None of the eight Republican Presidential candidates on stage at the first debate raised their hand when they were asked by a moderator if they believed that human behavior was causing climate change. Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax” invented by China. Trump insanity has infested the entire Republican party.
It is okay to disagree. As a teacher, I joke with students that it is okay to disagree with me, sometimes I even disagree with me.” But discussion can only be fruitful if people accept some basic parameters. You need to be respectful of each other and each other’s rights, committed to the value of discussion for resolving differences, and support your views with evidence. Without these rules, there can be no dialogue, only unresolvable arguing. Without those rules, there can be no functioning society. The United States is in danger because of growing insanity on the right. It is increasingly a politics that is irrational and authoritarian with no interest in the views of others and a fundamental disbelief in evidence. Evidence that runs counter to belief is dismissed as “fake news” and as part of a conspiracy to undermine their true values.
As a result of this rightwing insanity, political violence in the United States is at its highest level in fifty years. The news service Reuters identified 213 cases of political violence since the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Two-thirds of these cases were physical assaults and one third were responsible for property damage. Eighteen resulted in fatalities. Of the 14 fatal political attacks since January 6, 13 were committed by self-proclaimed right-wing assailants. Violent threats also soared after Trump lost the 2020 election and claimed it was stolen.
Donald Trump symbolizes this rightwing insanity, but it goes much deeper than Trump and I don’t believe it would disappear if he left the political stage. It is fed by well-funded rightwing think tanks and media and manipulated by more traditional conservatives that use white populist fears for their own political and economic advantage.
Trump draws his support largely from two groups within the Republican Party, religious fanatics and racists. About a quarter of the party identifies as very conservative evangelical Christians who believe the United States is on the brink of catastrophe. They hope to restore a fictional past that never existed and see Trump as a savior. The other broad group of Trump supporters can best be described as white blue-collar populists who think the greatest threat to the United States and themselves comes from non-whites generally and non-white undocumented immigrants and refugees specifically.
According to a recent poll conducted by the New York Times and Sienna College, 56% of people who identify as Republicans believe the United States is “in danger of failing as a nation.” The older and less educated they are, the more likely they are to believe the country will fail. They blame the Biden administration for this collapse based on media reports from Fox News, Newsmax, and The Epoch Times. For this group, Donald Trump is the savior who will put American back of the right path, the far-right path.
If you are unfamiliar with Newsmax and The Epoch Times, Newsmax an American cable news and digital media company that promoted baseless accusations that Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election because of fraud, highlights climate change deniers, opposed COVID vaccine mandates, and broadcast dozens of false claims and conspiracy theories about the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The Epoch Times is a far-right Internet outlet connected to the anti-Chinese government Falun Gong movement that promotes rightwing movements in the United States and Europe. During the 2020 election it was a major funder of advertising on pro-Trump Facebook pages. Like Newsmax, it spread false claims about the 2020 election and the dangers of the COVID vaccine and publishes climate denial material.
A Pew Research Center poll found that 58% of Republicans, especially white men, including 75% of Republicans 65 and older, want to “prioritize expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas,” instead of investing in non-polluting renewal energy. The same Republican cohort opposes reproductive rights for women and stricter gun control legislation because they think gun ownership makes people safer. They also believe that the COVID-19 vaccines are a health risk and agree with Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen, and Donald Trump is the real President of the United States. Republicans and people without college degrees are more likely believe humanity is approaching the biblically prophesied end times which would justify taking action against people viewed as sinners and blasphemers.
A recent article in The New York Times drew a false equivalency between rightwing irrationality and liberal fears about the future of democracy in the United States. The rightwing commentators quoted in the article accused the Biden administration of opening the borders to let everyone in, turning the United States “communist,” and using the COVID pandemic as an excuse to rob Americans of their freedom, none of which have any basis in reality.
Liberals were mostly afraid of the rightwing attacks on law and democracy, attempts to force their morality on everyone else, and their willingness to shut down government and refusal to find compromises, all of which are repeatedly happening. Alia Braley, a researcher at Stanford University who studies attitudes about democracy raised concern that rightwing belief that democracy in the United States is crumbling “can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that they will stop behaving like citizens of a democracy.”
Performer Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond,” is the new rightwing anthem complaining about government, taxes, welfare cheats, and rich men. His real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford. I’m not thrilled with some rich men either, especially rich men behind rightwing causes like the Koch brothers or the talking heads on Fox News. When David Koch died in 2019, he and his brother were worth over $100 billion. Laura Ingraham of Fox News, a big Anthony fan, makes $15 million a year. Matt Walsh on The Daily Wire who has been promoting Anthony is worth about $7 million. It is not clear if Anthony/Lunsford is equally upset with those rich men. If it just attacked wealth inequality, I would like the song.
Sixty percent of Republicans identify as more traditional conservatives. Their willingness to support the rightwing Trump insanity is another form of craziness that threatens the future of the United States. In Germany during the 1930s, traditional conservatives thought they could use Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to achieve power and destroy their opponents on the left and then get rid of Hitler. We know what happened in Germany.