If I ran straight at you, screaming insults and talking gibberish, would you turn and hurry away? Or would you stop, nod, and say, “You’ve got my vote”?
Well, for members of the Republican Party, the answer would be the latter, followed by an earnest plea to please yell louder.
You see, there is no debating that the GOP has been “baptized in crazy,” and that “from QAnon lunatics to fanatical evangelicals, the Grand Old Party is out of its mind.”
We’re talking about people who sincerely believe that Trump is the “true president,” that the economy is collapsing (it’s not), and that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast” that conservatives may have to “use force to save it.”
Yeah, that’s all pretty nuts. But the only thing worse than a crazy man is an angry crazy man. And that combo of madness and rage is what makes the conservative movement so dangerous.
So why are right-wingers so pissed off all the time? Well, there are many reasons for this apocalyptic fury—including the belief in an actual apocalypse. Yes, the White Christian base of the GOP maintains “a position that is mainly rooted in fear of extinction,” provoked by America’s changing demographics. Their numbers are dwindling, so they’ve morphed into “a band of ideological warriors with apocalyptic vision that fears the end of days, sees opponents as devils and traitors, and believes that all methods are sanctioned in its battle to save civilization and itself.”
Yikes, no wonder they’re so furious. The last thing they want to do is talk it out with a bunch of atheist liberals who are trying to exterminate them. So fuck civility, because “how can you be civil to people who threaten your very existence?”
However, it’s not all brimstone and religious fervor. There is also the fact that White conservatives “are less accustomed than people of color to having their public behavior subject to regulation, scrutiny, and critique.” So anything from asking them to wear a mask to flagging their offensive tweets becomes a shocking affront to the natural order and to society itself. White conservatives have “historically lived in a place of privilege and safety,” but they are now “being told a couple of jarring things that have shaken them to their core.” And that’s enough to make anyone antagonistic, right?
Then there is the Republican mantra that government is an evil engine that exists solely to give White people’s tax dollars to Black welfare queens and undocumented Latinos. The GOP has been furious about these theoretical big-government handouts since the 1980s. And yet, “when Republicans take power, they don’t actually repeal government programs that, in reality, are popular.” This, in turn, “makes the Republican base get more and more angry. And as their sense of betrayal grows, so does their desperation that American civilization is in imminent danger of collapse.”
So the cycle—now in its fifth decade—is that conservatives rant about the bloated federal system, get elected by promising to create a libertarian paradise, then do nothing at all to rein in government (and in some cases, actually make it bigger). So their voters get angrier, and since they “don’t believe government works, then why not elect someone who yells about the people they hate?”
Indeed, many conservatives will tell you that shrieking at progressives is the main job of a GOP representative. They will also state that they never send people to Washington to be effective leaders or do the right thing—that’s something wimpy liberals do). And they will insist that an eagerness to point guns at Black people is the only qualification a Republican needs for higher office.
In essence, their motivation is rage. Actual ideas are irrelevant, because whatever a petulant one-term ex-president wants at that moment is their official policy.
However, if there is a coherent belief that binds Republicans, it is “owning the libs.” The psychological benefit of this juvenile, often self-destructive approach is that it does not “require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing, or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism.”
And that’s why you have conservatives sharing racist memes, mocking other cultures, laughing at gun violence, and dismissing the very idea of compassion.
Hey, they might even refuse to get vaccinated, endangering their own lives, for the sole purpose of making liberals angry.
And let me tell you, there is nothing irrational or bizarre about that. Nope.
In any case, owning the libs is “less an identifiable act or set of policy goals than an ethos, a way of life, even a civic religion.” For the GOP, it has become “the party line, with the insufficiently combative seen as inherently suspect.”
In fact, you could say that it’s all the rage.