On any given day, reading the print or watching the screen, we may wonder at the performative absurdities of a Marjorie Taylor Greene — her latest a scream against
Interior Homeland Secretary Mayorkas, claiming he had sex with a Russian spy, and then blaming him for “killing people” with fentanyl.
“When Mayorkas tried to defend himself, Greene cut him off, shouting: “You’re a liar!”
But a long Zoom conversation this week focused less on Greene, or Trump, or Tucker Carlson or myriad others who thrive on false accusation and twisted fact, and wondered more about those who vote for them, fund them, bring cult-like fervor to their rallies.
To understand it, to get inside the minds of those who want to hear falsehoods and conspiracies, believe them all, and vote for those who deliver just what they believe/what they want to hear, is a vital part of the American conversation now – vital if we are ever to get back to a less divisive and more fruitful politics.
That insight is the work of a Jeff Sharlet book – his tour through Trump and Greene’s world of supporters, getting to know more about them, and writing down what they told him:
“He [Trump] stands up there and says what we all think,” Gene said. “We all want to punch somebody in the face, and he says it for us.”
“He takes what we all say on the back porch and puts it on the front page,” a White woman named Kate Worthington told me at a Trump rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, [Those Democrats] “Oh yeah,” said the Trumplican. “Actually,” said Jones, “they’re pedophiles.” “Perverts and murderers,” said a woman in Bossier City.
One needs no diplomas to know truth, no “data” contrived by “experts.” Knowledge lies not in scholarship or information but within, “the gut,” as Trump had long maintained.”
— Sharlet, ‘The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War’
It’s another thought world, impervious to reason, to fact and counter argument, a place where the other is not just someone with different ideas, but an enemy to be scorned, even hated.
Older writers – I am one – won’t see the outcome of this “slow civil war” but we know the final lines of a poem from another threatening time. They hover ominously now:
“..what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
—— The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats