How strange it is to see this story displayed as if it’s just another bit of today’s news.
It’s strange but not unexpected. Here are two meditations on current events from columnists for The Washington Post. First, Paul Waldman:
If you were dropped in from another country without knowing anything about the United States and surveyed our current political moment, what would you conclude about the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement it represents? As 2020 comes to an end, what is conservatism about?
After nearly four years of Dxxxx Txxxx’s presidency in which no misdeed was too vulgar or corrupt for conservatives to defend, now culminating in an outright war against democracy itself, you might be tempted to answer, “Nothing.” Though that’s not quite true, the real answer is not much more encouraging. . . .
The one thing that unites the right and drives the GOP is hatred of liberals. That hatred has consumed every policy goal, every ideological principle and even every ounce of commitment to country. . . .
When 18 Republican state attorneys general, more than half of House Republicans and multiple conservative organizations all demand that the results of a presidential election where no fraud was found be simply tossed aside so that Txxxx can be declared winner, something more profound has been revealed. . . .
Txxxx has often cited the extraordinary loyalty he has received from his party’s voters; it’s one of the few things he says that’s true. . . . When you ask the typical Txxxx supporter what they love about him, they don’t mention some substantive policy position; what they say is that he is a fighter. The petty squabbles, the insulting tweets, the deranged conspiracy theories — the things that the Never Txxxxers and most other Americans find off-putting are exactly what endears him to the Republican base.
Txxxx fights and fights, angrily, bitterly, endlessly driven forward by his hatred of the people his supporters hate. That’s what the base loves, and every other Republican knows it.
Everything about the election that just ended reinforced for conservatives that nothing is more important than hating liberals. The rhetoric of the 2020 campaign, starting with Txxxx but going all the way down the ballot, was that if Democrats were elected, then it would not be suboptimal or bad or even terrible, but the end of everything you care about. Towns and cities would burn, religion would be outlawed, America as we know it would cease to exist. These horrors were not presented as metaphors, but as the literal truth.
In the face of that potential apocalypse, who could possibly care about mundane policy goals? . . . They want to cut the capital gains tax, sure — but its importance pales next to the urgency of stopping the cataclysm that would engulf us all if Democrats were to hold power.
To be clear, there are still thoughtful conservatives out there trying to advance a coherent ideological project. But seldom have they mattered less to their movement and their party. . . .If it doesn’t Own the Libs, it doesn’t matter on the right. . . .
Second, ex-Republican Jennifer Rubin:
. . . With a new appreciation for the inexactitude of polling, it’s possible the portion of Americans who accept Biden’s victory is anywhere from 70 percent to only 50. Regardless, the answer to “How many Americans believe in a baseless conspiracy that the election was stolen?” is “Too many.”
The consequences are grave. It gives Republicans license to continue to break norms and even the law (e.g., threaten election officials). It promotes irrational, obstructionist politics and increases the divide between Americans. Biden voters, I would guess, have never been more contemptuous of Txxxx voters as they are now . . . [with good reason].
Conduct from Republican House and Senate members shows the pernicious effects of this cult of absurdity. Victimology and self-pity (We were denied a second Txxxx term!) mixed with arrogance (Only we know what really happened in those ballot-counting rooms!) do not make people amenable to compromise or empathy. Indeed, it turns seemingly capable and sane public figures into raving lunatics . . .
Expect a new norm to take root in the Republican Party that any lost election is a stolen election. Wholesale attempts to restrict voting (that make voter-ID laws look mild by comparison) and actual corruption of the election process may follow. . . .
And sadly, what we learned in the Txxxx era is that once you are ready to believe utter nonsense in one arena because Txxxx says so, you’re willing to believe — in fact, compelled to believe! — utter nonsense about a lot of things. Coronavirus is overblown. Masks are not needed.
“The Great Leader is never wrong” is the most fundamental principle of closed, authoritarian societies. When communism was crumbling in Poland, people began to put up signs that read “2 + 2 = 4,” a clever reminder that in a totalitarian state, reality is the province of the state and obedience to falsehoods is a requirement for survival.
The Republican Party, ironically the party that used to . . . scorn victim-mongering, now thrives as an institution in which people, as Txxxx said at a recent rally, think “we’re all victims” and accept Txxxx’s alternative reality. Maybe one day an American Lech Walesa will arrive in the Txxxx heartland and revive the spirit of democracy. Until then, the GOP remains the “2 + 2 = 5” party.
Does the hatred lead to the delusion or is it the other way around? I’d say they reinforce each other. On the other side, sure, we hate this president, but it’s not because we’re deluded about his actions. Besides, nobody hopes Democrats will raise the minimum wage or fix the climate in order to irritate Republicans. The two sides really are different, as the Texas lawsuit and its many supporters demonstrate.