Republicans: The unbearable lightness of being

For a generation, the Republican party has thrived despite, or because of, two kinds of lightness: the lack of weight of their ideas and the lily-white complexion of their leaders and followers.

The GOP has a worldview with near zero intellectual or factual weight. They believe that all those glaciers melting, the steady rise in the level of the sea, the fact that in Miami Christmas will be celebrated with a temperature of 80 degrees, mean nothing. Global climate change is a hoax, despite the evidence before our very eyes and no matter that 99 percent of climate scientists disagree.

They argue that the way to help the middle class is to lavish fabulous tax cuts on the very rich. They contend that the economic security of the average American will not be hurt by drastic cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).

Obamacare has reduced the number of people without health insurance to record lows. They plan to replace ACA with something they are calling “universal access.” If there had ever been universal access to health care, as in most advanced countries in the world, we would never had needed the ACA. Obama succeeded in reversing a very perverse trend, the constant growth of Americans with no health insurance. Lack of health insurance can kill you or disable you unnecessarily.

The Republican replacement plan, universal access, is just a euphemism for fend for yourself in the health care marketplace. But recent history shows that that approach doesn’t work, given the high level of economic inequality and the predatory nature of insurance companies, Pharma, and other big health care players.

Republican political ideas and ideals have the flavor of the consensus view of reality before Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and Einstein. The GOP, like the Catholic Church in Galileo’s time, defines reality to suit its own theology, ideology and interests. Dogma rules.

In the end, it turned out that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around, and that humans are animals, albeit with unique intelligence. But on the way to a new consensus, a lot of people were burned at the stake, silenced, or otherwise abused. Similarly, by the time Americans have come around to a clearer factual and ethical consensus, many people will be harmed.

No, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and company, the world does not revolve around the United States. No, you don’t make America great again by making it hate again. You don’t rebuild the middle class by catering to the already filthy rich.

These hoary ideas are so bankrupt it’s amazing how many people effectively supported them with their votes. It seems that the mindset of too many Americans is the opposite of a black hole. No light can escape from a black hole. For the many millions who voted for Donald Trump, no light can enter their minds. Call this phenomenon a white hole.

I have often wondered about what kind of people believe not only the fake news constantly spewed out by social media and Trump himself, but also the fake ideas concocted by the right and eagerly adopted by the GOP, like “supply side economics,” or the “Laffer curve,” which turned out to be nothing but bad old trickle-down economics, except that nothing ever trickled down.

This lightness, this lack of weight, is unbearable to people like me with a social conscience and a respect for facts, logic, and science. Too bad there weren’t enough of us around to crush Donald Trump.

Since the election, I have wondered who can swallow such whoppers and stomach such an inhumane ideology. Then a neighbor—a staunch Trump supporter—came over to sit on the porch to chat while I smoked a cigar. I was treated to the whole range of delusions, conspiracy theories, misinformation, and sheer ignorance that can lead a person of reasonable intelligence to believe the pack of nonsense espoused by Trump and company.

Didn’t I believe that Clinton won the popular vote because 11 million “illegals” voted for her? No. Like all the other beliefs he expressed, this one defied both the facts and common sense. I googled the question and found multiple studies that showed voter fraud in the United States is extremely rare. I showed them to him.

He had the facts all wrong and his logic was just as flawed. Why would undocumented immigrants make themselves known to the authorities by showing up at a polling place sans valid documents and risk being put on the fast track to deportation by doing so and, in the process, commit a federal crime (voter fraud) that could land them in jail? He was unfazed. I had hit the white hole.

This reinforces my view that this election had nothing to do with facts or logic but was decided by more fundamental political forces: fear and loathing. Trump won because a huge majority of whites, who still make up a strong majority of the electorate, voted for him. He didn’t win on the strength of economically strapped whites alone. In fact, he won among whites with incomes above $50,000. And people who rated the economy as their top issue went for Hillary.

The main reason Trump won was that too many whites looked around them and were alarmed at the complexion the country was taking on. “Immigration” was the code word that rallied these folks. But it wasn’t really about immigration as such. It was more about the sense that, with minorities outnumbering whites in a few decades, going forward the issue of what race would be automatically top dog, culturally and politically, would for the first time come into question. We already have a black president. What’s next, a Latina president, a multilingual nation?

Whites looked at that prospect and said no way. The rest of us have to live with that, and struggle against its consequences, for the next four years.

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