It isn't easy being a Republican these days.
You have to harbor a deep suspicion of anything seen with your own eyes. You have to be able to change your beliefs, on a moment’s notice, to whatever the president tweets that day. You must have unusual dexterity, both intellectual and moral, and a gift for reconciling many questionable, if not criminal, activities. These skills are not easily acquired.
But as malleable as you’re asked to be on a daily basis, there are some basic tenets you must consider immutable.
These are embodied in the Republican Prime Directive:
You shall hold no truths to be more self-evident than the word of Donald Trump and his appointed interpreters — Fox, Rush, Breitbart, OANN, etc. All other sources are fake news and must be ignored.
Many commandments descend from the Prime Directive:
· You shall believe that Covid-19 is simultaneously a hoax, a Chinese plot, and a minor problem not unlike the flu. That freedom from face masks is a fundamental right. That social distancing is unpatriotic. And that those six million cases are both hoaxes and overstated by fake news.
· You shall believe that the economy is the best in our nation’s history — just look at the stock market. That the extra $600/week that was ended last month was a handout to others, but a fair entitlement to you. And that sixteen million unemployed are in denial about the strength of the economy.
· You shall believe that climate change is but another hoax of the liberal establishment. When you hear of a hurricane or wildfire threatening your town, you must examine the news source and consider the Prime Directive before evacuating. When rising sea levels overwhelm sewage systems and turn balconies into docks, this too shall be a hoax.
· You shall believe that Russia — the same Russia that was once the spawn of Satan — isn’t nearly as bad as Democrats. That Putin is now your hero, and that NATO is a coalition of whiny socialists. You applaud Russia corrupting your elections, as long as it’s for your side. And you approve of Russia placing bounties on American soldiers, since those soldiers are suckers and losers for joining the military in the first place.
· You shall believe that healthcare is a privilege most people don’t deserve. That Obamacare is a disaster, and it’s better to have no health insurance at all than to submit to the tyranny of socialized medicine. As for people with pre-existing conditions — like chronic Covid damage — that’s just what they get for being infected by a hoax.
· You shall believe that most forms of discrimination are directed at white people, and that the job market is rigged to favor non-whites, immigrants, and high school graduates.
· You shall believe that the second amendment towers over the rest of the constitution. That everyone, including the unborn, has the right to bear arms, and not just wimpy assault rifles, either. This right is inalienable and must be extended to land mines, rocket launchers, surface-to-air missiles, and other must-haves for the avid outdoorsman.
· You shall believe that the only agenda that guides your vote is abortion. That your preferred candidates can count on you to ignore all other issues, including Covid-19. That the rights of the unborn supercede those of the born. And that sex and contraception are deeply immoral, especially for other people.
· You shall believe that Gordon Sondland, Alexander Vindman, Fiona Hill, Rick Gates, Marie Yovanovitch, Kurt Volker, Bill Taylor, George Kent, Laura Cooper, Philip Reeker, Christopher Anderson, Catherine Croft, Tim Morrison, Jennifer Williams, David Holmes, Mark Sandy, and, yes, Michael Cohen — all of whom worked for the president in one capacity or another, and all of whom have testified under oath in front of Congress — have all perjured themselves, at the risk of their careers, to lie about him.
· You shall further believe that Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, E. Jean Carroll, Summer Zervos — and twenty other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, including rape — are all lying, that they all had it coming, and besides they weren’t his type.
Finally, as of this week, you shall believe that Bob Woodward’s tape of the president — saying he knew early on that the virus was deadly, easily spread, and coming soon — is, of course, fake news. The tape of his voice is obviously lying, because he told you himself the virus is a hoax.
This is where the Prime Directive is extremely important to get right. Because when Trump’s taped voice says one thing and Trump himself says the opposite, you must believe in your heart that both things are equally true.
The hardest thing about being a Republican is figuring out which lie you’re supposed to believe.