Let’s say your kid punches another kid in the face for no reason. According to the GOP understanding of human psychology, you should respond by taking your child out for ice cream and saying, “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
Yes, in this post-impeachment era, our favorite man-child of a chief executive has gone from barely hiding his criminality to openly boasting of his ability to do whatever he wants. He is more or less “doing that Joker dance down the courthouse steps.”
We would like to believe that all those Republicans who said Trump would learn a lesson have, in fact, learned a lesson themselves. And this would be that a president who is supposedly repentant does not, in general, threaten his political opponents, retaliate against witnesses, pull strings for his corrupt cronies, and treat the Department of Justice more like it is the Ministry of Information—all within mere days of surviving impeachment. It just shows (as if there were any doubt) that “the only lesson Trump ever learns is that he gets away with everything.”
Still, we haven’t heard any apologies or admissions of serious misjudgment from top Republicans. Presumably, many of them are too damn embarrassed to acknowledge their weak-willed naivety and degrading capitulation to an orange buffoon.
However, maybe some of them are not embarrassed in the least. In fact, maybe this entire political nightmare isn’t just a case of Republicans putting up with kakistocracy in exchange of tax cuts and conservative judges. Oh, that’s no doubt true for many of them, and it remains a pathetic excuse for coddling a wannabe dictator. But at this point, it appears that a lot of conservatives are not only fine with a failed businessman becoming king of America, but are actively rooting for an authoritarian despot to run roughshod over democracy.
Keep in mind that studies show that almost one-third of Americans display at least some support for ending democracy and instilling either a strongman or converting to outright military rule. Furthermore, “the highest level of openness to authoritarianism came from voters who supported Donald Trump.”
If you paid attention in history class, you know that we developed the U.S. Constitution to protect against monarchies. But many conservatives are rethinking the whole point of that old parched document.
Of course, nobody really thinks the Constitution is perfect. We may love it, warts and all, in the same way that we love our crazy uncles who think the moon landing was faked. Yeah, we try to dwell on the Constitution’s good parts, and not the Electoral College or that thing about three-fifths of a person.
But what’s interesting about modern conservatives is that, despite their bellicose grandstanding about how much they revere the Constitution, they really kind of hate it. They hate the separation of government into branches, the independent power of the judiciary, and the dominance of the federal government over the states. They hate the 1st Amendment, the 14th Amendment, the 17th Amendment, and… well, all them except the 2nd Amendment. They despise most of the principles the Constitution was founded upon, and most of the specifics that it consists of.
They don’t like it—not at all. Nope.
What these anti-Constitutionalists really want is someone to take charge, to wrestle the whole messiness of American life and condense it into a simple, easily understood system.
The fact that this is impossible deters them not at all.
Life, as we know, is inherently messy and complicated. It’s unruly and complex even if you live on an island with dozens of people. So the idea that a nation of 330 million individuals—consisting of hundreds of different races, religions, values, and sports team fandoms—can somehow be squeezed into a pleasing, conflict-free flow of humanity is absurd, even pathetic.
And yet, social conservatives yearn for “a strong sense of social hierarchy (the notion that everyone has their place) [that] can arguably provide a coherent structure that makes the world seem less chaotic—and theoretically more controllable.”
Meanwhile, all of us progressives come dancing along—talking about radical upheavals to healthcare and other discombobulating changes to the old-fashioned way of doing things—and conservatives promptly freak the fuck out.
In addition, all the ideas that “multiculturalists believe will help people appreciate and thrive in democracy—appreciating difference, talking about difference, displaying and applauding difference—are the very conditions that encourage authoritarians not to heights of tolerance, but to their intolerant extremes.”
Trump’s hardcore supporters don’t want to “appreciate difference” or stop using plastic straws or try Ethiopian food or acknowledge any of your crazy commie ideas. Instead, they want things to never change, especially if they reside within an even mildly privileged class of American society.
More than anything, they want someone to do all their thinking for them. They want the strongman to make it all OK, and to make it simple, and to make all the complexities go away.
Yes, it’s true that this approach has culminated in “an indifference to the health of U.S. political and judicial systems on the part of the president, and a willingness to destroy trust in institutions that could take decades to recover from his power plays.”
But hey, that’s not their problem.
Featured image: President Trump speaks at a rally Feb. 10 in Manchester, N.H. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)