This question was recently posed to me in another forum. This was my response.
This nation’s “rot” is today’s Republican Party and much of that “rot” within the Republican Party can be summarized simply. The acceptance of absolutely crazy, fact defying, conspiracy theories became mainstream within the Republican Party. An entire national party is now built around alternative realities.
I’ve followed, and debunked conspiracy theories for a longtime. Historically they included everything from JFK’s assassination, to chemtrails, to Illuminati (of various sorts) secretly running everything, to more recent stuff like the 9/11 conspiracy theories. The whackadoodle conspiracy theories previously had two traits that are important to this discussion:
- They were mostly fringe stuff.
- They didn’t identify with any party, and no party accepted them. Conspiracy theorists themselves were fairly apolitical.
That has changed. The Republican Party is now thoroughly identified with this reality defying nonsense, and this stuff is now part of the mainstream of the Republican Party. The question is “how did that happen?” How did this respectable party come to be so controlled by the crazies?
In my view, the GOP was creeping that way for a while, but the catalyst that pushed it over was the whole Birther thing. That became the first real utterly absurd, factual devoid conspiracy theory that was mainstreamed into the Republican Party. A large percentage of Republicans believed it, and the party would go on to nominate, and elect into the Presidency, a champion of that corrupt cause.
The Birther cause was the conspiracy camel’s nose under the tent. Once that was let in it opened the GOP to a host of crazy, irresponsible, sometimes dangerous and democracy subverting notions. The Seth Rich stuff, the Clinton Death Count, Obama the Secret Muslim, the Deep State, Pizza Gate, and eventually Pizza Gate’s illegitimate child, QAnon.
Other fringe elements that previously had no home, and whose very character was distrusting of government, flocked to the newly welcoming doors of the Republican Party. This included the violence advocating, American civil war supporting, nationalist conspiracy cultists like Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and various white supremacist militias. All of that suddenly got baked into the a new Republican Party cake, and not in mere dashes, but as main ingredients.
I said that Birtherism was the trigger that opened that conspiracy theorist doors wide. It was the ridiculous conspiracy theory that mainstreamed and legitimized ridiculous conspiracy theories in general. So the question is what triggered Birtherism to make that possible? And here is where the answer will become truly disturbing.
A black man was elected as President. Birtherism at its core was a racist theory by those who were uncomfortable that a black man was elected President. The Birther babble provided the racists with a non-racist facade to hide behind but that facade was a sham. At its core was a very old racist trope that the black man’s papers are just never good enough, and this black man just wasn’t a real American. So when the champion of that cause ran as a Republican, and affirmed the message with his own racially charged attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, the result was predictable.
The Republican Party is now the party of crazy conspiracies and crazy conspiracy theorists. The Party elects such crazies to national office. The party panders to them, appearing at their rallies. At the QAnon sponsored “For God And Patriot Roundup” rally in Dallas Memorial Day weekend speakers include a Republican Congressman, and Donald Trump himself speaking live virtually. He will be sure to tell them, yet again, that the election was stolen, again.
In his opening remarks, former Director of National Security, and Trump pardonee, Michael Flynn openly urged a coup as a participant asked, “I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” When the cheering subsided Flynn responded, “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”
You see, the conspiracies explain everything, even lost elections. The election could not have been lost legitimately. In the modern GQP universe, only a malicious conspiracy can explain it. A conspiracy so evil, that insurrection, revolution and civil war is justified. That’s mainstream thinking in today’s Republican Party.
Becoming the party of crazy conspiracies has created another cancerous effect. It amounts to a free pass against any amount of appalling corruption. Any allegation of corruption against any Republican is simply converted by the party as being part of the conspiracy against them.
The quality of the evidence does not matter. Even absolute video proof is not sufficient (witness January 6th). Even confessions are not sufficient (witness Michael Flynn).
The Republican Party presents a perpetual persecution complex where they are uniquely the victims of a vast conspiracy against them from the media, Deep State, or whatever else is needed to excuse their corruption. The same vast conspiracy operates to unjustly protect the other side allowing a never ending series of “whataboutsims” when trapped by the facts of Republican corruption.
Sadly, I know of no solutions to this. There is no magic wand I can suggest that will restore sanity to the crazies, and return truth, basic decency and honor as things the Republican Party values.