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Why do former Democrats move rightward?


It’s the question of our times. We saw it in 2016, when enough former Democrats voted for Trump to hand him the election (with, obviously, the help of his Russian colluders). And we see it happening again. One of the memes out there goes something like this: “I’ve voted for Democrats all my life, but no more.”

It’s hard to get inside somebody else’s head, especially someone who publicly admits he or she is voting for Trump. You have to imagine a great vortex of hatred, denying reality and willful ignorance, and that can be psychologically dangerous to expose yourself to. Opening your mind to that level of psychopathy runs the risk that it may infect your own brain, much like Trumpvirus (my word for coronavirus) can infect our bodies. Still, if we’re going to deal with these former Democrats, we have to at least try to understand them.

It’s pointless to ask them, because their answers are incoherent. They’ll say something like what Reagan said back in the Sixties: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. They left me.” Of course, this is a meaningless statement. The Democratic Party doesn’t “leave” anyone; it’s a concept, incapable of a transitive verb. Reagan did leave the Democratic Party, and we know why: in biography after biography, Reagan is portrayed as a cheapskate who detested paying taxes, which he felt were an unfair redistribution of his “hard-earned” wealth to “welfare queens.” From this root cause, Reagan developed other far right views. But he never was able to articulate his feelings coherently, beyond pointless aphorisms about “big government.”

Given this absence of coherent explanations from former Democrats, we’re left with no choice but inference. We have to imagine what these people think—but, again, it can be dangerous to do so. You don’t want to let the poison of Trump voters infect you. We need to psychologically distance ourselves from getting too close to the Republican mindset, the same way we socially distance ourselves from the Trumpvirus. Still, it’s possible to examine the rightwing mindset, while protecting yourself from getting sickened by it.

The way to do this is to understand, with great clarity, that the Republican-Trump mindset is a disease. It represents a festering debilitation of normal, rational and moral thought processes—a psychological brain rot in the same way that lymphoma is a physical brain rot. Once you understand that Trumpism is a disease, you’re much more likely to protect yourself from it, the same way we protect ourselves from Trumpvirus by wearing masks and other forms of PPE.

What is the psychological equivalent of PPE to shield yourself from Trumpism? Hatred and contempt. You have to hate it because you understand its danger and the threat it poses to your country, your freedom and liberty, your family and way of life. And you have to have contempt for it because it is not worth any kind of respect. Trumpism is truly a gutter religion—and it is a religion, make no mistake about it. It’s a pagan religion: religious “Christians” or “Jews” who are Trumpers are actually committing blasphemy, because Trumpism is not about religion, or God, or godliness, it’s an atheistic view of the world in which nothing matters except dog-eat-dog power. The Earth, for these people, is not ruled by God, or by the moral principles of the Bible, but by power alone. This is why Trump always flirts with authoritarianism. The people who believe in Trump have no political or economic theories. They simply want a strong, powerful leader in whom they can trust, and who will crush the people whom they believe are their enemies. Today, those enemies might be black- and brown-skinned people, but racism and xenophobia are not really the goals of Trumpism; they are its tools. Tomorrow, black- and brown-skinned people could be embraced by Trumpers, and be replaced by a new set of enemies: Jews, or Catholics, or old people, or Asians, or fat people—who knows? For the essence of Trumpism is simply to have an enemy against which the Trumpers can unite, and the masses will turn against any enemy whom their superiors tell them to.

So, armed with the proper hatred and contempt, you’re okay to venture into the brains of Republicans, where you can safely seek the cause of their sickness. I highly urge you to do so. It’s unpleasant, of course—like wading through sewage—but, again, if you’re wearing the correct protective gear, you can do it safely. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, observes this vital truth: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Knowing these Republicans is the key to beating them in the battles to come.

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