Did you know that in the 1960’s, while all of the mainstream media devoted their sports sections to professional baseball, football, basketball, stockcar racing, and hockey, the sport that attracted the most actual fans– in person, in stadiums– was…. ready for it? Demolition derbies.
In politics, the whacky far right is the demolition derby of ideologies. Until recently, relegated to the back pages of history.
In spite of all the think-pieces about polarization in American politics, I really think the issue comes down to something much simpler.
Firstly, there has not been a massive change in attitudes or beliefs over the past 70 or 80 years. A large segment of the U.S. population has always held stupid ideas about culture, education, leadership, the military, and the police. And, of course, race. They love guns, hate affirmative action, can’t bear the thought of giving up their massive V-8 powered pick-up trucks, fear black people even if they don’t see themselves as racist (and some aren’t), and hate the idea of foreigners coming into the country and taking away their jobs while they themselves are unwilling to work hard for long hours to get ahead and there is a labour shortage in most areas of the country. They believe that good manufacturing jobs have been shipped over-seas even though 85% of them were lost to automation. They believe Republicans when they say they intend to reduce the deficit even though, when in office, they never have and never will. They seem to think that cutting taxes on the rich will benefit them, because, fuck it, some day I might win the lottery.
Until recently, people with toxic beliefs about society have intuited that they shouldn’t openly express those views because the consensus among politicians, the media, and other leaders is that those views are, in fact, untrue, toxic, and counter-productive, and ignorant.
They always believe crime is on the increase. Always. Try to explain to them that if crime was always increasing it would eventually reach 100%, so there must be times when it is actually decreasing (in fact, the crime rate is up only in year-over-year statistics. Over a longer period of time, it is down, by a clear margin).
They think that somehow making the bail system rational increases crime: no study has shown this. Not one.
Newt Gingrich came along, and Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh, and then Donald Trump, and they all publicly expressed massive approval of these toxic beliefs. The internet broke the consensus among major media outlets to not give play to ill-founded, idiotic conspiracy theories. Now every ignorant, ill-informed jack-ass in the country can search online to find that the cause of the wild-fires in California is Jewish space lasers or sun spots.
Try to explain to these people that international trade agreements, on the whole, benefit them. (Essentially, the lower cost of imported goods frees capital within the local market to pay for more goods, services, and other items which you otherwise could not afford. Free trade is a net benefit to the average American worker and consumer. Tariffs take money out of your pocket and give it to the government which in turn subsidizes corporations to the benefit of wealthy shareholders.)
People haven’t changed. They are just louder and more outspoken and more than happy to enlighten you as to their brilliant insights into the nature of reality and the truth about Biden and the international child porn conspiracy and Hollywood’s Jewish cabal and they way young school-children in small towns all across Iowa are being provided with litter boxes so they can “identify” as a transgender kitten.
Perhaps the most bizarre characteristic of these people is their close identification with Christianity. Do any of them actually read the Bible? Do they really see something in Jesus reflected in Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity? Do they really think God blesses them as they storm the capitol building and threaten to hang Mike Pence?