It is often said that democracy is very fragile.
And so, it’s an interesting dichotomy to see the current unrest in Russia as compared to the unrest we witnessed in our nation’s capital a few weeks back.
In Russia, Vladimir Putin placed tens of thousands of armed soldiers on the streets, violently beating and arresting demonstrators supporting his rival, reformist Aleksei Navalny. In Russia, Putin sends in his Red Army to suppress democracy.
Meanwhile, America recently deployed 25,000 National Guardsmen to protect our democracy’s lawful transfer of power against violent rioters attempting to overthrow democratic elections in favor of their own flavor of dictator. We sent in the Guard to… guard democracy.
The similarities and the differences between these are profoundly disturbing for democracy and for the world. And cult leaders are complicit in both.
Democracy is an inconvenient thing for those whose hope it is to retain power indefinitely. Putin killed Russia’s democracy in less than 30 years with his cleverly crafted personality cult, aided by well-placed favors and cash.
On Jan. 6, Donald Trump’s crackpot followers thought it a good idea to break into an active meeting of Congress certifying valid Electoral College votes. “Trump won,” they knew — damn the facts; laws no longer applied, nor did democracy itself. Trump’s cleverly crafted personality cult spurred his crazies on – Trump’s own, Red Cap cult army.
Just what did that Air Force veteran think while she crawled through the broken window when she heard the gunshot go off, ending her life? How does one go from a long Air Force career of defending our Constitution to mob rule against it? There were police officers in that mob, veterans in that mob, even recently elected politicians in that mob. There were members of the House of Representatives texting people in the mob. Just what were all these thinking when they aligned with a guy wearing horns and a painted face and animal fur?
They were cult-thinking: The president manipulated his rally-crafted personality cult mob into their march of infamy. Indeed, Trump had been whipping up his anti-democracy personality cult from a foundation of “alternative facts” for years. We all saw this building up from the moment Trump came down the golden elevator.
Trump nearly pulled off a Putin, but our democracy proved resilient. He almost persuaded certain election officials. We know he tried in Georgia – we heard the phone call. He tried every legal and illegal angle and ended up with a mobster-instinct power play, twisting arms of vulnerable representatives and whipping up a mob for a Hail Mary pass.
Close, but it didn’t work. Trump isn’t nearly as clever as Putin, and America is not Russia — yet.
Amidst this milieu, and with a failed Putin as their past president, the Republican party faces a watershed moment. Traditional conservatives are horrified by all that’s happened and are trying to shake their national party back to its senses. But it’s hard leaving a cult, and reasoning with the deceived doesn’t always succeed. Going against Trump supporting right-wing conspiracy theorists will be as difficult as getting your kid out of a cult.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, has captured many Trumpists’ imagination and is splitting the party into realists or conspiracy supporters. Greene is a QAnon adherent and she’s not alone. Depending on polls, some 15-30% of today’s Republicans believe some or all aspects of QAnon and other conspiracy mishmash:
Did you know, or do you believe that a group of Hollywood elites and Democratic politicians run a Satan-worshipping, child kidnapping cult; harvesting the blood of children to extract a drug called adrenochrome for its psychedelic and life-extending benefits? And that Jesus chose Donald Trump to defeat this evil cult on a day of reckoning called “The Storm?” Or did you know that Zionist space lasers are the cause of recent California forest fires?
Greene knows this; she openly talks about it; her state elected her knowing this about her.
Cults are founded on “alternative facts.” Myths, stories that folks are prejudiced or seduced to believe. Cult leaders use these beliefs to increase, motivate and manipulate followers.
With careful propaganda, the truth is forgotten, the Kool-Aid gets drank, and the believers are tricked into things they would never otherwise do – or worse, they’re killed. And democracies are toppled as tricked minions follow their “I, alone” cult leader.
Republicans today must choose between weeding out cult conspiracy-theory-powered Trumpism – or become a full-blown crazy car party of make-believe kooks loyal to a man and crazy cults — and not a Constitution.
So, ask yourself, “Do I believe Democrats are harvesting kidnapped kids’ blood to extract adrenochrome in Hillary Clinton’s pizza parlor basement?” Or are Zionists setting our forests on fire from space? And is Barack Obama’s birth certificate fake?
If you’re a Republican and your answer to these questions is “no” – then you have some serious cleaning up to do in the wake of your party’s trashing the Capitol and attempted nullification of this past election. If you say “yes” – then get ready to become a card-carrying fringe party member, hell bound to sink America back to the Middle Ages.
You can either support crazy conspiracy theories with their alternative facts – or govern conservatively with real facts. You can’t have both.
Republicans are at a very serious crossroads and the fate of their party and our nation is in play.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.