Political Opinion by Richard Bleil
And just like that, people are talking about midterm elections. Expect a lot of nasty politics as we wind up this year. Our only one-term twice-impeached former president has managed to remain a major driving force in the Republican party, and many Republican pundits and politicians are modeling themselves after his style. From his early days in office, he and his followers have actively assaulted anything that would lead people to think for themselves.
In his campaign, even before becoming president, he opened up with an assault on the press. He suggested that as president, he would immediately make it easier to sue the media for slander, and effectively shut them down. He actively attempted to exclude media outlets that he deemed “hostile” from access to events and information, a clear violation of the Constitutional guarantee of a free press. While most media stood their ground, one outlet in particular sided with him and became a megaphone for his greatest, most outlandish, and most childish claims. That news organization lost personnel, lost advertisers and even lost lawsuits in doing so, as they should have. But the frightening thing is the throngs of loyal followers who still repeat the lies coming from these conservative sources regardless of how outrageous they have been.
There is evidence that there are foreign players behind some of the claims these loyalists repeat. The people who fall for these conspiracy theories are really the perfect subjects. They’ve given up on thinking for themselves, critical thinking and the possibility that there could be any other perspective. There are no arguments that they will listen to, either disproving the conspiracy theories or pointing out how ludicrous they truly are, to convince them to even consider the possibility that they are wrong. Some of the female followers called themselves “Trumpettes”, and personally, I think that “Trumpet” is the perfect moniker for these loyalists as a trumpet has no mind of its own and can only amplify the notes as instructed by the player.
But the assault on independent thought and critical thinking doesn’t stop at the media. Another favorite target is higher education, and the idea that education is “indoctrinating” our youth to be liberal. Today I read an interesting quote from a philosophy professor today, where he claimed that it is reality, not education, that leans liberal. In it, he claimed that the more education people get and the more they think about reality, the more they realize that people need to look out for one another.
During one tight presidential election, the exit polls showed the Democratic nominee winning, but the election went to the Republican. There was a lot of discussion on how the exit polls could have been so wrong. One of the news commentators suggested that it’s because of the kind of people willing to stop to take the exit polls, those being the educated intellectuals. What amazed me was the clearly insulting tone she used as she made this statement, a tone of disgust.
Dictators and fascists have always turned against news and education. Keeping people ignorant is the best way to keep them under control. It’s far preferential to them that people believe the state line that everything is perfect and any news to the contrary is fake than to have them listen to multiple media sources saying otherwise. Even today, Trump and his organizations are under investigation for criminal offenses, and in court to defend their actions, and yet his followers will blow the notes from their sources that have and will continue to claim that these charges are all politically motivated. Even as he himself once said that getting away without paying taxes is “intelligence”, they’ll insist that he is innocent of the charges of tax fraud. They’ll listen to the one major source that calls itself “news”, and ignore all of the other media outlets, both national and international, as they report stories antithetical to what they want to hear.
There is no cure, and I’m not pretending that I have the answer. You cannot reason with a Trumpet any more than you could with a trumpet. Unfortunately, though, as I gaze into my proverbial crystal ball, I see a nasty midterm coming up. The Republicans have a lot on the line, a referendum on how they are doing. If they lose, and lose big enough, perhaps their leadership will realize that they’re navigating the ship in the wrong direction by sticking to outdated and racist policies while ignoring the desires of a majority of their own voters. If they win, or don’t lose much ground, then we are looking at years of continuing obstructionism and a new round of Jim Crow style laws and gerrymandering restricting the rights and voices of minorities and women.