Republicans love to talk about how much they love America and how much liberals hate it. They’re lying. Just like they claim to honor the military until the military doesn’t support white supremacy. Just like they chant Blue Lives Matter but kill cops who get in their way. They love democracy but they love fascism more.
Similarly, when they “love” America it’s the fantasy USA in their head canon, where white men run everything, women stay home and take care of the kids, gays are in the closet and black people are in solidly subordinate roles. The real America? That they hate. Their worldview is “a hyper-patriotism gone sour: a belief in a fictional ideal of a perfect right-wing America that’s constantly betrayed by reality, leading to disillusionment and even disgust with the country as it actually exists.” Or as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem says, “I look at Joe Biden’s America, and I don’t recognize the country that I grew up in,” echoing Laura Ingraham’s claim that conservatives are justified in resenting legal immigration.
This is, of course, true of most generations over the past century or so. The 20th century was a time of change: the 1970s weren’t the country of legal Jim Crow and “segregation now, segregation forever!” A country where women have access to reliable contraception and equal rights at work isn’t the same as the 1950s (Wall Street Journal‘s misogynist in residence James Taranto thinks both changes were mistakes). Home computers and the Internet have changed things in many ways, good and bad.
Conversely, the country I spent my teen years in was lurching towards greater equality for gays, people of color and women. Nixon was a treacherous bastard but the Republicans still supported democracy. Now I live in a country where Republicans have made open white supremacy, anti-semitism and misogyny acceptable again, and where they’re doing everything they can to rig elections so they never lose again. Nixon was an outcast within the party after Watergate; they dropped George W. Bush like a stone after his two terms were up; but Trump has the support of the base so the cowards in office will never desert him. Ron DeSantis clearly thinks making the pandemic worse in Florida is a plus for his future career, and he might be right. Ross Douthat wrote a few years ago that conservatives need to be even more reactionary; I think he’s getting his wish.
And I live in a country with Fox News. That’s definitely a change for the worse.
And because The Former Guy made preventing a pandemic into another part of the culture wars (something Fred Clark discusses here), we’re fighting against people who insist that any restrictions to protect human life are a violation of their freedom (something the Seventh Court of Appeals recently scoffed at). Which reinforces the crackpots who oppose modern medicine itself: “In a video on her channel, Pope said she wants to promote health the way her generation’s grandparents experienced it. “When they got sick, they didn’t need the crutch of pharmaceuticals or antibiotics to get better,” she said in the video. “They just got sick and they got well.”” Except a lot of them didn’t: they died. In other words, as LGM says, the problem isn’t that vaccines don’t work but that they do.
As the Vox article linked to above says, it’s not just that conservatives don’t like the country’s direction, they don’t see a way to change it through legitimate means. They live in a world where reality itself has rejected them. Evolution works, creationism doesn’t. A black man has been elected president twice and a woman won the popular vote. Gay people aren’t all pedophiles, gay marriage hasn’t caused the collapse of straight marriage, atheists can be perfectly moral people, families with a working mom can be perfectly healthy. The United States wasn’t founded on Christianity or as a Christian nation. Global warming is real.
That’s reality, but they don’t want to accept it. So they hate and resent the proof that everything they believe is wrong, and they hate and resent those of us who accept the reality. And The Former Guy legitimized that: “he made it okay to say openly that you just hated the other side and didn’t want to share the country with them anymore.”
This will continue to be a problem going forward. I wish there was an easy solution.