“Let’s take the word ‘bomb.’ B-O-M-B, bomb. All right. T-O-M-B. Tom? No, tomb. T-O-M-B tomb. C-O-M-B … Coomb? Comb.” Gallagher
Gallagher’s hilarious frustration with the English language mirror’s modern American frustration with conservative values: Those values, like our spelling, are remarkably flexible.
Conservatives vote avidly for religious freedom while supporting religious candidates. They are willing to support a Mormon candidate over a Christian one despite early protestation that this would make them uneasy. They accept a clearly non-Christian candidate as Christian if he joins their team.
While proposing the protestant Christian ethic of hard work, they support a man who does not pay for work he contracted for. Accepting him, they accept alleged sexual misconduct. These are the voters who reject swearing and nudity on television but won’t run from a candidate who proposes grabbing women by the p&%$y. They hate an enemy’s husband for his infidelity while praising the hyper-masculine behavior of their own candidate – a serial infidel who cheated with each of his wives on his previous wives.
Folks who support our troops with lip service but seem quite eager for war. Isn’t “thou shalt not kill” on one of the Bible’s more important pages?
Who claim to be patriots but accept the argument that avoiding taxes for over a decade makes a guy a genius. Who call the other candidate corrupt but have no particular concern over their own candidate’s business dealings.
The list goes on. Every stated value of Republicans is contradicted over and over by their choice in candidates. And sure, Dems do it to, accepting flaws in their own candidates that they reject in Republicans – but in this race we have seen excesses that stagger the imagination.
Part of this problem can be explained by the unholy alliance between two major voting blocs: the conservative values-voters and the oligarchic business class. If one has even a passing acquaintance with the New Testament, it is pretty clear these folks don’t belong in bed together and justifying the alliance takes some ideological contortions to explain.
The rest might be rooted in cognitive dissonance.
People are all but hard-wired to accept that we are good and smart.
If we have a bad idea, it is easier to rationalize that idea than to accept that thinking it was wrong in the first place. Such mistakes are a challenge to our self-image. “Don’t be afraid to let go of a mistake because you spent a long time making it” is good advice here. Smart people and good people can think foolish or evil things. The key is not marrying those thoughts.
On the broader scale, we tend to adopt the planks in our candidates’ platforms even if we initially disagree with them. Maybe prior to the election you didn’t think Mexicans were responsible for most of the rapes in our country but, once you vote R, you’re stuck supporting the idea. We tend to vote on irrelevant criteria and then to back-rationalize our decisions, and that means adjusting our values to match our behavior rather than the reverse.
Thus every new excess gets accepted by the base. Authority says it is true; we follow; then we have to justify our following behavior.
Something like this can happen in prison. When training to work with convicts in these systems, one of the first new bits of language we pick up is “seemingly unimportant decisions.” The con knows you aren’t going to just let him walk away, to turn a blind eye while he re-offends in the community. So he starts small, with a favor that seems of no consequence. One extra minute outside. One extra phone call. Or he does something for you, like gives you a stick of gum.
Now you are compromised. The next favor is a little more serious. Still ultimately trivial, but a step away from your ethics, from the rules. The previous favor is leverage. It either builds trust – that phone call was good, right? – or obligation: what if the other guys found out you let me stay in the yard another minute?
Either way, if you fall for the second ask, you’re history. The hole gets a little deeper, then deeper still. Before you know it, the cons are walking all over you. You’ve become their bitch, an unwilling accomplice, bringing in drugs or doing sexual favors or aiding in escape attempts.
Republicans bought a little lie: that T-O-M-B doesn’t sound like C-O-M-B.
And now, after months of slow and steady escalation, they’re completely and totally screwed. Stuck defending an indefensible candidate, an authoritarian populist who contradicts their every stated value.
There is no way out — not without admitting some pretty hard truths. That we’re easily manipulated. That we don’t have the country’s best interests at heart. That our values are ultimately just for show; they fall before loyalty to party.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: Pixel.NYMag.com, All Rights Reserved.