It’s often difficult to understand the logic behind the right’s continued embrace of Trump’s lies and corruption. In thinking about it, it seems that there is something even more fundamental than identity behind it. You might call it the epiphany of the right.
This already existed in rather pure form with the Tea Party. Tea Party participants had the enthusiasm of true believers, and they were pretty clear about their new beliefs. When interviewers asked people on Medicare and Social Security why they were ready to deny government benefits to everyone else, the answers came down to a simple idea: “I don’t have to care!”. In Strangers in their own Land, the author asked a Tea Party defender of personal responsibility how a poor child in a drastically underfunded school system was supposed to succeed, and she got the same response. “I don’t have to care”.
That “I don’t have to care” has become the epiphany of the right. It’s the all-purpose answer. It not only absolves the believer of moral responsibility, it gets you off the hook for anything you’d rather not think about—say climate change or the actual operation of world economy. All that nagging about equality, facts, or expertise is optional!
It’s the perfect elixir for the Trump world. Responsibilities or standards of behavior are gone. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Whatever you don’t like can be dealt with by any means, however brutal. Democracy is just something else to nag about.
As with one’s personal life, this kind of behavior feels liberating and great until it isn’t. Reality wins in the end. But until then—there’s nothing anyone else can tell you! I don’t have to care.