There are no rapists in Texas.
We know this is true because, last year, soon after the Lone Star State passed its wildly misogynistic anti-abortion ban, its governor said the law didn’t need an exemption for rape victims because he was going to eliminate that crime in Texas.
However, the ensuing months have shown that this master plan has worked about as well you would have expected. Which is to say, it hasn’t worked at all.
Of course, such idiotic, outlandish, and flat-out insane statements from Republican officials are not surprising. On the contrary, for GOP leadership, it appears to be part of the required rhetoric.
But for years, many Americans wrote off similarly stupid assertions as political cover, a tired doublespeak that no one believed but that our culture required.
While that still happens, we have to accept a far more disturbing fact: conservatives truly believe some crazy shit.
For example, a majority of Republicans still insist that Trump won the 2020 election.
Much of the mainstream media coverage of this phenomenon implies that conservatives are just showing allegiance to the GOP, or trying yet again to own the libs, or simply want to annoy pollsters. However, when a majority of the members of a political party enthusiastically deny reality—consistently and for months on end—we should acknowledge that most of them sincerely savor their collective delusion.
For them, it’s not just talk. It is a powerful belief.
Now, many commentators have pointed out how fringe theories are now GOP orthodoxy. But moderates and some progressives continue to offer an out to conservatives: this unsavory development is just because the base is so powerful, not because Republicans have an innate desire for alternative facts.
We hear that “it’s not conservatives in general who tend to promote false information, but rather a smaller subset” that have “low levels of conscientiousness and an appetite for chaos.” That’s accurate, but it glosses over the fact that “research has found that conservatives have a greater tendency toward misinformation than liberals do” and that the desire for chaos is almost exclusively a right-wing trait.
We hear that just 15 percent of conservatives are QAnon adherents, which sidesteps the realization that this is still an alarmingly high percentage and counts only full-fledged enthusiasts. Phrased another way, we see that almost two-thirds of conservatives “believe in at least one core conspiracy theory born from the movement.”
Again, there is no progressive equivalent for the “60 percent of Republicans who believe the Qanon movement’s original and baseless conspiracy theory that a global network of pedophiles are torturing and sexually abusing children in satanic rituals.”
But it’s just a small subset, right?
Well, consider the following real-world events and the corresponding right-wing reaction:
- Almost a million Americans have died of COVID-19 (“No, the virus is fake”)
- Twenty children were murdered in the Sandy Hook shooting (“No, it was a false-flag operation”)
- Rioters invaded the capitol on January 6 (“No, it was antifa”)
- Climate change is real and an existential threat (“No, scientists are making up data”)
According to many conservatives, all of the above disasters, and many more, are not real. It must be great to live in a world where nothing bad ever actually happens. It’s all crisis actors and fake news, or at best, the shenanigans of evil liberals concocting nonsense for the sole purpose of scaring Americans.
Now, we are all guilty of subtly twisting reality to fit our perception of the world. But conservatives must ignore basic facts, promote obvious lies, denigrate science, and distort the truth to an alarming degree to make everything fit into their ideology.
This is not a new development. Twenty years ago, virtually every Republican overruled the reality-based community and shrieked that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the civilized world. Yeah, they don’t talk about that too much anymore. But conservatives have never acknowledged that their dismissal of evidence, mixed with their reliance on “feeling it in your gut,” wound up killing 100,000 people.
Unrepentant over their decades of botched predictions and fear-mongering misfires, conservatives now believe that vaccinated people are more likely to die of COVID, that teachers have a sinister agenda to make white kids feel bad, and that Putin is our buddy, among other intriguing theses.
Republicans “have been told not to trust election results,” as well as elected officials, political scientists, laws, courts, news organizations, history, math, data, or common sense. Rather, they’ve been commanded “to trust easily discredited nonsense from a failed and corrupt former president, conservative media outlets that profit from his propaganda,” and conspiratorial lunatics.
And now, with social-media juggernauts reinforcing political leaders who conflate the insane with the plausible, we have a situation where the ultimate test of being a conservative is assessing how much absurdity one is willing to swallow.
So the question becomes, once again: are conservatives the delusional ones for embracing the ludicrous ideas they believe? Or is it moderates who grasp at every excuse for abhorrent behavior? Or is it progressives for witnessing this gnarled reality and still thinking we can fight it?
Yes, maybe we’re all just a bit crazy.
Featured photo by fotologic/CC BY 2.0