by Shelt Garner
It is now impossible to talk about politics with my far more conservative relatives. This is disheartening for a number of reasons, chief among them being — oh boy — when the autocracy comes I’m beginning to think they’re going to be Good Germans and let me meet my fate alone when ICE comes knocking.
The thing I struggle with is — why are things like this?
There’s something warping the American political system to its breaking point. In short, the politics of our 240 year old liberal democracy have frozen up in a way not seen since before the Civil War. Outside of the fringe NeverTrump movement on Twitter, to be an American conservative is to be MAGA, even if you don’t perceive yourself as MAGA.
The vast majority of all American conservatives are now effectively anti-democratic MAGA people to the point that they will welcome the autocracy with open arms when it arrives. Or, worst yet, they won’t even see it as an autocracy when it happens. People like me and Norm Ornstein will hysterically scream autocracy, while my conservative relatives simply won’t notice or care.
Or, even worse, if a civil war breaks out, I won’t be able to turn to them for succor. I’m going to be on my own. Oh boy.
And, yet, I continue to wonder what, specifically, is causing this weird warping of the American political system. What, specifically is causing otherwise normal, educated conservatives to defend the “cruelty is the point” element of MAGA? There simply is nothing that MAGA believes or wants that the conservatives I know believe is too much. They were upset about the insurrection but I know damn well that because of negative polarization they’ll vote for Trump in 2024 because of the extensive permission structure they’ll have at their disposal.
All I got when it comes to the addictive nature of negative polarization is a number of macro trends all came to a head around 2016. Republicans lost the culture wars. It became clear that demographic trends were NOT in white America’s favor. College became so expensive that it was not a part of the American Dream of upward mobility for the salt of the earth.
Add to this the Fox News bullshit echo chamber and you have the makings of people who know something isn’t right in America anymore, but they just don’t quite know what it is. They have a general feeling that liberals have something to do it. (Even though, of course, most of the excesses that conservatives hate so much come from Leftists, not liberals.)
So, as I mentioned before, the thing that really bothers me is my conservative relatives — not matter what happens — will never make common cause with me in opposing the rise of fascism in the United States. Never. I’m on my own. It’s a real struggle for me because I know on a personal level fascism isn’t something they agree with.
And, yet, their abstract fears over Cancel Culture, “safe spaces,” “microaggressions,” and Critical Race Theory are soooooooooooo fucking absolute that they effectively support Trump and MAGA’s worse excesses.
So, lulz, now what.