Politics today often seem like a dystopian novel. Cultural wars are stirring, but the divisions and hostility have a more purposeful orchestrator.
We all saw an agitated mob of rioters encouraged to descend on the Capitol and hunt democratically elected representatives. Obvious political targets include Democrats and democracy itself, but some of the most victimized and exploited people are, ironically, everyday Republicans.
Inequality has increased drastically over the last several decades. The richest 20% of Americans now own roughly 90% of the privately held wealth, leaving the bottom 80% with only about 10%. Ten percent of the American pie for the vast majority of people! Some Democrats are culpable, but this inequity is predominantly the product of Republican economic policies, and it comes with a huge cost, for lack of income leaves people more prone to experience violence, drug addition, depression, inadequate healthcare… Lack of income kills.
How do wealth usurpers, in a democracy, keep getting into power? Deception is the answer. The GOP political-media machine exploits fears: crime, government, terrorists… They proclaim that if we develop affordable, accessible healthcare, we’ll become malignant socialists. Patriotic strings are overpulled and racial anxieties stoked.
Right-wing political organizations send letters to senior citizens frightening them with tales of Muslims, vaccines, liberals, or whatever scary villains are currently popular. It’s always fear, fear, fear, for they know people vote more conservatively when afraid. Successful propaganda bypasses the brain and goes straight to the gut.
Through the years, the far right taught its base to substitute ideology for data and to replace analysis with name-calling. “Don’t pay attention to experts,” the GOP says, for they are “elitists;” “dismiss the inconvenient rulings of jurists,” because they are “arrogant, activist judges;” and of course, “pay no attention to professional news agencies,” for they are “fake news.”
The GOP and its media, which have merged into one, dictate to their audience, “Only listen to us,” serving to intellectually isolate listeners into a limited informational world. And then they assert, “Others are lying to you,” which is a common tactic of cult leaders.
And if one probes, they find that messaging is frequently insincere. For example, Fox News hosts are often derisive of masks and vaccinations while on air, yet they, themselves, have been fully vaccinated. Many such news-entertainment hosts don’t actually believe what they peddle. It’s a business. And numerous viewers, my Republican friends, pay a dire price, particularly in the age of Covid.
In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich showed the effectiveness of character assassination in politics. Next Dick Cheney perfected misleading storytelling with his nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” and then came the “alternative facts” of the Trump administration. Illustrating an argumentative fallacy called Proof by Assertion, lies are repeated over and over, such as alleged Benghazi cover-ups or bogus election victories, until people start to believe them.
Some GOP politicians understand their game well; others are so naive that they actually trust their own propaganda, e.g., Margorie Taylor Greene. It all has become sadly clownish, as off they go to get their marching orders from MyPillow Guy.
Using voter integrity as their cover, the GOP conglomerate is now suppressing the votes of an untold number of Americans. They’re even trying to take over the actual mechanisms of counting and certifying ballots and sending official electors to Washington, D.C. As they wave the American flag, they dissolve our democracy, undermine the rule of law, and subvert the Constitution. We’re witnessing a slow-motion civilian coup.
“Why?” you might ask. “What’s the end game?” It’s mostly about greed and power, and sometimes religion, with a willingness to exploit racial and ideological concerns and sacrifice millions of people.
Freedom and rights come from the Constitution. That’s what the GOP conglomeration is trying to overthrow. Once a conservative one-party system, if not an outright autocracy, is established, some members of the Republican base might have a tribal moment of celebratory dancing. But, for many others, that will fade as they see their vote doesn’t matter anymore either and their family members who hold different political views are brutalized.
Only one social narrative will be allowed. And, along with other citizens, if you’re a regular Republican your exploitation will increase, your freedoms of thought and action diminish, and increasing amounts of your wealth taken, for that is what the GOP has been subtly doing all along.
Mark Mansperger is an associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at Washington State University Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, societal development and political economy. The views presented in this column are his own and do not represent those of WSU or WSU Tri-Cities.