A few months ago, Jon Lovett of Pod Save America was spot on when he said that the real divide in this country falls between those who pay attention and those who don’t.
With that in mind, I received some pushback from last week’s post, in which I proposed that “continuing to identify as Republican means one is either stupid or complicit.”
I heard from several readers who found that attitude a tad harsh, and who took issue with me for bringing my open contempt for the GOP down to the personal, rank-and-file level. Their point being that they know people — as do I — who have traditionally voted Republican, some of whom are friends.
Evidently, many of these friends are disgusted with the sharp right turn their party has taken. They hate Trump. They deplore the insurrection. They were happy to get vaccinated.
All of which I applaud. But I can’t help but ask where they’ve been, these vaccinated Republicans? This sharp right turn hasn’t been that sharp — it’s been bending that way for at least thirty years.
Do they not remember? Or were they not paying attention when Newt Gingrich took a blowtorch to all the norms of responsible public discourse? Or when he taught the party that Democrats were sick, perverted radicals who hate America and want to kill your babies? Or when his buddy Rush Limbaugh declared war on “femi-nazis” and spawned an immensely profitable business model that to this day thrives on hate, racism, and endless lies.
Were they looking elsewhere when grotesquely unqualified Republicans started running for office, when the vitriol and dirty tactics become politics as usual, when the whole party fell under the spell of the metastasizing media empire that now controls the minds of tens of millions of otherwise sentient citizens?
Were they sleeping, these friends of ours, when Bill Clinton was impeached for prurient, faux-moral reasons? When George W. Bush lied us into war in Iraq and introduced waterboarding to popular culture? When John Kerry got “swift-boated” by atrocious slanders about his military service? When Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat? When that same Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and allowed unlimited dark money into the electoral process?
These have all been major headlines over a long period of time, and it’s hardly a comprehensive list. But even if you weren’t paying much attention, they were hard to miss. They were all integral to the malicious, scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners politics that started long before Trump, and will survive long after.
So why were these friends of ours not appalled? What were they doing while all the lies — from the tiny insidious ones to the major whoppers — were being cooked up and weaponized for all those years. Were they complicit, or just ignorant?
Yes, I can see these friends being offended by the laughably transparent QAnon lies. I’ll credit them with understanding that not all Democrats are pedophiles.
But where was this critical thinking during the eleven Benghazi hearings, when the lies were equally transparent, and equally laughable, but were launched from the floor of Congress? Do they not see that the groundwork for this QAnon-ish conspiracy-mongering was laid long ago?
I bring up Benghazi for a reason. Because the steep descent of the Republican party into its current state of depravity wasn’t steep at all. It was a steady, methodical erosion of both democratic values and human decency, carried out over many decades. And it was embodied in the thirty-year character assassination of Hillary Clinton.
I still haven’t heard any Republicans — vaccinated or otherwise — publicly admit that Hillary was never the vindictive monster who plotted the killing of those diplomats in Benghazi. That she didn’t actually murder Vince Foster or run a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor. That she was never the spawn of Satan, or anything more sinister than a smart woman in politics.
The right targeted Hillary for destruction from the minute her husband took office as president, and they’ve sponsored a constant campaign of lies about her ever since. Looking back from the outrage over her emails to the fatuous Benghazi hearings, to the slew of totally fabricated “scandals” going back to “Travelgate” in the eighties, she has always brought out the very worst in Republicans. Smart women scare the shit out of them.
I’m guessing our friends don’t want to think about Hillary. I’m guessing they’d rather think more about cherished “Republican values.” About the high-minded philosophy of “small government” and “unfettered markets.” About how regulation is destroying the country. About how lowering taxes raises tax revenue. And how the GOP is the party of “fiscal responsibility.”
These arguments are all canned, kneejerk responses that date back to before the invention of sound bites. All are demonstrably bogus. All are rooted in deeply cynical agendas. All are bought and paid for by wealthy corporate interests. And all are taken as gospel among the party faithful.
So I have to ask our vaccinated Republican friends, did you take this gospel at face value? Did you listen to opposing arguments? Were opposing arguments even available in your bubble?
It’s great that you condemn the lies, the sedition, and the violence. But do you see them for what they are: the culmination of a long and methodical sabotage of the entire American Experiment, in which you played — actively or passively — a real part?
It’s great that you got vaccinated. But isn’t it strange that you had to betray your own political party to do so? That your vaccination will be seen in some circles as a shameful act? That "real" Republicans don’t get vaccinated, but you did?
It’s great that you saw through Trump. But could you please look back honestly at the other things you might have seen through, but didn’t?
Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of people had to be fed a lot of lies over a long, long time.
How many of those lies did you buy? And how many did you sell?