As we all know, hot-tempered lovers of authoritarianism recently held a rally that was supposed to attract thousands of like-minded neofascists. But the rally brought in just a handful of sad racists who looked pathetic standing around, preaching right-wing gospel and reminiscing about their glory days, when they could drive over protesters and march around with torches and smash heads open whenever they damn well felt like it.
However, this fizzled assembly should not convince us that Trumpism is dead. After all, our favorite twice-impeached ex-president “has slowly turned January 6 from a black mark that threatened to expunge him from Republican politics, to a regrettable episode that his allies preferred to leave behind, to a glorious uprising behind which he could rally his adherents.”
Indeed, the week after the attack on the Capitol, about 80 percent of Republicans denounced it. But today over half of Trump voters describe the riots as “patriotism,” “defending freedom,” or “legitimate protest.” And of course, over 70 percent of Republicans believe that Biden stole the election, “which was the original false rationale for the January 6 rally that turned into the attack.”
So tell me again how Republicans were going to come to their senses once Trump left office, and how we can still find common ground with them to move the country forward. Go ahead—I love a good joke.
In any case, recent investigations have shown how “Trump’s assault on democracy, which looks more and more like an attempted coup, was even more reckless and insistent than previously thought.” And in response, Republicans have devised a series of “tortured, pathetic arguments… to dismiss or minimize the democracy-shaking events of January 6.”
Of course, it’s well-established that Republicans will justify anything—including treason and manslaughter—to defend their deranged despot. It’s also clear that “conservatism” long ago stopped referring to principles and ideas and is now synonymous with fury, ignorance, and willful destruction.
What’s new, however, is the switch in the political culture. No, it’s not as radical as the flip in the middle of the 20th century, when segregationist Democrats turned into white supremacist Republicans. But it is jarring to realize that conservatives are “wrapping themselves in the mantle of dissent, while progressives contend they should accept America as it is or pack their bags.”
In other words, it is Republicans who are today’s revolutionaries (or more accurately, the counter-revolutionaries). They are the radicals who want to alter America, to the point of overthrowing the government and dismantling democracy. It is the Democratic Party, led by the ultimate establishment figure, good old Joe Biden, that focuses on slow change and sturdy institutions and archaic Senate rules.
Along those lines, it is progressives who talk about America’s future and invoke patriotism. To conservatives, America’s best days are in the distant past—it’s right there in the MAGA slogan—and burning the entire country down is preferable to leaving the nation in the hands of those damn woke liberals.
No longer are progressives threatening to move to Canada. Now it is conservatives threatening to move to Hungary.
Yes, Trump’s embrace of “autocratic leaders and his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election have deepened the American right’s disdain for democracy” and their fellow citizens. But the truth is that among conservatives the Confederate flag has long been more revered than the Stars and Stripes. Their supposed love of America was just a psychological self-defense mechanism, or perhaps conscious branding, because “it’s been obvious for years that conservatives loathe the United States as it actually exists.” They hate the entire government, all the cities, both coasts, over half the populace, and every social movement that has arisen here in the last 60 years.
For decades, conservative Republicans “have posed as the party of chest-thumping ultra-patriots who bleat constantly about how America is the best country on the planet” while shrieking about how we’ve forsaken God and need to be punished. Conservatives despise the nation’s “cosmopolitan multiculturalism, tolerance of gay and transgender people, huge number of immigrants, people not speaking English, birthright citizenship, and so on.”
And now, conservatives want to destroy those values that most Americans actually support, in favor of freezing the nation in a state of permanent social paralysis, where uppity ethnic minorities and women never get out of line.
And if they have to wave a few American flags along the way to fool people into supporting that vision, hey, that’s easy enough to do.
They have a radical vision for America—just don’t call it patriotism.
Featured image: Tyler Merbler/Wikimedia Commons