readers may consider my use of that term overblown, and I have occasionally wondered whether it might be hyperbolic. But nothing else seems to fit.  What would you call someone who was not suicidal–but who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, confident that he could land safely?

Rejecting empirical evidence, risking death, and endangering loved ones and acquaintances in order to “get” political opponents is to be mentally disordered. There’s no way around that conclusion.

Among the dictionary definitions of insanity is “extreme folly or unreasonableness.” Synonyms include “derangement,” “lunacy” and “madness.” One example given was  “someone who acts or speaks strangely because their brain isn’t working correctly. An example of insane is a person who goes shopping without any pants on.” 

How about people who refuse to believe that a deadly disease–a pandemic–threatens not only their own lives but the health of the community in which they live, and who proceed to act in ways that endanger not just themselves, but others? And who base that refusal on the “fact” that science is a liberal plot?

There’s a point at which “stop the world, I want to get off” becomes more than an expression of annoyance or anger. it’s a statement of intent.

 

 

The Sane Folks Are Fleeing

Last Friday, Politico had an article that focused upon the decision of Republican Representative Anthony Gonzales not to run for re-election.Gonzales is young (37), attractive and well-funded, and he represents a safe district in Ohio. So why has he chosen to exit the political arena?

According to Charlie Sykes, the author of the article, “Gonzalez didn’t quit because he feared he couldn’t win, but because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Winning, it turns out, is not winning if the prize feels a lot more like a loss.

This was the key to his decision to self-purge: He could spend a year fighting off merde-slinging deplorables, only to win another two years sitting in a caucus next to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Paul Gosar (R- Ariz.) and the other avatars of Trumpism.

Defeat, even before a single vote is cast, might have been disappointing. It might even look to some like a conspicuous lack of competitive mettle. But that assumes the outcome is in doubt — which it isn’t. The Republican Party is already lost. And victory meant two more years trapped in a hellscape of crazified school board meetings, Trump rallies, My Pillow Guy insanity, Newsmax and Fox News hits, and a caucus run by Kevin McCarthy, a man without any principle beyond the acquisition of power.

That’s a pretty accurate description of where Republicans are right now.

As Sykes points out–and as everyone who reads this blog knows–the transformation of the GOP is pretty much complete. Today’s GOP embraces the members who “dabble in white nationalism, peddle conspiracy theories and foment acts of political violence. Neither bigotry nor nihilism is disqualifying.”

But telling the truth about the 2020 election is an  “unforgivable sin.”

The devolution of what used to be a major political party into a racist conspiratorial cult has prompted what Sykes calls “the self-deportation of the sane, the decent and the principled.”

Their political emigration is profoundly changing the face of the GOP, and it is happening at every level of politics, from local school boards to the United States Senate. Whatever the result of next year’s elections, the GOP that remains will be meaner, dumber, crazier and more beholden than ever to the defeated, twice-impeached former president.

It is worth emphasizing that the people leaving the GOP are not more “centrist” or (perish the thought!) liberal–according to FiveThirtyEight.com, Gonzales voted with Trump nearly 89 percent of the time in the 116th Congress. His conservative bona fides were impeccable. He even ran well ahead of Trump in an area where both won in 2020. But he happens to be sane and principled; he was one of only 10 GOP representatives who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Gonzales isn’t the only elected official who has decided to depart the No-Longer-Grand Old Party.

In 2018, according to Ballotpedia, 23 House Republicans retired from political life altogether, followed by another 20 who stepped away from political office in 2020. Others also retired, but ran for other offices. Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) continue to hang on, but they are increasingly isolated and outnumbered. The House retirees have been joined by centrist GOP senators like Jeff Flake, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who opted not to seek reelection. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr (who also voted to convict Trump) will also step down after next year’s election. They will be joined by Ohio’s Rob Portman, who voted to acquit Trump but was critical of his behavior….

Of course, there were many different motives for the Republican departures, but all of them understood that survival in Trump’s GOP required multiple acts of self-humiliation that would, in the end, only win them more years of self-abasement.

Gonzales and several others who’ve departed have indicated an intent to work for a post-Trumpian GOP. Those of us who departed years ago–in my case, when I wrongly assumed that George W. Bush represented the low point–applaud the sentiment, even if we doubt its feasibility.

There are only crazy and unprincipled people left in the party that locally once boasted people like Dick Lugar, Bill Ruckelshaus and Bill Hudnut. The GOP is now the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Louie Gohmert. It’s a tragedy–not just for the party, but for the country, and especially for the possibility of governing in an age where rational, informed government is increasingly critical.

We desperately need two adult political parties, composed of rational, serious people who bring different ideological perspectives to the critical issues we face. Instead, we have one “big tent” party composed of everyone who cringes when they look at today’s wacko GOP, and one cult of crazies and racists that is today’s GOP.

We are in big trouble.

