This election season has been the most disheartening, the most disgusting, and the most disturbing of any I can remember in my lifetime. As a result, I don’t think I will ever be able to look at many of my fellow citizens in the same way. The fact that a racist, misogynist, narcissistic, completely unqualified man won the nomination of a major political party, combined with the fact that he will get millions of Americans to go the the polls and say “Yeah, I think he should be the most powerful person in the world” makes me weep.
I’ve disagreed with Republican presidential candidates since I named my stuff rabbit Humphrey when I was five. However, I’ve almost always been able to understand why they received the support from some voters. But this election is completely different because Trump is a completely different kind of candidate, and his ascent represents some horrible truths about the state of our nation. We have too many people living in this country who operate completely out of fear, bigotry and resentment, and who seem to look at democracy as an zero-sum game — that someone or some other group’s success comes at their expense. They live in a world where they only win if someone else loses.
Bigotry and misogyny aren’t new, but the extent to which American’s are moved by fear and resentment and their willingness to reject science and to embrace evidence-free claims have increased dramatically. Let’s remember that Rush Limbaugh made it big in the early 1990s, and Fox News launched in 1996. So this fact-free lunacy has been running through the national bloodstream for an entire generation. Now the right-wing’s media lunacy and embrace of nonsense not only seems to be accelerating day by day and year by year, but it has also joined forces with what many are calling the alt-right. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the alt-right as
a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Characterized by heavy use of social media and online memes, Alt-Righters eschew “establishment” conservatism, skew young, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value.
With his support of white nationalist ideology and his connections to Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Stephen Bannon, Trump is a hero to the Alt-Right. His followers, and I use that term purposefully because they resemble a cult more than they do political supporters, like the membership of the alt-right, are mostly white men who see themselves first and foremost as champions of white people. However what unites them most powerfully are the things they believe are destroying this country: multiculturalism, immigration, feminism and political correctness. They want nothing more than a return to a time when white people were on top, when they could call someone a c&#$, a n&%%$#, or a w&^b#$% and no one would question them.
Thanks to Trump, what was once a loosely connected group that existed mostly online has gone mainstream, drawing into its grasp a number of American’s who have come of age in an American public education system that’s been overtaken by testing and devoid of anything akin to critical thinking. In other words, those people who have never learned the necessity of evidence to support a claim or how to examine the validity of source, are now living in the alternative universe of a Breitbart infused Fox News that embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism and determine to destroy the traditional conservative movement in favor of white nationalism.
I’m really not sure where, or how or even if this all ends, but I fear for our future. Perhaps the white nationalists will eventually crawl back into the interwebs from which they emerged, but how the country will deal with their successful delegitimizing of our institutions isn’t at all clear. I think what concerns me most is finding a way to work with Americans who live in the fact free zone so we can engage in serious, productive and reasoned discourse.