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What Kind Of People Turn To Trump Movements Like MAGA And QAnon? Are They All Life’s Losers?

If We Elect Trump Dictator We Never Have To Worry About A Messy Democracy Again

Obviously though there’s no one-size-fits-all explanation for why tens of millions of our fellow Americans have voted for Trump and turned to the MAGA and QAnon movements, I’ve been trying to figure out commonalities. Are they all racists and xenophobes? Do they all tend to have below average IQs? Are they all, generally, life losers?

We all know that many of them— not all—come from working-class backgrounds or regions that have experienced economic decline and feel left behind by globalization, technological change or shifts— sometimes rapid— in the job market. Some perceive Señor T and his movement as a response to their economic anxieties. Some (especially older MAGAts)— again, not all— feel culturally marginalized or threatened by demographic changes, shifts in social norms or perceived erosion of traditional values. They see the MAGA movement as a means of preserving their cultural identity or way of life, even if there’s no reason they should.

And some— not all— are experiencing feelings of fear, anger, anxiety... and that can make them susceptible to conspiracy theories that offer simple explanations and scapegoats for complex societal problems. And if you’ve ever watched any of the interviews with the people who show up for the MAGA rallies, you see people looking for cheap entertainment and an opportunity for escapism from personal difficulties and societal challenges. Immersing yourself in an elaborate alternate reality can provide temporary relief from real-world stressors and anxieties... in much the same way that drugs can.

Generally, if they think about politics at all, it’s inside the confines of the right-wing echo chamber and they quickly become disillusioned with the political establishment and perceive a lack of responsiveness to their concerns as part of the elitism and corruption Trump is always whining about. Misinformation is consumed daily, hourly. But my personal observation is that individuals with authoritarian tendencies, characterized by a desire for order, obedience and strong leadership, are more likely to support fascist movements like MAGA, attracted to the movement's strongman rhetoric and promise of decisive action. I think for many of them, supporting the MAGA or QAnon movement provides a sense of belonging to a like-minded community and validation of their beliefs (confirmation bias). They may find camaraderie and solidarity among fellow supporters, reinforcing their allegiance to the movement.

Yesterday, on his substack, Timothy Snyder, took a look at one of these factors in an essay titled The Strongman Fantasy, noting that plenty of Americans “like the idea of strongman rule. Why not a dictator who will get things done?… Strongman rule is a fantasy. Essential to it is the idea that a strongman will be your strongman. He won't. In a democracy, elected representatives listen to constituents. We take this for granted, and imagine that a dictator would owe us something. But the vote you cast for him affirms your irrelevance. The whole point is that the strongman owes us nothing. We get abused and we get used to it.”

Another pleasant illusion is that the strongman will unite the nation. But an aspiring dictator will always claim that some belong and others don't. He will define one group after another as the enemy. This might feel good, so long as you feel that you are on the right side of the line. But now fear is the essence of life. The politics of us-and-them, once begun, never ends. 
We dream that a strongman will let us focus on America.  But dictatorship opens our country to the worst the world has to offer.  An American strongman will measure himself by the wealth and power of other dictators. He will befriend them and compete with them. From them he will learn new ways to oppress and to exploit his own people.
At least, the fantasy goes, the strongman will get things done.  But dictatorial power today is not about achieving anything positive. It is about preventing anyone else from achieving anything. The strongman is really the weak man: his secret is that he makes everyone else weaker. 
Unaccountable to the law and to voters, the dictator has no reason to consider anything beyond his own personal interests.  In the twenty-first century, those are simple: dying in bed as a billionaire. To enrich himself and to stay out of prison, the strongman dismantles the justice system and replaces civil servants with loyalists. 

The new bureaucrats will have no sense of accountability. Basic government functions will break down. Citizens who want access will learn to pay bribes. Bureaucrats in office thanks to patronage will be corrupt, and citizens will be desperate. Quickly the corruption becomes normal, even unquestioned. 
…In the fantasy of the strongman, politics vanishes and all is clear and bright. In fact, a dreary politics penetrates everything. You can't run a business without the threat of denunciation. You can't get basic services without humiliation. You feel bad about yourself. You think about what you say, since it can be used against you later. What you do on the internet is recorded forever, and can land you in prison.
Public space closes down around you. You cannot escape to the bar or the bowling alley, since everything you say is monitored.  The person on the next stool or in the next lane might not turn you in, but you have to assume they will. If you have a t-shirt or a bumper sticker with a message, someone will report you. Even if you just repeat the dictator's words, someone can lie about you and denounce you. And then, if you voted for the strongman, you will be confused. But you should not be. This is what you voted for.
Denunciation becomes normal behavior. Without law and voting, denouncing others helps people to feel safe. Under strongman rule, you cannot trust your colleagues or your friends or even your family. Political fear not only takes away all public space; it also corrupts all private relationships. And soon it consumes your thoughts. If you cannot say what you think, you lose track of what you believe. You cease to be yourself.
…In a dictatorship, parents no longer say what they think to their children, because they fear that their children will repeat it in public. And once parents no longer speak their minds at home, they can no longer create a trusting family. Even parents who give up on honesty have to fear that their children will one day learn the truth, take action, and get imprisoned. 
Once this process begins, it is hard to stop. At the present stage of the strongman fantasy, people imagine an exciting experiment. If they don't like strongman rule, they think, they can just elect someone else the next time. This misses the point. If you help a strongman come to power, you are eliminating democracy. You burn that bridge behind you. The strongman fantasy dissolves, and real dictatorship remains.
Most likely you won’t be killed or be required to kill. But amid the dreariness of life under dictatorship is dark responsibility for others’ death. By the time the killing starts, you will know that it is not about unity, or the nation, or getting things done. The best Americans, betrayed by you when you cast your vote, will be murdered at the whim and for the wealth of a dictator. Your tragedy will be living long enough to understand this.


3 comentarios

Wow so uncheery. But all too real a possibility with TFG. Will we fight back and get rid of him in November?

Or will we be a redux of Germany in the 1930s?

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19 mar
Contestando a

I'm sorry to shit in your party punchbowl, but until you all decide to get rid of him and all like him AND ALSO rid yourselves of the flaccid excuse for a party that won't do shit about anything (necessarily in reverse order), we're destined to be some form of a nazi reich.

The nazis were never going to rid THEMSELVES of hitler and OUR nazis will never rid themselves of our fuhrer messiah retarded hitler.

There are twice as many of YOU dipshits as there are nazis. And you still refuse to actually coalesce into a useful majority. THAT is the problem.

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18 mar

John Dean is only half correct. The other side of that coin is an utter refusal of the "good" people to stand up and enforce rule of law and the constitution.

All petty dictators who are elected enjoy that same bipartisanship. Hitler certainly.

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