Conservative ideology, as [historian Rick] Perlstein persuasively argues, is particularly vulnerable to grifters because of its faith in the goodness of business and its concomitant hostility toward regulation—which makes it easy for true believers to buy into the notion that some modern Edison has a miraculous new invention that the Washington elite is conniving to suppress. In Perlstein’s words, “The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.”
There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.
Jeet Heer on shill politics.
And old article, but still relevant.
Remember, kids: Trump was not some magic out-of-left field outsider candidate. He’s the natural endgame of nearly a century of intentional degradation of the institutions of democracy; something that’s been primarily (not solely, but primarily) a party platform of the right. And it’s been implemented everywhere; not just in political platforms, but in culture, too. So every time you watch a film from the 80s where the government is portrayed as a bumbling villain? That’s part of it. Replacing critical thinking with standardized tests (i.e. rote regurgitation of received “facts”, regardless of truthfulness) in public schools? Part of it. Delegitimization of every mode of institutional authority that’s not a commercial corporation (or a church)? Part of it. Special legal exemptions for the rich, the powerful, the religious, and the corporate? Part of it. Restriction or outright removal of the franchise? Definitely part of it.1
It’s insidious, in other words. It’s our entire culture. And it was intentional.
Just, y’know. Remember that. When the time comes.
- Did you know that it’s still compulsory for prisoners to vote in Australia? People serving sentences of over three years have the franchise restricted while in jail, though it’s restored on release. People in jails vote either by post or by electoral commission officers making on-site visits for pre-polling. [↩]