Putting Bactine on Gangrene: How Joe Biden’s Election Will Do Little to Stop America’s Rot From Within

Biden has won. Half this country is breathing a tremendous sigh of relief. I am not though because I am terrified by the other half of this country who voted for Donald Trump after witnessing four years of his madness.

There was a time not long ago when most of us were laughing at Donald Trump. Seth Myers famously remarked that he was surprised Donald Trump was running for president as a Republican because he thought Trump was running for president as a joke. When Trump began his campaign in 2015, there was much talk of Trump’s ceiling being 25% because surely at least 75% of our electorate would see through this amoral con man. The idea of a 25% ceiling became 30%. Then 35%. And on Election Day 2016, Trump received 46.1% of the national vote—enough to defeat Hillary Clinton who only received 48.2% of the popular vote. We do not know how many votes Donald Trump will receive in this election but with millions more votes left to count, he already has eight million more votes than he did four years ago.

Trump’s policies are objectively terrible. From putting oil lobbyists in charge of the EPA; cutting taxes for billionaires and corporations; hollowing out key federal agencies by replacing the most qualified people with the most loyal; putting kids in cages; refusing to divest from his business interests while president; cozying up to dictators; failing to stand up to Putin after Putin put bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers; never turning down an opportunity to magnify and exploit a painful social issue to divide us as a people; publicly trusting Putin’s word over our own intelligence agencies; sowing distrust in our democratic institutions; pressuring the DOJ to arrest his political opponents while pardoning his friends; and on and on.

But Trump’s policies are not the scariest part of all this. The scariest part is that Trump built an army of nearly half this country who he trained to disregard facts; set aside science; and ignore the reality in front of their faces. As Trump infamously said, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

A great swath of Trump’s supporters are not conservative or even political. They are just Trumpsters. Remember when conservatives used to stand for balanced budgets, free trade, supporting the military, standing up to dictators, and family values? As soon as Trump abandoned these core principles of conservatism, so did his supposedly conservative supporters. Despite the casting aside of what were once core conservative principles, 93% of Republicans still voted for Trump in 2020.

Trump’s followers’ abandonment of fact, logic, and reason are demonstrated in immeasurable ways. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the belief by Trump supporters that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are criminal masterminds surrounded by crooks and it is Donald Trump who is “draining the swamp”.

The easily discoverable truth though is that in the first three years of the Trump presidency, 315 members of the Trump Administration were criminally indicted, including those people who were absolutely closest to Donald Trump: Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Rick Gates. The Trump Administration’s 315 criminal indictments in three years is more indictments than all prior administrations combined over our nation’s prior 228 years. In contrast, the Obama administration had zero criminal indictments. That’s right. Zero.

I will not rehash every other ridiculous, unsubstantiated conspiracy theory most conservatives believe but there are of course countless: Benghazi; Pizzagate; Obama spied on Trump’s campaign; 3 million illegals votes for Hillary; Covid-19 is a hoax that will go away after the election; Obama was born in Kenya; Obama is a secret Muslim; Obama will take your guns; Jade Helm; windmills cause cancer; etc.

What is terrifying about all of this is that to stop this madness from destroying our country, American voters had to turn out in record-shattering numbers. And even then, we won in a squeaker, winning key states by less than one percentage point (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia).

The arc we are seeing though is that this terrifying mob of crazies just keeps getting larger.

When I was a kid in John Day, Oregon in the 1980s and early 90s, we had a couple of kooks who subscribed to the John Birch Society’s newsletter and who pushed crazy conspiracy theories like Bill Clinton was smuggling hundreds of pounds of cocaine into Arkansas so his drug kingpin brother, Roger Clinton, could sell it. I remember a member of my church named Dale who would repeatedly ask our pastor if he could peddle his crazy propaganda at our church on Sunday mornings. Everyone tolerated Dale because he was a nice guy, but we all kind of did so with a wink that conveyed, “He’s a bit crazy, but he’s harmless and we love him.”

Thanks to Fox News and the proliferation of the conservative ecosystem magnified by Facebook and other social media, Dale is not the crazy outlier anymore and he’s not harmless any more either. The newly radicalized conservative half of this country has made Dale the norm. Instead of being a crazy, radical outlier, Dale now sits comfortably in the mainstream of the Republican Party and those who think like him are making law, setting policy, and taking up 5 (arguably 6) seats on our Supreme Court.

So what happens next? What happens when this anti-fact, anti-logic, anti-decency, ends-always-justify-the-means crowd grows from 47% to 51%? It seems highly probable this will happen. What then? What does our country become? A political movement powered by a population who will believe anything and will do anything. This kind of obedient thinking without critical thought is how populations end up supporting leaders who commit atrocities.

Trump is gone, but the systemic problems that allowed a divisive, dangerous, con man to emerge to power (and almost keep it) is still with us. People much smarter than me need to start figuring out how we stop the growth of this terrifying group (which currently stands at about 47% of us) and begin to shrink it. Until we figure this out, there is little hope of our country figuring out anything else.

– Dylan

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