The Abyss Stares Back

The Republican Party is now the mirror image of the totalitarian propagandists it used to hate.

Deutschland siegt an allen fronten!

If there were any doubts that the Republican Party has turned into the mirror image of the things that it used to hate, the Republican National Convention dispelled any doubts. Tuesday night featured wall-to-wall agitprop at an unparalleled level in American politics, frighteningly reminiscent of the official Big Lies of totalitarian regimes.

Democrats want to burn the flag and stop you from praying. The pandemic should be described in the past tense. Joe Biden wants to de-fund the police. The economy is going gangbusters. We’ve ended our endless wars. The Trump Administration embraces all faiths. The Obama Administration tried to make employers pay for abortions. Donald Trump is a champion of dissenting opinions. The Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin was on the side of the angels. And so on.

These falsehoods exceed the normal boundaries of political spin, exaggerating or reframing facts with the intent to mislead. This mendacity is something completely different, on the level of, “People in the USSR are free to speak their minds,” or, “Germany is winning on all fronts.” There is no factual basis, just the power of the Party and its (wannabe) autocratic leader to insist that you believe them over your lying eyes.

It was no surprise to see the resonance that Maximo Alvarez, the refugee from Castro’s regime, had for people watching and participating in the convention. I opposed Castro (and Daniel Ortega, and Hugo Chavez), and I equally opposed those who exaggerated the Communist threat to Latin America to justify authoritarianism. Exaggerated or imaginary socialist dybbuks have a long history in Latin America, and we’ve certainly heard their echoes in American political rhetoric before. However, I don’t recall ever hearing one speaker after another at the RNC describe the opposing candidate as the tool of a Marxist-Leninist conspiracy. Still, if you want to embrace an anti-democratic movement, someone has to be worse than you.

If you can deny reality, you can deny laws, policies, and norms. You can turn the White House into a political diorama for your re-election. You can turn the State Department into a campaign platform. You can have your long-expired acting DHS Secretary preside over a naturalization ceremony. Lawlessness is the natural result of lies. Both can spring from the same justification, that everything is allowed in the crusade against those other people. Lies provide a cover for lawlessness (We haven’t really violated the Hatch Act). Ultimately, the only people who can survive in this toxic atmosphere of lawlessness and lies are zealots and opportunists.

The needle of history has swung 180 degrees for the Republican Party, which has turned into a kind of Potemkin village. All is good, everyone is welcome to freely speak their minds, prosperity reigns, and the famine or the plague you heard about is old news. Don’t be surprised if the ghost of a Soviet propagandist appears on stage Thursday night to utter the cliche movie villain line, “Ah, Donald, we are not so different, you and I.”

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, US Politics, , , ,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    More salient is the absolute intolerance for differing opinions, never mind outright contradicting the Trump even when he says something incredibly stupid.

    He can’t be gone soon enough. If he wins reelection, the US as we know it will have ceased to exist.

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  2. Joe says:

    While I am genuinely concerned that your conclusion is justified, Kathy, I can’t help but find it ironic that we can say “If [Trump] wins reelection, the US as we know it will have ceased to exist” based in part on our criticism that Republicans who are over-the-top in asserting that a Democratic administration would destroy America as we know it. Accuse me of both-siderism if you want (cause you can’t down-vote me anymore), and I can differentiate between the basis for Kathy‘s conclusion v. the lack of basis for the convention speakers, but rhetorically it still sticks out to me.

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  3. Scott F. says:

    If you can deny reality, you can deny laws, policies, and norms… [with the] justification, that everything is allowed in the crusade against those other people.

    That is as precise a description of the Republican Party project since the rise of Gingrich as I’ve ever seen.

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  4. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    I was going to link to a thumbs down image, but this is serious.

    It’s not Democrats who are breaking all norms, smashing the spirit of the law, undermining institutions, undermining the confidence in elections, and acting with plain hostility to over half the population.

    25
  5. Joe says:

    @Kathy:
    I am not quibbling with or making light of your sentiment and I mostly agree with you. I understand these are very different. I am just saying the rhetoric looks very similar despite what I think are very different foundational underpinnings. Perhaps this is yet another example of Trump/Republicans projecting onto others their own motivations.

    1
  6. KM says:

    @Joe:

    I am just saying the rhetoric looks very similar despite what I think are very different foundational underpinnings.

