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Opinion | This is how America dies

The willingness of today’s conservatives to believe everything they want to be true almost cost us democracy, and it might yet.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA)

There’s this weird phenomenon occurring now among conservatives in which they can, in the face of obvious reality, completely and utterly convince themselves of literally anything in order to believe in people and theories that they simply want to believe. 

Maybe I’m overstating just how recent this phenomenon is, considering many of these same people have convinced themselves for decades now that “trickle down” economics works and that guns don’t kill people. But we’ve reached an entirely new level of delusion of late, and it has completely transformed the ability of the average conservative to experience any reality or acknowledge any fact that doesn’t fit within their narrowly defined personal beliefs. 

It also has led to the average conservative being as susceptible to coercion and disinformation as small children. In some extreme cases, where the reality is obvious and the disinformation is barely concealed, they are possibly more easily misled than children. 

I realized this extreme shift last week, as I scrolled through the various social media posts made on Jan. 6, 2021, and the days immediately following that embarrassing attempted coup, and then as I compared their reactions – in real time – to the statements of some of the same people today. 

In real time, without the benefit of the rightwing propaganda apparatus, when they were forced to process the simple, raw video of a president and his group of elected yes-men attempting to undermine a valid and legal American election, and the resulting riot that accompanied the coup attempt, the overwhelming majority of Americans – from both sides of the aisle and on either end of the political spectrum – widely and categorically denounced the actions of Donald Trump, his lawmaker supporters and the throngs of dopes who attacked the Capitol that day. 

The condemnations were widespread and harsh. The lawmakers who backed Trump at the time were quick to distance themselves from all of it. For weeks afterwards, the people who took part in the planning and execution of the Trump rally, the attempt to stop the certification of the election and the people who breached the Capitol ran from interviews, denied involvement, apologized profusely and lived in the rightful shame that they brought on themselves. Even most conservatives, at the time, were outraged and wanted them all to face justice. 

And then … the whitewashing started. 

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Much akin to the “lost cause” rebranding of the Civil War, the “simple tourist” theory of the Jan. 6 attack was born and pushed. And for a group of people so easily misled, it was a hit. It remains one today. 

To be certain, it is an utterly stupid notion – that the attack wasn’t a real coup, that the people who stormed the Capitol, beating cops along the way, were not violent and dangerous but merely curious citizens a little disenchanted with their government. 

They didn’t break in, they’ll say, while watching videos of people literally smashing windows, breaking down doors and shoving past police officers. 

Most of the video shows people not doing too much, they say, as if that somehow lessens or explains away the hours of video showing attacks on officers, threats to lawmakers, the breach of the chambers, the looting of offices, the very real danger facing everyone in the Capitol that day and the gallows erected outside to hang the vice president. 

This past Sunday, on national TV, one of the highest ranking Republicans in Congress, referred to the people arrested for their actions that day – the literal beatings of police officers – as “hostages.” 

Hostages. 

The former president has continued to claim that the election he lost by 7 million votes was “rigged.” There is zero evidence of this, and even Republican-led efforts to investigate various claims of election fraud have turned up zero evidence. In fact, in most cases, the only thing it turned up was fraud committed by Republicans. 

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But it doesn’t seem to matter. 

The propaganda push has been just as successful as the post-reconstruction efforts to rebrand the Civil War’s cause. All we’re missing to make the rewrite of history complete are statues of Trump and that weird shaman dude who stole the lectern from the Capitol. 

But just so we’re absolutely clear here: We see you. 

We know what happened. We all saw it. We all know the facts. And we all know that we came dangerously close that day to relinquishing 200-plus years of democracy and the peaceful transition of power because y’all were conned by an overgrown child who can’t accept losing. And you’re still being conned. 

That guy and his cronies concocted an entire plan – laid out in a third-grade-level PowerPoint – to stop the counting of electoral college votes and use the military to take control of the country and keep the would-be dictator in power. And those goobers who stormed the Capitol, whether they knew it or not, were helping him with his plan. 

The fact that a couple of key players got cold feet or had a bout of conscience doesn’t change the fact that for the first time in American history, a U.S. president refused to leave office, and tried his absolute damndest to undermine one of the tenets of American democracy – our free elections and peaceful transition of power. 

And somehow, despite claiming to love this country and be the most patriotic Americans ever born, a whole bunch of conservatives want to re-elect that guy. They certainly seem destined to re-nominate him. (Which is fine by me, considering he’s probably the only GOP candidate of the top six or seven who Joe Biden would absolutely destroy.)

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It’s embarrassing. The rest of us are embarrassed for you and of you. And if you don’t pull yourselves together, stop being suckers to this con and grow up, we’re going to suffer the irony of watching the people who proclaim to love this place the most being the ones who destroy it.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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