Yeah, yeah, Republican Party blowhard Tucker Carlson joined a Dan White Appreciation club. White accomplished one memorable thing in his miserable life: assassinating Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in 1978. But maybe Tucker didn't join the Dan White Society a dozen years later because of the assassinations but because he appreciated the Twinkie Defense that got him a slap on the wrist. Whatever the case, who could possibly expect anything else from Tucker? That's who he is and who he's always been-- and that's exactly why Republicans love him.
The Republican Party is this-- be sure to watch the video-- and this. They are paranoid, conspiracy theory-obsessed Know Nothings jeopardizing America because they've persuaded themselves that COVID vaccines are... some kind of bad juju out to get them. And many of their most prominent leaders are every bit as bad as the party base.
Yesterday, neo-fascist Wisconsin Senator, Ron Johnson "questioned the 'big push' to ensure everyone is vaccinated against coronavirus, putting him at odds with many of his Senate Republican colleagues who have attempted to close the partisan gap in vaccination rates. In an interview with conservative Wisconsin radio host Vicki McKenna, herself a vocal coronavirus vaccine skeptic, Johnson launched into a condemnation of 'vaccine passports,' a credential that would allow businesses to verify vaccination status. But Johnson also went a step further, declaring he sees 'no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,' arguing their distribution should be 'limited' to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and asking, 'if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?' Johnson said he is 'getting highly suspicious' of the 'big push to make sure everybody gets the vaccine,' stating it’s 'not a fully approved vaccine' but also arguing that the fact it is 95% effective means only a limited number of people need to be vaccinated... Johnson is one of the Senate’s most prolific promoters of coronavirus pseudoscience, holding hearings last year as the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to promote unproven treatments like Hydroxychloroquine."
NY Times conservative columnist David Brooks must have been sad this morning when he wrote that his party is getting even worse. "Those of us who had hoped America would calm down when we no longer had Donald Trump spewing poison from the Oval Office," he wrote, "have been sadly disabused. There are increasing signs that the Trumpian base is radicalizing. My Republican friends report vicious divisions in their churches and families. Republican politicians who don’t toe the Trump line are speaking of death threats and menacing verbal attacks. It’s as if the Trump base felt some security when their man was at the top, and that’s now gone. Maybe Trump was the restraining force." Or maybe not. Or maybe the people who voted for Trump are the real problem, even more so than Trump.
Brooks called it "a venomous panic attack" and noted that some Republicans are willing to fight to the death to defeat some kind of existential crisis they think they're facing. He points to a poll showing that 51% of Trump voters feel that politics is about "ensuring the survival of the country as we know it" and that just 19% feel it's about policies. Another poll indicates that Democrats have an optimist and positive worldview while Republicans have a dark, paranoid perspective and think that their lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and that their priority should be to protect themselves.
This level of catastrophism, nearly despair, has fed into an amped-up warrior mentality.
“The decent know that they must become ruthless. They must become the stuff of nightmares,” Jack Kerwick writes in the Trumpian magazine American Greatness. “The good man must spare not a moment to train, in both body and mind, to become the monster that he may need to become in order to slay the monsters that prey upon the vulnerable.”
With this view, the Jan. 6 insurrection was not a shocking descent into lawlessness but practice for the war ahead. A week after the siege, nearly a quarter of Republicans polled said violence can be acceptable to achieve political goals. William Saletan of Slate recently rounded up the evidence showing how many Republican politicians are now cheering the Jan. 6 crowd, voting against resolutions condemning them.
Liberal democracy is based on a level of optimism, faith and a sense of security. It’s based on confidence in the humanistic project: that through conversation and encounter, we can deeply know each other across differences; that most people are seeking the good with different opinions about how to get there; that society is not a zero-sum war, but a conversation and a negotiation.
...With their deep pessimism, the hyperpopulist wing of the G.O.P. seems to be crashing through the floor of philosophic liberalism into an abyss of authoritarian impulsiveness. Many of these folks are no longer even operating in the political realm. The G.O.P. response to the Biden agenda has been anemic because the base doesn’t care about mere legislation, just their own cultural standing.
...This is no longer just about Trump the man, it’s about how you are going to look at reality-- as the muddle its always been, or as an apocalyptic hellscape. It’s about how you pursue change-- through the conversation and compromise of politics, or through intimidations of macho display.
I can tell a story in which the Trumpians self-marginalize or exhaust themselves. Permanent catastrophism is hard. But apocalyptic pessimism has a tendency to deteriorate into nihilism, and people eventually turn to the strong man to salve the darkness and chaos inside themselves.
My guess is that Brooks is too scared to ask The Times pollsters to correlate this kind of mindset with IQ. He might win a Polk or a Pulitzer instead of just more scorn from Times readers. As for the rest of us, we need to keep in mind what legal scholar and author Richard Hasen wrote in his own Times oped today: Republicans Aren’t Done Messing With Elections, pointing out that they're "not content with limiting voting rights, they are threatening the integrity of vote counting itself" by giving Republican-controlled legislatures a greater hand in who counts votes and how they are counted in Georgia, Texas, Michigan Arizona... for starters.