False dissidents: They say they're oppressed but they run the country
The White Grievance Industrial Complex convinces conservative Americans they are oppressed. The reality is they're in charge.
Under the chyron, CRACKDOWN ON DISSENT, Tucker Carlson laid out the desperate situation he and other conservatives face in this country.
Without citing any specific examples, Carlson last week described a stunning series of events in which “fairly prominent, well-educated people with dissenting political opinions” have been “disappeared.”
“This is what an authoritarian society looks like,” he declared. “It’s a place where the group in charge will tolerate no criticism at all.”
The “group in charge” in this description is an imagined coalition of Democrats, mainstream media organizations, liberals, progressives and pretty much anyone who was offended by comments unearthed last week that showed Carlson calling women “extremely primitive,” disparaging Iraqis as “semi-literate primitive monkeys” and defending convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs by saying the multiple felonies he was convicted of amounted to “bullshit.”
There’s just one problem with this: the coalition Carlson described isn’t in charge. Instead, the party most closely aligned with his increasingly white nationalist rhetoric — Republicans — are.
To be a political dissident, as Carlson claims he is, one must be speaking out against those in power, not facilitating them by creating propaganda in support of the ruling party, as Carlson and his fellow grifters in the White Grievance Industrial Complex do each night. They are so adept at selling their wares of false oppression that many of Americans deeply believe their voices are being silenced despite all evidence to the contrary.
They believe Carlson when he says a “Twitter mob” came for him not because he made racist comments on a shock jock radio show a decade ago, but simply because he is a conservative. They believe Devin Nunes when he says his tweets aren’t showing up in people’s timelines because Twitter has an anti-conservative bias. They believe Trump when he says that basically any story that doesn’t make him look good is fake news.
They believe the Complex when it tells them they’re being oppressed, but the reality is that everyone in their belief ecosystem is in power.
In addition to holding the White House and the Senate, Republicans also control most state governments. Thirty state legislatures are controlled by Republicans, which is slightly down thanks to Democratic gains in the midterms. (It’s actually surprising that Republicans don’t control more state houses, considering they’ve been in charge of redistricting voting districts to their advantage for the better part of the last two decades.) In 22 of those 30 states, Republicans also occupy the governor’s mansion — a regional fiefdom that includes the massive populations of Texas and Florida, and much of the southeast and midwest, accounting for nearly half the states in the country.
Some 193 million Americans live each day under at least one form of Republican government while sixty million fewer Americans live under Democratic control. If you consider things like school boards, county, regional and municipal government bodies, we can say that two-thirds of Americans live in areas where conservative citizens are active enough in the political process to have identified the GOP as consistent with their values, and elected leaders who support the party’s platforms.
But the Republican domination of American life only begins with this examination of numbers. To dig deeper you have to look at what the party is doing in those 30 statehouses and 22 governor’s mansions. Here’s a brief and disturbing rundown:
In Florida, Republicans are trying to place new restrictions on a recently-passed law that allows felons who have completed their sentences to vote, saying they should have to pay all of their court fees and fines associated with their crimes. It would affect nearly 80 percent of the 1.4 million new voters, many of whom are people of color. Under the proposed rule they’ll essentially have to pay for their right to vote, which 64 percent of their fellow citizens gave them in a referendum passed in November.
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin has used an “emergency” clause to try to jam through a law that would prohibit all abortions after the detection of a heartbeat, which is around six weeks, amounting to 90 percent of all procedures. If not for a federal judge deciding yesterday to block Bevin’s order, the state’s lone abortion clinic would have had to turn away many of its patients.
In Texas, Republicans are trying to make the state’s voting process — already one of the most restrictive in the country — even more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the poor. Simultaneously they are giving the state’s attorney general more power to intimidate voters with exaggerated and outright false claims of voter fraud that most recently had roots in far-right conservative activist circles.
And in North Dakota, the passage of time seems to have reversed. Republican legislators there have refused to pass a law that would prohibit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, won’t allow communities to set their own minimum wages, have levied new fees on electric car owners and struck down a law that would have required law enforcement to disclose how much taxpayer money is spent protecting the Republican governor.
That’s what’s happening in four states where Republicans have legislative majorities. There are 26 more whose statehouses are staffed by fewer and fewer reporters as local newspapers continue to scale back coverage and staff.
At the federal level, Trump has been filling courts with conservative judges at a record pace. Some of them hold virulently anti-LGBTQ views. One has said that Kentucky death row inmates are not guaranteed a “pain-free” execution. Another sided with a Michigan county board that asks members of the audience to join them in a Christian prayer before each meeting. All can be counted on — as Mitch McConnell has planned since the Obama administration — to fundamentally transform the federal court system to reflect more conservative points of view.
Now, one out of every five judges in federal appeals courts are conservative Trump appointees. McConnell plans to speed the process even more for circuit and district courts, and will likely be successful thanks to Republican control of the Senate.
With so much power, how can it be that conservatives are being oppressed for their political views, as Carlson, Sean Hannity and other members of the White Grievance Industrial Complex claim daily? The obvious answer is that they are not, which begs the larger question of, Why do so many Americans apparently believe them?
First, Republicans are incredibly talented at convincing working class Americans to vote against their own interests by electing politicians who have far greater wealth than themselves — and who then create laws that benefit the wealthy more than the poor and the middle class. They achieve this through all of the culture war, race-baiting tactics that have been discussed to death since Trump was elected.
Most importantly, they have created a completely false narrative that conservative or center-right beliefs — which remain those held by a majority of Americans — are under attack.
Republicans know they must amplify this exaggerated threats to stay in power. And so, understanding that anger motivates, the ruling party in this country can’t very well remind its supporters that Republicans are in power — and that if someone is looking to blame a political party for the problems in their life, they would likely have to look toward the GOP. Instead, Republicans have found a variety of scapegoats, primarily immigrants and the media, to blame.
The icing on the cake is the brilliant and untrue story that the party that controls more government bodies than any other is actually in danger of extinction. It is a persecution complex for the ages, and a complete twisting of reality that should scare the hell out of anyone who thinks that autocracy and fascism can’t happen here.
Carlson, Hannity and many others are co-conspirators, beaming this message of fake dissidence into millions of American homes every night — in primetime and on the country’s most-watched news channel, no less. Meanwhile, the party they support holds power in nearly two-thirds of states, the White House, Congress and an increasing percentage of federal courtrooms.
P.S. The photo on this post is from Doug Mills of the New York Times. This post is part of a new project I’m undertaking with my friend and colleague, Jeremy Borden, called The Gonzo Primary. We’ll slice directly through the bullshit of standard national political reporting to bring everything from detailed policy examinations and analysis to raw, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with Americans of all stripes as Democrats work their way across the country in an attempt to take back the White House. We will not be doing horse race coverage and generally speaking care less about how people feel than what they know. You can read more about it here, and subscribe to Jeremy’s newsletter here.