Donald Trump often gets credit for his Rumpelstiltskin-like ability to turn the most demented parts of the American psyche into political gold. But in his new book American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation into How the Republican Party Gone MadFollowing the line of the GOP’s love of madmen all the way back to the 1950s, David Corn says Trump is just the latest in a long line of morally bankrupt politicians willing to take advantage of the chaotic madness that is spreading through the darkest parts of the world. society is generated for their ambitions.
“Far right extremism, including paranoia, racism, tribalism, conspiracy theories, … what we have seen under Donald Trump is nothing new. It could be the climax, it’s not an aberration,” Corn said.
Corn, a veteran Washington journalist, author, and bureau chief Mother Jonesjoined the political podcast The New Abnormal to explain how American brains got so broken.
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“The idea of exploiting and capitalizing on and abusing people’s fears, grievances and resentments by invoking violence, conspiracy theories, craziness and the like has always been part of the Republican script,” he said. “So I think if you understand that, it at least gives you some historical context as we try to understand what’s going on right now.”
For example, Corn said, to get to QAnon, a conspiracy theory that casts Democrats as part of a child-eating cabal of pedophiles, you must first start with McCarthyism, take a jaunt through televangelist Pat Robertson’s satanic panic, and spend some time in a tricorne hat with the tea party.
“The conspiratorial anti-government tribe that [Joseph] McCarthy started, namely that the government is led by evil, or Pat Robertson would say – and did he say – you know, a satanic cabal that wants to destroy us,” he said. “The Tea Party included both, although I think the emotional energy was more of the crazy conspiratorial side. So it sucked people in.”
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But the book isn’t just a journey through the hellish landscape of America’s political past, Corn warned — without constant vigilance, the dark underbelly of the right wing will win.
“Trump was a traumatic shock to the system. And it’s hard for people to fully absorb it to understand the full consequences and consequences and what needs to be done to deal with them,” he said. “Constant vigilance is exhausting. But if you’re not vigilant, you’ll know then to whom is that an advantage?”
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