In 2022 we’ll see if our democracy can withstand the GOP’s baseless fears, fantasies, and delusions

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As pointed out by Lois Beckett and Abene Clayton, writing for the The Guardian: 

[W]hat’s happening with homicides is not part of some broader “crime wave.” In fact, many crimes, from larcenies to robberies to rape, dropped during the pandemic, and continued to fall during the first few months of 2021. “Crime” is not surging. Even the broader category of “violent crime” only increased about 3% last year, according to the preliminary FBI data from a large subset of cities.

My friend from the jewelry shop would know this if she took the time to walk around in the city. But she won’t. Thanks to Fox News and the right-wing noise machine, she is living in abject fear of something that as a practical matter doesn’t actually exist, at least for her. Like the epidemic of bad driving over the last two years, it’s a symptom of the unrelenting stress caused by the pandemic (a pandemic that has been unnecessarily prolonged by the refusal of people on the political right to take the basic steps needed to mitigate it). More importantly, it’s mostly occurring to those segments of the population that Republicans historically have never given a damn about. That prompted me to ask myself: What other baseless fears has the right exploited? What other delusions without any real grounding in fact are Republicans using to agitate and motivate their voters as we enter yet another critical election year?

As it turns out, the entire 2022 Republican “agenda”—the same agenda that prompted a horde of domestic terrorists to hunt down members of Congress and trash the U.S. Capitol, the same agenda the right uses as a screen to justify everything from attacking school curricula to passing laws suppressing the vote—is almost entirely based on the wholesale fabrication of sheer fantasies. Virtually none of these fantasies reflect actual reality. Still, we find ourselves as a country entering into 2022 with our very democratic institutions hanging by a thread, all due to people willing to buy into these bogus delusions, fantasies, and lies. Ours is perhaps not the most stark, but certainly the latest example of a country on the verge of self-destructing its democracy solely on the basis of totally imaginary grievances.

Trump and those charlatans who advise him and the Republican Party—cynical opportunists like Steve Bannon, a former investment banker from Goldman Sachs without the slightest affinity for the working class—have poured millions into creating these illusory dangers in so many minds, to the point where they’re now established gospel among them. Immigration was the big one in 2016; despite the reality that the only undocumented immigrant Joe Republican will likely knowingly encounter or interact with is someone gainfully employed, probably doing work no one else—especially Joe Republican—particularly wants to do. You don’t see many children of white Republicans rushing out to pick the fruit that ends up on our kitchen table, or banging down the door to cut lawns in the blistering sun. Or stocking or shelves or delivering packages. Or providing home or nursing care for the elderly. But never mind the reality that even in the midst of a pandemic the country as of last week has an unemployment level hovering around a paltry 3.9%. Those people are somehow taking our jobs away! They were leeching off our hard-earned tax dollars by getting free medical care, schooling etc. And addressing crime by putting the same people into office who created the conditions for it is a great idea … or something.

These complaints are all basically ginned-up phantasms that have zero practical impact on Republican lives, but they’re remarkably effective, which is why the GOP continually trots them out. The truth is that for all the cultural angst and economic “uncertainty” we’re constantly being reminded about, white male America and the Republican Party it now cleaves to are doing pretty damn well, especially compared to people of color. To the extent they’re not doing well, they have the GOP and its “I’ve got mine,” trickle-down ethic (which they voted for) to blame for it.

Still here we are, with Republicans—thanks to the constant repetition by the likes of Bannon, Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the entire Murdoch brigade of paid propagandists—believing with all their hearts that immigration, “securing our borders,” is our No. 1 national problem. But it’s not our No. 1 problem: It’s a hot-button, exaggerated problem, one dwarfed in magnitude by others currently facing this country, and one with de minimis practical impact on the life of the average GOP voter.

