I can't live without rageahol!

They don't want your help because they don't want to get better

Fresh off their Cancel-Culture sputterfest, here’s the next big thing in unreasoning rightwing rage. Step one: Wingnut hero gets in trouble:

Step two: The wingnut hero and his wingnut cronies spread the word that the evil liberal New York Times is going to report where the wingnut hero lives so Antifa and George Soros can go hassle him. The Times denies that such a thing is planned.

Step three: Enraged wingnut fans doxx a Times reporter in pre-emptive vengeance for the doxxing of the wingnut hero that, I remind you, did not actually happen.

Even more than the stupidity, it’s the belligerence that fascinates. It seems to be the entire engine of conservatism anymore — the white guys storming statehouses because someone said restaurants should close so we can stop the pandemic, the growing wave of white nationalist and neo-Nazi nuts plotting or committing violent acts, the longtime “men’s rights” buffoon who apparently finally snapped and shot the son and husband of a female judge he’d been screaming about.

And this is happening even though these people have had the White House and the Senate for three and a half years and until a year and a half ago had the House, too. They’re even more enraged than they were when Obama was president. What gives?

I’ve come to think the reasons are not as important to them as the rage.

One of the big things that struck me about Trump’s recent law-and-order, send-in-the-badgeless-brownshirts shtick is that it seems like such a throwback, an obvious pitch to people who remember 1968 and the similar (though not nearly as ham-handed) pitch by Richard Nixon and his cronies.

Most critics have assumed Trump picked this because it’s low-hanging fruit — it’s easy to portray violence at protests as a sign of societal breakdown (even when as now it’s mainly caused by police) and clearing out protestors should make a leader look effectual. But when you think about it the approach doesn’t really make sense.

For one thing, Trump’s first big strongman show at Lafayette Park here in D.C. was a disaster for his approval ratings. Nixon was able to profit from unrest because he was challenging an incumbent president he could portray as losing control of the country, whereas, as some wise guys have pointed out, Trump’s pitch often looks as if he wants to save America from himself.

Also, 85% of the people who hated the hippies in 1968 are dead, or too senile to get to the polls by themselves and their children can’t drive them because they hate them so much they moved to another state.

But Trump’s pitch hasn’t really been about saving the nation from unrest or anything else. Think how he’s handled COVID-19. (Jonathan Chait has a great recap.) He only inserted himself in the federal response to praise himself, push ineffective or imaginary miracle cures, and try to keep states from getting vitally-needed equipment supplies from federal storage. Now he’s basically like “whatever.” It’s like he wants us to know won’t do shit for us.

And I think this has something to do with Trump’s urban-violence play. His absurd dispatch of federal troops to cities is generally taken as a fascist move, and it is, but there’s another message there, as well: Trump doesn’t expect his invasions, or anything else he does, to help anything.

No, Trump wants the rage and the virus and the unemployment and the financial collapse to continue and, if possible, get worse — because he wants his people to have something to be mad about.

He won’t give them any of the stuff he and they claimed he was going to give them in 2016, like mining and manufacturing jobs, new respect in the world, and an improvement on Obamacare. And you know what? I think they know it. In fact, I doubt they ever really thought he would give them those things.

Because just as he wants them to stay mad, they just want to stay mad, too. They want to stay mad that their coal and factory jobs never came back — and they don’t care that it was the globalization their own Republican politicians supported that killed those jobs. They want to stay mad that America is seen globally as a pitiful giant — even though it was Trump who made us a laughing stock. They want to stay mad that protestors are out in the streets of cities they’ll never even visit — even though it’s the smoldering, stinking mess Trump and the Republicans made of everything that put protestors in those streets in the first place.

That’s the really horrifying thing about the situation we find ourselves in now. It’s not a struggle between competing visions of how to fix the country — it’s a struggle between people who want to fix the country and people who just want something to piss and moan about.