    Yeah, words are like that. Language is limited and people with malicious intent will often appropriate decent arguments for their own purposes. See #SaveOurChildren, QAnon’s newest craze, that steals from the real world threat of human trafficking and child abuse. How can you argue about saving children?!?!?!…. from adrenachrome harvesting in non-existing basements.
    The terminology one uses to speak about a tumor can be used to talk about people you think are lesser. Doesn’t mean it’s not correct to talk about the tumor that way or the drastic actions one might need to take to save one’s life from it just because some idiot decides to use that wording to talk about “those people”. That cruel people abuse words and torture meanings to trick others is NOT “both-siderism” but rather one group deliberately being asshats and the other screaming into the void.

    We are rapidly approaching the point where Kathy’s statement is no longer hyperbole – in large part because people poo-poo’d everyone who brought it up as being overly-dramatic. Anyone who’s familiar with abusive relationships can tell you this is the crisis point where sh^t gets real. Sometimes the abuser backs down but often this is when people start ending up in the hospital or jail. Pretending everything isn’t as bad as it looks is a great way to ensure the crisis point ends badly for everyone because there will be no safety in place when you turn out to be wrong. Right now we have a POTUS actively trying to kill the Post Office to rig an election, something he’s admitted on camera. With everything he’s done already and 4 more years to do as he pleases, it’s not really a stretch to say the USA in it’s current form will cease to exist. He’s already made enough changes to make it a philosophical question on the soul of the country – let’s not give him time to make it a more practical or socio-political issue.

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  7. Teve says:

    @KM: about an hour ago on Facebook I saw some random woman call my friend Pam a Pedophile because she was going to vote for Biden.

    6
  8. Teve says:

    adrenachrome harvesting in non-existing basements.

    Another idiotic part of this stupid conspiracy. A global coordinated system of torturing children to extract Adrenochrome ? The most stressed out human being in the world has about 5 µg of adrenaline per liter of plasma. 5 millionths of a gram per liter of plasma.

    Do you know how to make Adrenochrome? You oxidize epinephrine. I just checked Sigma Aldrich and you can buy 10 g of chemically pure epinephrine for $150. $150 and a smart chemistry undergrad could get you 1 million times more Adrenochrome than you could get from a person.

    QAnon is sheer idiocy.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Joe:
    The heat of the rhetoric isn’t the issue, the issue is the fairness and truth of that rhetoric. I don’t see anything exaggerated or false in Kathy’s statement.

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  10. Joe says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yeah. Me neither.

    3
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    If there were any doubts that the Republican Party has turned into the mirror image of the things that it used to hate, the Republican National Convention dispelled any doubts.

    The ideas of conservatism are dead. Buried. They no longer have beliefs, so, lacking beliefs they found a führer. They swapped out vengeful Jesus for vengeful Trump, the continuity being ‘vengeful.’ They hate that they’ve lost the culture war. They hate that we won it. They want to subdue and destroy us. They hate us, and that hate is all they have left.

    11
  12. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And a vaguely related question is, do they think they can occupy California? Do they think they can occupy all of the urban/surburban areas in the American West (as an example)? When will they think that it’s easier to just let the West go than to try to occupy it, and enforce their rules on vote-by-mail, and how to generate electricity, etc?

  13. ptfe says:

    I was most struck that Trump’s family occupied 5 speaking slots. The traditional POTUS/FLOTUS pairing is typical, but the rest were just Trump dynastic cheerleading. Add to that the embrace of “Trump’s platform” and you see a party that has given up on democracy in any form because it’s messy and difficult, and as society evolves they’re asked to do the same. They want a monarchy. To them, the rich white folks deserve to be in charge because that’s the way it’s always been – the only way to ensure that is to assign leadership by fiat.

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  14. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Add to the list: Looks like the administration pressured the CDC to change their testing protocol.

    Look like POTUS’ belief of “we have so many infected because we do so much testing” is now becoming policy by not testing asymptomatic people.

    Problem solved, Comrade! All for make benefit glorious nation of Ahmerika!

    7
  15. reid says:

    @ptfe: Yeah, but they called out the evils of nepotism on the Democratic side, so that’s good enough for me! *head desk*

    1
  16. gVOR08 says:

    Actually, a lot of Republicans were isolationist. Not something that figured prominently in the history I’ve read of the 30s and the war, but I don’t recall Republicans being particularly anti-fascist.

  17. Lounsbury says:

    They have become a Bolshevik party. Not in Left ideology of course, but in practice. (or national socialist but that obscures)

    @gVOR08: Yes historically indeed 1930s part of them, it was the horror to the UK conservatives (ex those that turned into the British fascists), of course easier to be fascist sympathetic if one has an entire ocean between you and them.

