Post-Insurrection, GOP Further Embraces Trump And QAnon

Rather than embracing accountability, Republicans are embracing the forces that led to the deadly insurrection at the Capitol while telling us to "move on."
Former President Donald Trump meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at Mar-a-Lago in Florida – January 28, 2021 (Source: Trump’s Save America PAC)

Former President Donald Trump meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at Mar-a-Lago in Florida – January 28, 2021 (Source: Trump’s Save America PAC)

For a brief moment in time after the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol by fanatical supporters of former President Trump, it looked like the Republican Party may possibly be ready to finally cut ties. Dozens of political commentators from the peanut gallery mused how swiftly impeaching and convicting Trump would show Americans that they drew the line at insurrection by a sore loser. Even if it would’ve been to save their own hides from his own much-rumored political party, which could split their base and hypothetically usher in a Democratic supermajority across the country. That moment, like pretty much every moment anyone hoped the GOP would come back to its senses over the last four years, now seems like nothing more than wishful thinking.

Of course, the commentators could be forgiven for their opinions. It would be quite reasonable to think that a major national party commanding billions in donations every election cycle would be made up of largely rational actors and have a sense of self-preservation. Unfortunately, this no longer seems to be the case, as even in light of major donors bowing out for the current cycle in direct response to the events of January 6th, Republican members of Congress are urging us to move on and forget what happened while state parties in Texas, Hawaii, Oregon, and Arizona are either praising QAnon conspiracies or adopting their language and ideas while fully embracing Trump as the party’s supreme overlord. No wonder over 30,000 Republicans in key states left the party in the last few weeks.

Given this trajectory, future GOP lawmakers and cabinet members won’t be politicians who cut their teeth on local and state policymaking but rather grifting fabulists like Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), deranged conspiracy theorists calling for the murder of political opponents like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and insurrection-supporting, demonstratively gun-toting shock jocks like Lauren Boebert (R-CO). They’re not in Congress to deliver on any policy objectives. Their only goals are to raise money off fear-mongering spam flooding Republicans’ inboxes and enjoy the perks, attention, and opportunities from having a media spotlight on themselves as they sing praises to the latest conspiracy theory to grip the far right.

If you’re making attack ads, this is probably music to your ears. Why stress about how to pick a memorable quip about a detailed policy debate when all you need to do is say that the politician you’re trying to defeat belongs to a party that believes that the Earth is probably flat and ruled by immortal Chinese communist lizards in child-eating pizza sex basements ran by Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks, and Chrissy Tiegen? It won’t even be that far from the truth, and to counter your claim said politician would have to alienate a vital core constituency which very much believes that this really is how the world works. Cut the ad, buy some air time, get the popcorn ready, and watch the fallout while the cash rolls in.

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And let’s make no mistake, we very much need to cut such ads because this is exactly the choice voters will have in 2022, the choice between functioning adults who want to govern and a cultish confederacy of zealots who either wholeheartedly believe that anyone who dares to cast a vote for the opposition is literally a baby-eating Satanic pedophile, or are perfectly happy to pretend they do and support the faithful. While 2020 was a referendum on Trump, the midterms will be an evaluation of the nation’s mental health and to pretend that we won’t still be reeling from pathologies that defined American politics for the last decade or so, is like bringing a knife to a full-blown siege with cruise missiles and mortar fire.

However, from a human perspective, the GOP’s violent divorce from reality straddles the line between tragedy and disgust. America needs a principled conservative party that works to preserve the nation’s best traditions and encourages fiscal discipline and a strong defense. But instead, what it got is a collective of cowards, conspiracy theorists, and shock jocks looking for fame and cash. Rather than learn its lesson and broaden its appeal, as its very own documents recommended in 2008 and 2012, all it seems able to do now is double down on what is more or less just a fear-mongering chain mail scam dragging down tens of millions of Americans under the putrescent waters of abject insanity.

For more than half a century, Republicans force-fed Americans ever more apocalyptic conspiracies, exploiting real problems to present convenient scary scapegoats, and declared themselves as the only people willing to tackle all these imaginary evils. They claimed they could do this only if they had enough cash and won their elections, accomplished nothing of substance — if not made matters worse — then came back to their voters with pleas for more cash when the fictional dragons weren’t slain because “this thing goes deeper than I ever thought.” What possible incentive do they have to get anything useful done if they get all the money and clout they want by keeping their voters angry and scared? In this light, the events of January 6th were inevitable.

