How American is Great, yet a Hellhole, According to Conservatives

Today’s theme, and topics:

  • WaPo’s Paul Waldman on this contradiction;
  • Mike Pence’s record of saying things that conservatives believe that are not true;
  • The conspiracy theories of Moms for Liberty;
  • And how this all makes sense given ancestral human nature’s discomfort with modern world.

Washington Post, Paul Waldman, 7 Jul 2023: Opinion | The bizarre contradiction in the GOP’s view of America

Candidates running against a sitting president will always argue that the incumbent has botched just about everything and spread misery throughout the land. But as the 2024 Republican contenders maneuver for position and respond to the news of each day, a strange contradiction has emerged.

On one hand, they tell voters that America’s deepest problems have been solved and that we bask in the light of the Almighty’s favor. On the other, they insist that our country is a nightmare of moral depravity and suffering.

You hear this constantly. America is the greatest nation ever, the patriots will claim, except for the leftists who are ruining everything, and how all the big (blue) cities are hellholes. Which part of America do they admire, exactly?

These are the two faces of Republican rhetoric, especially that offered by the party’s presidential candidates: America is the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth, but it’s also a hellhole. It’s a place of limitless opportunity but also limitless woe. Even the lowliest among us can achieve anything they wish, yet we all struggle under the boot heel of an oppressive state. Our hearts overflow with virtue, yet we are a nation of perverts and reprobates. We are envied throughout the world, yet virtually all of our institutions are corrupted nearly beyond repair.

Of course all their points of praise aren’t entirely true at all. Greatest country ever? Limitless opportunity–for everyone? Envied throughout the world? I don’t think so. As Waldman goes on to explain.

Pence and Haley and Scott will deny racial inequity and structural racism and the difficulties of poverty…

Yet the loudest negative voices in American politics, those insisting that our country is a nonstop horror show, aren’t Democrats, they’re Republicans. No one shouts it with more vigor than the man who is still most likely to be the party’s nominee, Donald Trump. As he said in a recent post on his social platform (I’ll spare you the all caps), “Crime & inflation are rampant, our borders are open, our elections are rigged, our economy is in shambles, our energy independence is gone, our ‘leader’ is mercilessly mocked, & our country is being destroyed both inside & out.”

This is a good bit:

Prominent media figures on the right tell their audiences that political developments are created by “demons” and Satan himself, who apparently rampage through the land as they please. It’s a wonder any of us get home alive at the end of the day.

Demons? Seriously? Are these people sane? These again are the ravings of people besotted by religious superstitions and who think in absolutes of black and white.

Waldman ends:

But reality is both more mundane and more hopeful. Ours is a unique country, but not because it’s better — or worse — than all the others. We are not chosen above all nations, nor are we tumbling toward hell. That may not be as dramatic and thrilling as the extravagant claims of those who promise that in their hands politics will be an unending crusade against evil, but it’s the truth.


A specific example.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 7 Jul 2023: Mike Pence’s Big Lie campaign trail torture: He’s reaping the disinformation he sowed, subtitled “GOP voters torture Mike Pence with the Big Lie — too bad he was an avid disinfo fan for decades”

Essentially a catalog of Pence’s lies, or more specifically, things Republicans say they believe that are factually not true.

Starting at least in the 80s, if not earlier, a culture of lying took root in the Republican Party. There were corporate-friendly lies about everything from cigarettes to climate change. The Christian right pushed lies about evolutionary biology and sexual health. Right-wing media normalized conspiracy theories, like Donald Trump’s birther campaign harassing Barack Obama for his long-form birth certificate. Pence was an eager member of the liar corps of the GOP from the get-go.

Marcotte then steps through some of Pence’s claims. Smoking doesn’t kill; global warming is a myth; evolution is a ‘theory’ that hasn’t been proven (misunderstanding what those words mean); condoms don’t protect against diseases; homosexuality is a choice or a learned behavior.

Key point:

Pence was part of a multi-decade effort by Republican leaders and pundits to train their base to believe that lying is not only okay but totally justified if it’s done in service of the party’s political goals. He would have denied the existence of gravity if he thought it would help a corporation evade regulation or promote the Christian right’s agenda.

This is the big picture, and it derives, as I’ve thought before, from the way religious conservatives think facts can simply be asserted, without evidence. They do this over and over, in support of their religious ideologies.


I like the subtitle of this headline of this article about that weird DeSantis video from last week.

The New Republic, 6 Jul 2023: Ron DeSantis’s Ghoulish Embrace of American Psycho Patrick Bateman, subtitled “The increasingly hopeless presidential candidate is now clinging to a weird right-wing meme in the hopes of winning over the misogynistic-sociopath vote.”

The “misogynistic-sociopath vote.” That’s what Republicans are after?


More about Moms for Liberty.

Media Matters, Olivia Little, 7 Jul 2023: Inside Moms for Liberty’s summit: Big money and even bigger conspiracy theories, subtitled “Manufacturing terror to mobilize parents and take over your kids’ school”

So what are their conspiracy theories?

In session after session, speakers offered a warped view of reality aimed at manipulating parents into believing they’re righteous liberators battling some ambiguous enemy located in public schools. They warned audience members that the teachers unions and other school officials that are “indoctrinating our kids” are on a mission to do everything from grooming their children to securing “world domination.”

They sound like deranged paranoids. Little discusses the general sessions with the big-name speakers, then explores the break-out sessions. People ruining schools to indoctrinate children, trying to get rid of the Constitution; how something called “social-emotional learning” was bad, and must surely be caused by Marxists or globalists, or whomever.

Conspiracy theories about impending child microchips and Bill Gates were sprinkled in the presentation, too. Fillman suggested that math software owned by Gates’ Microsoft is being nefariously used to “get every data point they possibly can on a kid.” In the same vein of corrupt data collection, she told audience members that she fears that microchips tracking students in schools (allegedly an “experiment” in China) is coming to the United States soon, which means the government would “know everything.”

Smartphones, people? You can already be tracked. But why should anyone care to track you?

The article goes on, but it’s too crazy to finish. I give up.


I would say, though, in general: the ‘culture wars’ in modern America and elsewhere are the inevitable result of the growing interdependence of peoples and nations across the world, that unsettle those committed to the Savannah/tribal mentality/morality of those who would protect themselves and their tribe from outside influences, including anything that might induce their children to live any kind of life that does not involve having lots of babies in order to expand the tribe. This may sound grossly simplistic, but everything that conservatives do, and fight for, makes sense in that paradigm.

While the progressives keep moving on to build a better world, for everyone. On a planet that is filling up with people, and is in danger of environmental collapse.

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