 

 

It Goes WAY Beyond Hypocrisy

While I am on a rant against insanity, can you stand one more diatribe about anti-vaccination, anti-mask hysterics?

There are a number of theories about the motivation of these truly horrible people. (Not everyone who is unvaccinated falls within that category, of course–I’m focusing on the “activists” who are promulgating lies about the vaccines and threatening school board members.)

Paul Krugman recently opined that much refusal is political, pointing to the strong negative correlation between Trump’s share of a county’s vote and vaccinations. As of July, 86 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had had a vaccine shot, but only 54 percent of Republicans did.

He also pointed out that peddlers of quack medicine and right-wing extremists cater to more or less the same audience.

That is, Americans willing to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Italian satellites were used to switch votes to Joe Biden are also the kind of people willing to believe that medical elites are lying to them and that they can solve their health problems by ignoring professional advice and buying patent medicines instead.

And those peddlers are making money. Horse dewormer, anyone?

But it’s the sheer lunacy–the extreme cognitive dissonance–that drives me up a wall. 

  • “We don’t  know what’s in it.” There’s a meme going around Facebook, enumerating all of the things Americans ingest without the slightest idea “what’s in it.” Everything from hotdogs to McNuggets to horse dewormer.
  • “Bill Gates has placed a chip in the vaccine to track people”–usually uttered by people carrying cell phones equipped with such chips…
  • “I have a right to control my own body”. This is a particular favorite of mine, coming as it does mostly from men who adamantly refuse to extend a similar right to pregnant women. Or people who disagree with them.
  • “Requiring masks is government overreach.” If the government can’t require a piece of cloth over your nose and mouth, why can it require that you cover your genitals in public? I want to see these “constitutional scholars” at the grocery, shopping naked. (I bet the men have teeny weenies.)
  • Speaking of overreach–these also tend to be the people who want government to drug test poor folks on welfare…
  • “I’m rejecting vaccines because I trust God.” If they truly trusted God, why do so many of them own/carry guns? Do they lock their doors? Buy eyeglasses and/or hearing aids? For that matter, why do they check into hospitals when they’re gasping for breath?
  • Speaking of individual liberty–government mandates seat belts, imposes speed limits, enforces smoking ordinances and issues multiple other rules to protect public safety. According to Hobbes, the original purpose of government was to remove us from the state of nature, in which there is “no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Government is supposed to keep the strong from hurting the weak, the predatory from taking advantage of the helpless, and the stupid and/or selfish from spreading a deadly disease.

The hypocrisy is stunning. Republicans are suing businesses that require masks. Florida’s insane Governor is fining businesses that require vaccinations. These are the same  Republicans who insist that businesses have a right to refuse service to LGBTQ customers… 

I could go on and on…If COVID is a hoax, why ingest bleach or dewormer to treat it?

Many Republicans encouraging vaccine resistance know better. They just want to hurt Joe Biden politically. Biden promised to defeat the virus, and they’re determined to keep him from delivering on that promise. If lots of their own voters get sick and die as a result–well, them’s the breaks…

Former Republican and sane person David Frum made an interesting point in a recent issue of The Atlantic.

As cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing, the question occurs: Does Biden’s America have a breaking point? Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealth—and then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America. Which is fine; that’s what citizens of one nation do for one another. Something else they do for one another: take rational health-care precautions during a pandemic. That reciprocal part of the bargain is not being upheld…

In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.

Will Blue America ever decide it’s had enough of being put medically at risk by people and places whose bills it pays? Check yourself: Have you?

I certainly have.

 

 

 

True…And Very Sad.

Rick Wilson is one of the disillusioned Republicans who founded the Lincoln Project, and he recently opined about the devolution of the Grand Old Party. The Lincoln Project, as most of you are aware, was created by a group of long-time, well-respected strategists and operatives who had repeatedly been tapped for significant roles in high-profile Republican campaigns. The Project wasn’t composed of ordinary Republican voters who’d become disillusioned; it was the product of respected and savvy political professionals.

Wilson describes himself as an American political strategist, media consultant, and author. He’s produced televised political commercials for governors, U.S. Senate candidates, Super PACs, and corporations. (He’s also the author of the book Everything Trump Touches Dies.)

Wilson’s basic point in the rant that follows was that the GOP–far from being the party of Lincoln–is now the party of Marjorie Taylor Green, she of the “California fires were started by Jewish space lasers” and more recently “Being made to wear masks to battle the pandemic is just like what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust.”

