Ls&Cs: Threats and Exaggerations

First, because the general subject fascinates me, here’s a response, by Samuel Goldman in The Week, to the Rauch/Wehner essay in NYT I posted about two days ago about what it is about the left that makes conservatives tolerate Trump.

The Week, Samuel Goldman, 21 Jan 2022: Moderates still don’t understand why conservatives voted for Trump, subtitled, “It’s not just ‘wokeness’ and social media. It’s order, fairness, and basic governance.”

Rauch & Wehner focused on supposed threats to religious liberty (especially via university “wokeness”), and an overemphasis on teaching the history of racism via “critical race theory.”

Goldman begins,

For decades, conservatives have appealed to personal virtue, the rule of law, and constitutional authority. Was it all just a sham to conceal a darker current of opposition to cultural change, racial equality, and democracy itself?

The problem is that Wehner and Rauch don’t explain why conservatives, including intellectuals, journalists, and others who profess to care about ideas and principles, are so disaffected. That makes it impossible to understand their relationship to Trump as a genuinely tough call rather than an obvious error of judgment.

So what problems does Goldman identify?

First, Rauch and Wehner don’t discuss the pattern of protest, riot, and crime wave that went national after the murder of George Floyd. For conservatives, the accommodating responses of prominent figures and institutions in the media, professions, and politics show they’re dangerously unfit for power. Few, if any, praised looting or murder per se, but they also did nothing to challenge a dubious narrative of systemic racism that seriously overestimates the number and racial disparity of police killings.  For many conservatives, that provided a kind of implicit permission to indulge without fully endorsing claims of massive electoral fraud that culminated on Jan. 6.

Raised eyebrows. As if there have not been riots before? As if Trump and his allies don’t exaggerate everything to the point of absurdity? (Part of this is the standard effect of media exaggeration, showing a couple block of riots and fires as if to imply that whole cities were burning, as conservatives subsequently claimed, but most of it is pandering to the crowds who are eager to be alarmed and riled up against the lib’rals and coastal elites.)


Belief that American governance has radically strayed from its original sources is a constitutive element of modern conservatism.

That old argument has been energized by the pandemic. Although they are nominally limited to advising legislatures and executive officers, medical bureaucrats like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci and leaders of administrative agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have acquired an outsized role in determining the policy response to COVID — including at state and local levels. In addition to partial lockdowns and mask mandates, that influence extends to recommending changes to voting procedures including extended early voting, drive-up voting, and expanded mail-in voting. You can’t understand why so many Republicans believe the election was somehow “rigged” without acknowledging how arbitrary and confusing those changes were, even if they were opportunistically magnified by Trump and right-wing media.

So conservatives resent expertise, we know that. Heaven forbid anyone be inconvenienced for the sake of saving lives of people they don’t know. And the virus, as people don’t seem to understand, is a force of nature, unpredictable, which is why scientists keep changing their advice.

And no I don’t understand why “so many Republicans believe the election was somehow ‘rigged’.” There’s no evidence that it was; their beliefs are complete fantasy. And the notion is completely implausible.

How many conspirators would have to be involved for that to be pulled off? And again, if so many conspirators went to such lengths, why didn’t they rig those same ballots to put a few more Democratic senators in office?

I’d like to ask any one of these conspiracy-mongers to consider the scenario of, say, how they would rig a local school board election to put their preferred candidate in place over the candidate currently running ahead in the polls. How exactly would it be done? How many people would have to be involved? How exactly would you intervene in the setting up of voting machines, or replace the software that counts votes to generate your preferred outcome. Details please; show your work.

But, back to the article above, the key is the last phrase in the quote. “Opportunistically magnified…”

Next item.


And since it’s precisely relevant to the above discussion, let me post this link today as well.

Right Wing Watch, Kyle Mantyla, 21 Jan 2022: David Barton and the Evolution of Lies.

Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton delivered a series of presentations to the religious-right organization City Elders earlier this month that contained, predictably, various misrepresentations and falsehoods. Ironically, Barton closed out his final presentation on the importance of truth by repeating two lies.

The fact that Barton filled his presentations with untruths is nothing new, but it is interesting to note how some of his lies have evolved over the years.

Lately Barton has been saying “that his critics spend ‘literally millions of dollars a year’ to discredit him and that he was labeled a ‘domestic terrorist’ by the Obama administration.”

These are not true, points out this article. (But it is consistent with the conservative tendency to consistently exaggerate, always playing to a credulous crowd, as in the first item above.)

The article goes on with details, for example.

By 2016, Barton had transformed that initial falsehood into the claim that the FBI had put him and his WallBuilders organization on a list of “hate groups in America.” By 2018, Barton was claiming that he and his organization had been “listed as an enemy of the state” by the Obama administration. And now, in 2022, Barton has exaggerated it once again to claim that Congress once placed him on “the domestic terrorism watch list.”

The article closes by reminding us of Barton’s discredited historical claims.


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