The responses that the protesters draw from those they confront outside the schools is instructive. Some of the children ask about the source of the data. Some try to give them masks. The Black family they confront—where the father also happens to be a doctor who works in public health—attempts to talk to them rationally about the need for masks, the importance of protecting each other, and why masks are nothing like slavery. In response they get told that masks, and COVID-19 itself, are all part of a globalist agenda to “depopulate the world.”
The protesters also draw a response from a middle school girl that isn’t exactly appropriate … except that it seems absolutely appropriate for a 12-year-old confronted outside her middle school by strangers insisting on endangering her health and taking her photo.
The Westboro Baptist Church nature of all this isn’t accidental. There have always been fringe groups that existed simply because they realized that operating on hate was enough to generate income from others who shared that hate. But what’s changed—and changed very rapidly—is how protests like this have become central to the Republican Party. It doesn’t matter if the protests are anti-maskers in Los Angeles or people waving AR-15s overhead in Frankfort, Kentucky, the point is the same: The ability to generate discomfort and anger isn’t a means to an end, it’s the goal.
As Bloomberg notes, the biggest reason that Republicans in Congress and state officers are continuing to support Donald Trump, even as Trump becomes an increasingly marginalized figure, has nothing to do with pushing a vision for the nation, or even believing Trump’s claims about election fraud. The primary purpose is simply convincing Republican voters that their representatives are with them in doing everything they can to hurt Democrats.
Bills to torture trans youth? Check. Bills to roll back the voting rights of Black Americans? Check. Bills to make it legal to drive over those protesting murders committed by police? Check.
Even the idea that these bills could give Republicans a competitive advantage in the next round of elections could be a secondary effect. The primary purpose is in service of the narrative, and the narrative is: “We’re doing this because it hurts them.”
That’s why issues that don’t actually exist—trans girls triumphing over their cis-gender opponents, millions of illegal votes generated by voting machines, microchips in vaccines, and that globalist attempt to somehow depopulate the world by making people wear masks—are perfect issues for the modern Republican Party. Real issues have real solutions. Imaginary issues can’t be solved, which makes them endless engines for generating what Republicans really need right now: enemies.
These fictional issues generate an endless series of faith statements. Failure to abide by any one of them can result in being exiled. Ask Justin Amash. Ask Jeff Flake. Ask Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney. A party that operates on faith-based hate can, and does, erect ever higher barriers to membership and demand that those hurdles be cleared. Or else.
Jan. 6 wasn’t the expression of a rational party seeking redress to genuine issues. It was the product of a hate machine that burns conspiracy theories as fuel, and produces white-hot hate for fellow Americans. That’s where the Republican Party is now. In terms of a positive agenda to move the nation forward … They have nothing. Which makes them extremely dangerous.
The party is in service to people whose joy comes from causing others pain. That’s the tiger they’ve boarded. Not one of them has a clue about how to get off. And increasingly the face of the party—from Marjorie Taylor Greene to Josh Hawley—consists of those who are enjoying the ride.