Like a pack of slobbering pups eager to please their master, how trainable, in the arena of stupid dog tricks, is the modern Republican voter? In his presidential tenure's final exasperation conference last week, Barack Obama offered a clue: 37 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of President Putin, a Russian despot hellbent on disfiguring European borders and destroying the postwar, U.S.-led, liberal international system. Twenty percent fewer Republicans hold a favorable view of their own nation's president.
By itself, the latter statistic is essentially unobjectionable. I haven't any 10-year-old polling at hand, but I doubt that even 17 percent of Democrats held a favorable view of America's then-sitting president. Still, I even more seriously doubt that more than one-third of Democrats would have leaned favorably toward Kim Jong-il, Robert Mugabe, or Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir, simply because a top party leader asked them to do so. Today, not so with a sizable, cringeworthy swath of Republican voters, who, by Donald Trump, have been ordered to fondness for Vladimir Putin. The proffered post-WWII theory of the obedient, right-wing authoritarian personality persists in its more-than-theoretical serviceability; it is asked by its domestically triumphant, neofascistic ghoul of a leader to look kindly on a foreign tyrant opposed to virtually every American interest -- and with no further question, it does.
"Far more crucial than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know," observed mass-movement analyst Eric Hoffer, the brilliant philosopher-author of The True Believer (1951). Crucially, a hefty segment of Republican voters have chosen not to know, among other things, the morbidly anti-Western Putin. Curiosity, inquiry, an independence of mind, the pursuit of objective knowledge -- the indispensable foundations of 17th-century, post-Renaissance Enlightenment thought, which emancipated the West from gothic superstitions and medieval ignorance -- are grimly fading features of the fanatically partisan Republican soul. Indeed, an eager willingness not to know the readily knowable is the Trumpist's most cherished ticket to group acceptance.
Quite aside from Trump supporters' substantial but nonetheless minority embrace of the intensely anti-American Putin, ponder this further finding from a recent Washington Post poll. Asked "Who do you think won the most popular votes?" in last month's presidential election, a majority (52 percent) of Republican respondents named Donald Trump. For weeks, the ubiquitous and factually inescapable headline news of Hillary Clinton's popular-vote victory (nearing three million) has somehow either escaped Republican notice or, more likely, I suspect, this Republican majority is breathtakingly insistent on rejecting irrefutable knowledge of what it wants not to know -- of whatever it wishes not to believe. The dimensions of Republicans' madly housed epistemic closure have transcended even their willfully pernicious ignorance of the George W. Bush and Tea Party epochs.
This unfolding phenomenon of mass-movement derangement is, it seems to me, historically and domestically equaled only by antebellum sectionalism's descent into national disorder and violent decay. The firebranded Southern Trumps of that era dispatched vast arrays of ruinous untruths to their benighted followers; reserve, reason and rationality were thrust aside as egregious antitheses to the "higher" cause of raw power. And it is that, today -- the wholesale appropriation of unlimited, unconstitutional power -- that neofascistic Trumpism so vividly seeks.
In that there loomed another once-civilized nation's plunge into the following century's madness. One "Enabling Act" crisis and America, as we and much of the world have admiringly known it, could pass into generational infamy.
Have a nice day.