  18. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It is not so much that the ideas of small c conservatism are dead, but rather the ideologically flexible liberal (in the original English language sense) Centre Left has coopted (after its late 1970s through 1980s spanking) the better parts of them (largely the economic).

    And in the USA conservatism rather than respond with flexibility rather has been taken over from within by its Southern Strategy and the very fascistic sympathetic strains of White Supremacy.

    The mealy mouthed labelling of the White Supremacy wing as “white nationalist” is nonsense, it is simply the old strain of White Supremacy become dominant and slightly rebranded, importing the corrupt pseudo-aristo culture from your old Confederacy and all its slavery stained absolutist Supremacist thinking.

    @ptfe:
    That is rather the sign of the dead intellectual decadence and collapse into mere fascism that has overtaken the US conservative movement

    4
  19. Barry says:

    @Joe: “I am just saying the rhetoric looks very similar despite what I think are very different foundational underpinnings.”

    DARVO

    2
  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Lounsbury:

    And in the USA conservatism rather than respond with flexibility rather has been taken over from within by its Southern Strategy and the very fascistic sympathetic strains of White Supremacy.

    It seems to me that what happened was that, in the US, conservatives could no longer pretend that they shared the same long-term goals as liberals — that is, prosperity, justice, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, improved standard of living for all, etc. — but merely differed in their analysis of the most effective means of achieving them. The traditional conservative means had been effectively debunked — everyone intellectually honest knew that they not only didn’t get you to those goals, they actually promoted injustice and wealth inequality.

    At that point, you either join the other team and argue at the margins about the best ways to use government to achieve those goals, or you admit that your real goals all along were to protect wealth and privilege at all costs. Guess which one they chose?

    The social wedge issues (abortion, gay rights, affirmative action…) are a red herring here — they are the means the conservatives use to manipulate a voting public that would not share their wealth-protection agenda. They are not, in themselves, “conservative values”.

    4
  21. EWM says:

    A question for both sides. Are you or your “representatives” threatening someone with an initiation of violence today?
    “At the end of a century that has seen the evils of communism, Nazism and other modern tyrannies, the impulse to centralize power remains amazingly persistent.” ~ Joseph Sobran

  22. JohnSF says:

    The Republicans appear to be heading into a dead end, rather similar to that of pre-War “reactionary conservatism” or “right populism” in Europe and Japan.
    Especially perilous when combined with the sort of “epistemic closure” analysed by Julian Sanchez as quoted by Teve on another thread

    It is possible that there is no easy way of reasoning or persuading out of this; that only the experience of defeat can bring the lesson home.

    Of course, in Europe and Japan that “defeat” was truly catastrophic, as reactionaries at best failed to oppose, or even welcomed, fascist alternatives.

    The experience meant that, generally, conservatives in Europe and Japan abandoned their pre-war resentment of liberal democracy and modernity, for what I call “modernising conservatism” e.g. French Republicans and Gaullists, German and Italian and Spanish Christian Democrats, Japanese Liberal Democrats etc.

    But some of the old urge remains; see the rise of the new right.
    Which has been strongest in eastern Europe, perhaps because Soviet domination suppressed conservatism rather than allowing it to adapt.

    It will probably take a series of defeats and painful political realignments for American Republicans, or a successor party, to evolve a coherent “modernising conservatism” adapted to the USA.
    And absent (hopefully) the catastrophe of war, this may take a long time.

    Arguably the British Conservatives took some 50 years from their pre-WW1 antipathy to welfare, universal suffrage democracy, and Home Rule, to their post-WW2 acceptance.
    And recent experience indicates that even prolonged evolution stored up a lot of intra-party resentment waiting to be tapped.

  23. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR08:
    If I recall right from my old history lessons, both Reps and Dems had more and less isolationist elements.

    Insofar as public opinion was generally overwhelmingly anti-war, but by the later 30’s some of both coalitions were split between “neutralist”, and “anti-war but pro-allied”; (plus also re. China). And others in between.

    Roughly (very broadly, with LOTS of exceptions):
    Rep:
    neutral: German-Americans, mid-west and westerners, anti-war profgressives
    pro-ally: NE WASPs,

    Dem:
    neutral: Irish American, Italian American, anti-war liberals
    pro-ally: SE WASPs, Jewish American, Polish American, Czech American

    Plus of course Republicans whose view was “If FDR is for it, we’re agin it”; and a variety of “isolationist of convenience” fringe groups: pro-fascists/anti-semtites, and ironically, the Communists, from 23 August 1939 to 22 June 1941.