Contrary to what you may have heard, the best way to deal with the boneheads that ever more dominate our lives is to ignore them. You can’t talk to them; they speak an alien language unrelated to human thought or history. Reasoning with them only makes them angry and reinforces their fantasies. The only thing that will change Governor Abbott’s behavior is political pressure. Ditto for the Republican toadies.
At the Capitol on January 6 you saw the ultimate bonehead fantasies of religion, conspiracy and nationalism all merged and confounded. Trump’s evangelical followers are usually high on some form of political deception, as Michael Luo recently documented:
nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Republicans believe widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 election, compared with fifty-four per cent of non-evangelical Republicans; sixty per cent of white evangelical Republicans believe that Antifa, the antifascist group, was mostly responsible for the violence in the Capitol riot, compared with forty-two per cent of non-evangelical Republicans [my emphasis].
There’s a long tradition here, a vibrant history of religious nuttiness in American life. Luo talks about some of this, and the full treatment can be found in Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966), still valid and strong after all these years. I talked a little about these tendencies in another post, “A Culture of Ignorance.” Since then the culture has gotten worse and become the succubus of the Republican party.
Many boneheads refuse to take the Covid vaccine. Some still fixate on QAnon and its “cabal of left-wing, satanic pedophiles,” per Sarah Posner. Others are seized by the fervent mix of evangelism and Trump lies, as we saw on January 6. Nicholas Kristof humanely tells us “How to Reach People Who Are Wrong.” I say leave ‘em alone; asking reasonable questions will only make them more entrenched.
President Biden’s approach has been to avoid morally challenging these idiots and to focus on political actions that clearly benefit the majority. He did make a slip the other day in accusing the governors of Texas and Mississippi of “Neanderthal thinking” for abruptly lifting all Covid restrictions. Well, you can’t blame the man for speaking the truth.
Yet I am quite certain that Biden’s efforts to deal amicably with the Republicans will fail. Fooling around with arcane Senate rules and reconciliation maneuvers won’t get the transformative measures through that most of us are hoping for. You can’t deal forthrightly with people who have no moral or humanitarian center. You can’t overcome the filibuster. You can’t build trust with people who have no soul.