Feeding Voters a Fantasy World

The most alarming thing I’ve learned in the past decade is how so many ordinary people are not smart, not well-educated, are susceptible to political ideology and religious zealotry, and are driven by ideology and zealotry to try to take down those who are smart and well-educated.

I have to assume this has always been true — no reason to think otherwise — but with the advent of social media it’s become increasingly evident. Everyone can spout off their views, no matter how nonsensical, and make them plain to the world. For 30 years (from my 20s to my 50s) I lived in what would now be called a bubble at work and socially among other smart, well-informed people, and did not realize the true situation. It was probably better in the old days (!) when you conversed politely with family and friends and never discussed, or knew about, their private opinions (about politics or religion, as the advice went).

At the same time, that social media has brought birds of a feather closer together is doing disastrous things to our (in the US at least) politics.

Heather Cox Richardson, August 10, 2023

Noted for this one particular topic:

Last Saturday, Republican leaders in Alabama illustrated that their ideology means they reject democracy. After the Supreme Court agreed that the congressional districting map lawmakers put in place after the 2020 census probably violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a lower court ruling that required a new map went into effect. But Alabama Republican lawmakers simply refused.

National Republicans are terrified they might lose seats in the House.

Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall added: “Let’s make it clear, we elect a Legislature to reflect the values of the people that they represent, and I don’t think anybody in this room wanted this Legislature to adopt two districts that were going to guarantee that two Democrats would be elected…. What we believe fully is that we just live in a red state with conservative people, and that’s who the candidates of Alabama want to be able to elect going forward.”

The determination of Republican officials to hold onto power even though they appear to know they are in a minority is part of what drove even Republican voters in Ohio to reject their proposal to require 60% of voters, rather than a simple majority, to approve changes in the state constitution.


And today (posted late last night).

Heather Cox Richardson, August 11, 2023


As I try to cover the news tonight, I am struck by how completely the Republican Party, which began in the 1850s as a noble endeavor to keep the United States government intact and to rebuild it to work for ordinary people, has devolved into a group of chaos agents feeding voters a fantasy world.

She goes on about Trump’s defiance of court orders to stop talking about pending lawsuits.

Trump appears to have given up on winning the cases against him on the legal merits and is instead trying to win by whipping up a political base to reelect him, or even to fight for him. He has filled his Truth Social account with unhinged rants attacking the justice system and the president, and on Sunday his lawyer, John Lauro, echoed Trump as he made a tour of the Sunday talk shows, misleadingly suggesting that Trump had been indicted for free speech. In fact, the indictment says up front that even Trump’s lies are protected by the First Amendment, but what isn’t protected is a conspiracy that stops an official proceeding and deprives the rest of us of our right to vote and to have our votes counted.

I’ve seen this John Lauro person at least a couple times; he’s hard to avoid, even though I don’t watch much TV. He keeps insisting it’s a first amendment issue, no matter how often everyone else tells him he’s wrong. Well, the Trump base will believe him.

She touches on the Ohio vote I mentioned yesterday, and then provides some historical background, which she does the best of any of the commentators I read regularly.

It seems we are reaping the fruits of the political system planted in 1968, when the staff of Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon reworked American politics to package their leader for the election. “Voters are basically lazy,” one of Nixon’s media advisors wrote. “Reason requires a high degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand…. When we argue with him, we…seek to engage his intellect…. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable.”


Similarly, indirect evidence suggests that Republican politicians aren’t dumb — not all of them anyway — but rather cynical and manipulative, driven by ideology and not evidence or interest in solving problems.

Washington Post, Kathleen Parker, 11 Aug 2023: Opinion | As paradise burned, DeSantis fiddled with climate-change education

This opens:

While the world watched in horror as Maui burned, Florida educators were busy adopting a new climate-change curriculum that minimizes teaching about the dangers of global warming and distorts scientific information.

If only Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) were stupid enough to believe all this, but a Yale- and Harvard-educated military veteran can’t pretend he doesn’t know better. Far worse than a stupid governor is an intelligent one who plays dumb and down to voters.

With a historical invocation of Richard Nixon, again.

DeSantis didn’t invent the strategy; it’s a tried-and-true approach that goes back (at least) to Richard M. Nixon and a 1966 stump meeting at the Wade Hampton Hotel in Columbia, S.C. Campaign aide Pat Buchanan recalled in a New Yorker interview that the room was “filled with sweat, cigar smoke and rage,” and the law-and-order rhetoric “burned the paint off the walls.” Leaving the hotel, Nixon said, “This is the future of this party, right here in the South.”

And then the writer goes on to discuss PragerU and its videos:

In previous incarnations, I’ve been a fan of Prager and its co-founder Dennis Prager, who is not a right-wing nut but a thoughtful conservative who believes the country is going to hell. I happen to agree with him on this point. I also think we shouldn’t terrify little children with frightening information about climate change that they’re not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle. Common sense dictates we dial back the apocalyptic narrative.

Needless to say, many parents are delighted to get climate change out of “liberal” educators’ hands, along with discussions about LGBTQ+ issues, race and gender. (Please see age appropriateness above.) We are well into the Age of Affirmation, where facts are negotiable, truth is relative and “my truth” is all that matters.

Are there different truths about climate change? Not really. Certain facts are no longer up for debate: Earth is warming; fossil fuel emissions contribute to that warming; the effects of climate change are evident in almost daily disasters. Today, we weep for Maui. What’s next?

So! The significance here is that the writer is a conservative who “believes the country is going to hell” — but still calls out DeSantis for denying the truth of climate change.

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