Wilson’s takedown was heated and comprehensive, and I decided it was worth sharing in its entirety– so with apologies for the length of the quotation, here it is:

This woman is not an outlier. She is the core of the Republican Party. She is the heart and soul of the Republican Party. She is more important in the Republican Party ecosystem than Kevin McCarthy. He issued a pusillanimous, limp-dicked statement today about her finally after getting beat up for hours and hours on end, and I gotta tell you something: He does that because he wants to stay [minority leader]. And he knows that she is the future of the GOP. She is the core, the heart, the soul of what the Republican Party now stands for. It is idiotic, it is violently stupid. It hates experts, it hates authority, it hates science, it hates culture. It hates everything except their reflexive trolling of the rest of the country. She is a monstrous person. She is a person who I would not piss on her if she was on fire. She is a person who deserves all the public … shame you could possibly imagine. But here’s the thing: Kevin McCarthy will not take a single step to expel her from Congress. She is the heart and soul of the Republican Party today. She is exactly the center of it, she is what they have become, and everybody in the Republican Party who goes, ‘Oh, no, that’s not me,’ they only do it quietly. They won’t go out in her face and say, ‘Shut the hell up.’ They won’t go in her face and say, ‘You are a crude, anti-Semite clown.’ They won’t do that because they understand she is their future. She is the party as it is written today, she is the party as it is comprised today. I find her so repulsive and so disgusting that it is all I can do not to get myself thrown off social media by saying what I really feel about her.

Before you dismiss this diatribe as an overheated and exaggerated description of Greene’s influence, let me tell you about a recent incident in Nashvillle, Tennessee.

Hatwrks, a hat shop in Nashville, advertised an anti-vaccine yellow star patterned after those forced on Jews by Nazi Germany. Needless to say, that product has been met with considerable backlash; as a local rabbi told Nashville TV station WSMV, “Using the yellow star, or any holocaust imagery for anything, is a disservice to the memory of the six million Jews who were systematically murdered during the Holocaust.”

It boggles the mind that proprietors of any retail establishment would hear the ludicrous anti-Semitic ramblings of someone like Greene, and then produce a product endorsing her odious comparison. But then, it boggles the mind that a significant percentage of self-identified Republicans believe Donald Trump won an election that he lost decisively.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is obviously mentally ill, and she’s far from the only elected Republican to routinely manifest delusions and mental disorders. What is truly terrifying, however, is not the presence of a few mental cases–it is the accuracy of Rick Wilson’s accusation, and the fact that clinical insanity is arguably the central characteristic of a once-respectable political party.

The Crowding-Out Effect

Tomorrow is the most important Election Day in my lifetime. Among other things, the results will tell me whether my longtime faith in the common sense and goodwill of my fellow Americans has been justified or misplaced.

Hopefully, after tomorrow, this blog can return to discussions of rational, albeit debatable, policy proposals, commentary on interesting research results, and occasional forays into legal disputes and political philosophy. Hopefully too, we will have occasion to use a phrase introduced by Gerald Ford: “our long national nightmare is over.”

One aspect of that “long national nightmare,” of course, is the incredible amount of destruction it will leave in its wake–regulations that must be reinstated, laws that must once again be enforced, corrupt people who must be held accountable, and a return to public health directed by medical scientists rather than politicians, among many other things.

The opposite of “nightmare” is a good night’s sleep, and if all goes well, we can once again look forward to days when we haven’t had to think about the President of the United States, followed by nights when we can once again sleep soundly because–whether we agree with administration policies or not– a sane and honorable person is in charge.

If there is one word I have heard over and over during this political season, it is “exhaustion.” Trump’s desperate need for constant attention, his bizarre tweet-storms, insults and various insanities have sucked the oxygen out of our public life. He has been in our faces, on our television screens, Facebook feeds and comedy routines. As several columnists have recently noted, he has crowded out so many activities that we would otherwise enjoy–books of fiction, works of art and music, conversations with friends that didn’t give rise to disappointment when we discovered their willingness to look the other way so long as their 401K stayed healthy…

Last Thursday, at the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about all the things we’ve lost.

After listing the “big” things–the lives lost to COVID, the children whose parents can’t be located, the people whose livelihoods have disappeared, and after acknowledging the greater significance of those losses, she speaks for so many of us:

When I think back, from my obviously privileged position, on the texture of daily life during the past four years, all the attention sucked up by this black hole of a president has been its own sort of loss. Every moment spent thinking about Trump is a moment that could have been spent contemplating, creating or appreciating something else. Trump is a narcissistic philistine, and he bent American culture toward him.

I’ve no doubt that great work was created over the past four years, but I missed much of it, because I was too busy staring in incredulous horror at my phone….

Conservatives love to jeer Democrats for being obsessed with Trump, for letting him live, as many put it, rent-free in our heads. It’s a cruel accusation, like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames. The outrage Trump sparks leaves less room for many other things — joy, creativity, reflection — but every bit of it is warranted. The problem is the president, not how his victims respond to him.

If the polls are right, if Biden wins convincingly, Americans will nevertheless be on pins and needles until January 20th. We won’t be out of the woods until this blot on our nation and our history is gone–and even then, we will be left with the alt-right haters and know-nothings who have spent the campaign brandishing guns, refusing to wear masks and cheering ugly pronouncements at Trump rallies– voters motivated by fear and grievance who want only to “own the libs.”

Buckle up. We’re about to see how this horror show ends.