Many on the Left have long cast Republicans and conservatives as an unforgiving bunch — intolerant naysayers who resist change, and have little patience for those who hold opposing views. It’s a theme that’s been bolstered by the mainstream media and Hollywood for decades, and though the generalization isn’t particularly fair, there has been a self-fulfilling element to it.
Over time, the Right has become increasingly resentful of the narrative and those who fuel it, which is understandable. And after years of being on the defensive over daily accusations of bigotry and holding anti-Science views, many have found refuge in a populist movement that formed during the 2016 election, which centered around Donald Trump’s campaign.
Trump’s political revolution (often referred to these days as Trumpism) targeted the excessive and often paralyzing taboos of political correctness. It was never about a common set of principles, but rather cultural grievances. And without guiding principles to maintain it, a political movement can only be kept together by a charismatic leader and a shared attitude, aka tribalism.
President Trump didn’t create the sentiment that led to where we are, but he certainly harnessed it, and has managed to maintain it (with the unwitting help of his most deranged detractors).
What’s particularly fascinating is that while tribal politics are exclusionary by nature (just ask a conservative Trump-skeptic how many times he or she has been called a “libtard”), it’s astonishingly easy to fall into the good graces of Trumpism. All you have to do is flatter Trump in a meaningful way, or go to bat for his team. When that happens, all of your past sins are immediately forgiven, even if you were previously a sworn enemy or vile detractor of the American Right.
For example, I still find it amazing that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has become a darling of the Republican base. It was just eight years ago that that same base believed Assange to be an international villain — an anti-American fiend whose online publishing of secret diplomatic cables had put American lives at risk. Fox News host Sean Hannity even said at the time that Assange was “waging war against the U.S.,” and called on the Obama administration to arrest him.
But in 2016, when Assange started publishing documents that were harmful to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (and thus helpful to Donald Trump’s), all was miraculously forgiven. Assange suddenly became a beacon of truth and a pursuer of justice. Despite the belief that Assange had been working in accordance with governments that were hostile to America, the one and only Sean Hannity turned into one of WikiLeaks’ biggest proponents and publicists. Hannity even invited Assange onto his show (via satellite), where he lavished him with praise and expressed his wishes for Assange’s freedom (Assange had been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid sexual assault charges by Swedish authorities).
Roseanne Barr is another individual who has become an unlikely hero of today’s Republican base, not just for her personal support of President Trump, but for the unabashed support lent by the iconic character she portrays on “Roseanne,” the popular sitcom from the 80s and 90s that was rebooted earlier this year.
If you’ll recall, this is the same Roseanne Barr who once wrapped up a public screeching of the National Anthem at a baseball game by grabbing her crotch and spitting on the ground. Years later, she posed (at her request) for pictures in a Jewish satirical magazine, dressed as Hitler and pulling burnt gingerbread cookies (shaped like people) out of an oven — a stunt that earned her multiple condemnations from Fox News commentators. In 2011, Barr said she’d slap Sarah Palin. And in 2014, while touting abortion rights and arguing that Republicans defend private schools because they “love” racial segregation, Barr blamed Ronald Reagan for 9/11, claiming that the terrorist attacks were the direct result of Reagan’s busting of the Air Traffic Controllers union.
Barr, in fact, has a long (and even recent) history of attacking Republicans and conservatives with highly incendiary charges, but her recent support of the Trump administration has managed to earn her a special place in the hearts of the Right. Sean Hannity even recently offered Barr the hosting chair on his Fox News show for a night.
The latest unlikely sweetheart of the Modern Right has been singer/entertainer, Kanye West.
Yes, we’re talking about the same Kanye West who famously declared, during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, that Republican President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people.” This is the same Kanye West who has compared himself to God and Jesus, to the anger of social conservatives, countless times. This is the same Kanye West who donated thousands of dollars to (and even endorsed) Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign against Donald Trump.
But West surprised some people shortly after the 2016 election, when he told a live audience that he hadn’t voted for anyone that year, and that if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. The remark generated boos from concert goers, but it earned West a meeting with President-elect Trump, at Trump Towers.
For the next year and a half, West didn’t weigh in much on politics, even taking a long hiatus from social media. He recently returned, however, surprising a number of people by expressing support for Candace Owens, a conservative black commentator and fervent Trump supporter.
Soon after, West began tweeting video-commentary from Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, and a consummate Trump explainer/defender. And over the past couple of days, in radio interviews and on social media, West has been saying, without apology, that he “loves” President Trump.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump base has been loving the new Kanye. Numerous media-conservatives have lavished praise upon the entertainer for being an “independent thinker.” Fox News’s Jesse Watters even went as far as to call West a “modern day philosopher” the other day. Meanwhile, liberal commentators and longtime fans have been going a bit ballistic over the transformation, portraying West as a sell-out.
Now, in case my point isn’t clear, let me assure you that I couldn’t care less about the evolving political views of people like Kanye West and Roseanne Barr. I don’t care which politicians they like, and which ones they don’t like. I don’t think celebrities (whether they be liberal, conservative, or somewhere in-between) have an inherent political wisdom that the rest of us don’t. In fact, I usually tend to think just the opposite.
But it’s remarkable to observe just how cheap of a date the Right has become (especially after years of the base demanding conservative purity within its ranks). In the absence of guiding principles, whether one is embraced or rejected by the base is now largely determined by that person’s sentiments toward a single individual: Donald Trump.
If those sentiments are good, you’re good. Any past issues are immediately forgiven and forgotten. If those sentiments are not so good (even if you subscribe to Trump’s party’s platform), well, you might as well just join the Democrats… and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!
Believe me, I know a little something about this.
This mindset is not a celebration of “independent thinking.” It’s a celebration of fandom.
And it’s not just the Right, of course. As we were recently reminded with the disgusting treatment of country singer Shania Twain (simply for expressing support for President Trump), the Left uses the same litmus test… over the same individual (just in reverse).
Team-sports politics are in full force, folks. And the rules of game are increasingly shallow and stupid.