And now we’re told that “education” will be the hot-button issue for the congressional midterms in 2022, but it’s not really “education” that Republicans are focused on—they’re still as anti-public schools and anti-teacher as they ever were—rather, it’s the fact that somewhere our kids are learning things that make them think bad thoughts about the wretched legacy left by Confederate slave owners and the KKK, who’ve now (not coincidentally) reconstituted themselves into the modern Republican Party. As if banning the teaching of critical race theory or books about racial discrimination in public schools is going to somehow reorient kids’ thought processes as they flock to their TikTok videos. Never mind the fact that critical race theory is not and has never been taught in public schools. Anything that suggests racial inequity in this country is bad, we’re told, because surely we don’t want our children finding out just how racist this country is, and how that racism is perpetuated by the same party their parents belong to.

I get that—it’s no fun when your kids learn the truth about the political party that Mommy and Daddy support every four years with their lawn signs; they stand for some truly awful, senseless, and cruel beliefs that the GOP doesn’t want to acknowledge. I also get that trying to keep books and reality about this nation’s history by banning them or muzzling their teachers amounts to basically pissing in the wind. As Rebecca Solnit, writing for The Guardian, patiently explains: 

The outrage over the 1619 Project and the new laws trying to censor public school teachers from telling the full story of American history are a doomed attempt to hold back facts and perspectives that are already widespread. […]

While the right has become far more extreme and has its tens of millions of true believers, it is morphing into a minority sect. This has prompted their desperate scramble to overturn free and fair elections and other democratic processes. White Christians, who were 80% of the population in 1976, are now 44%. Mixed-race and non-white people are rapidly becoming the majority.

It’s the same with demonization of trans people. The vast majority of Republicans have never, in their insular bubble enclaves, even met someone who is transgender—at least not knowingly. But their right to even exist in our society has become—and will become in 2022—a “concern” for millions of GOP voters: another illusory red herring with zero impact on their real lives for them to obsess about, just like the supposed, imaginary “threat” to these people’s right to worship in whatever religion floats their boat.

Still, these doomed attempts by the GOP to push the water back over the dam, so to speak, continue to animate the right. And enough of these insecure, aggrieved people have bought into these tropes to the point where they feel it’s acceptable to decimate our democratic institutions in order to salvage some mythical, imagined state of America that never existed in the first place. When Republicans say they believe in Trump’s “Big Lie” of election fraud and the idea of a “stolen” election, what they’re really saying is that they’re perfectly willing to jettison any pretense of democratic principles in order to get the America they want, one that caters to their delusions.

You know what a real, tangible “issue” is? Not being able to find care for your children so you can go to work. That’s an issue. Not being able to afford long-term care for an elderly relative or family member because it’s not covered by Medicare, and being forced to either perform that care yourself or consign that relative to a squalid nursing home: That’s an “issue.” Being trapped in a mind-numbing, un-unionized job packaging consumer goods while the billionaire CEO of your company creates a high-end amusement park ride, launching himself into space so he can do cartwheels and jack off in zero gravity: That’s an issue.

Getting socked with a four-figure bill for emergency health care because your employer-based plan won’t cover it is an “issue.” Paying for your kids’ college so they won’t enter the workforce as an  indentured servant permanently consigned to the ranks of the working poor is an “issue.” Doing something—anything—to forestall the next climate-related disaster coming down the pike is also an “issue.”

But no, instead of trying to address any of these problems—all of which cut across the political spectrum—we’re facing in 2022 a nation where half the electorate is motivated by an irrational and completely bogus fairy tale that holds the last election was “stolen” from a criminal who completely botched and sabotaged the response to a global pandemic. Where that same half of the electorate can’t come to terms with the fact that the person they had previously put into office was wholly incompetent for the job, and that the majority of American voters realized this and kicked him out. Worse, this made-up fairy tale justifies measures geared to upend our entire democracy, all so the Republican Party can continue to spin the same baseless grievances to assert permanent control over all our lives.

In other words, we’ll see if one of the world’s longest-lived democracies is ready to immolate itself for pretty much no real reason at all, no urgent existential “crisis,” no war, no dire economic calamity. Nothing, in fact, but stoked up, magnified lies combined with the ignorance, myopia, and sheer gullibility of a huge chunk of its population.





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