After generations of abdicating governance, indiscriminately dismantling the state, then using scare tactics to keep the cash and perks coming, it seems like the GOP is incapable of doing anything else, even when it’s in their best interest. According to a former GOP strategist, due to the sheer amount of complex legal paperwork necessary to get on ballots as a third party, it’s unlikely that The Donald will make good on his threat to split Republican votes, but he can send acolytes and family members to primary members of Congress he doesn’t like with disastrous results for said lawmakers. Making sure the Trumps are disgraced and remembered in infamy as the First Family that encouraged an insurrection seems like basic survival.

Working with Democrats to show that they’re not subservient to a Floridian retiree with a fake news and conspiracy theory addiction, delivering major wins and popular projects for voters across the country while representing their constituents’ concerns, then running as a reformed party of sane adults is a no-brainer. But with the path the GOP has chosen, it’s impossible. After convincing the base that literally anything Democrats do is just a step toward collective farming, gulags, and cannibal lizard pedophiles bulldozing the suburbs, any vote other than to obstruct is now seen as treason by an increasingly unhinged contingency. They turned their voters into an anchor, tied it around their necks, then doused it in gasoline and set it on fire.

With all the seemingly reasonable conspiracies sucked dry, the only thing left to be sung by the tinfoil choir is the grab bag of Taxil Hoax/Satanic Panic/Blood Libel lunacy that is QAnon. But don’t feel too bad for the Republican voters who are entranced by this siren call. They’re not just hapless victims. They had plenty of chances to back away and to tune out the extremism and propaganda flooding their social media feeds by their choice alone. Instead of questioning why they were being constantly fed gloom and doom as so many of their friends and family were being called child molesting cannibals conspiring against them, they ranted about the need for Americans to live like feral pack animals instead of modern society.

Now, America is seen as a superpower in decline, pitied and used as a cautionary tale by other nations, its citizens at each other’s’ throats over century-old fascist hysteria rebranded by former skinheads who grew a crop top, and uncritically spread by clickbait stenography, as nearly 80% of the public struggles to make ends meet. Half the nation worships its billionaires as golden calves, the other is asking if the proper dessert to pair with billionaire confit is politician brulee. This is the world Republicans created as they turned on their fellow citizens after the Cold War in the name of Art Laffer’s napkin, and what they’re fighting to preserve and exacerbate even if voters have to pay for their delusions of adequacy with their lives, literally.

At this point, there’s only one way forward and that’s to combat disinformation, investing a lot of time and effort in education, promotion of critical thinking skills, forcing people to question their beliefs so we can all inhabit a shared reality once again, and holding media personalities whose profit comes from sowing discord to account. We have to stop pretending that all opinions are equally valid and praising people just for having an opinion, especially if it’s a contrarian one. The world is not a debate club where words can mean whatever you want and everything can be debated from all sides no matter what the real world says on the subject. It’s time we stop treating it like one and get back to the business of running a civilized society.

Yes, I know, civilized society is boring. There are no secret dungeons, or lizard people, or flashy scandals every hour. Policy debates often focus on mind-numbingly arcane points of laws and statistical data. Progress is often slow and steady, and yes, your taxes end up helping people you may not like or agree with while their taxes end up helping you despite their opinions of you as a person and your worldview. Leaders make relatively predictable, heavily vetted speeches and hold countless meetings instead of yelling at the TV on social media. It’s like the political version of eating your vegetables, staying hydrated, and getting a good night’s sleep. But that’s what we desperately need for long-term societal health.

If we want to do something fun and disruptive, we can try rethinking how jobs function, create new industries, explore space, or mine asteroids. But we can only do that when we have a well functioning, stable society that understands something as basic as the need to change with the times instead of fighting crises invented on hentai image boards while letting real problems and looming concerns fester for decades. Defining an objective reality in which we prioritize being skeptical and discerning news consumers, holding politicians accountable for failures and bad faith and behavior, and setting a vision for the future need to be our top priorities. Otherwise, we’ll continue accelerating down the road to failure. It’s as simple as that.

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Opinion // Conspiracy Theories / Disinformation / Donald Trump / Insurrection / Kevin McCarthy / Marjorie Taylor Greene / QAnon