MAGA, March, Washington DC
A MAGA March along Constitution Avenue between 2nd and 1st Street, NW, Washington DC on Saturday morning, November 14, 2020. Photo credit: Elvert Barnes Photography / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Tens of millions of Americans are so brainwashed by Donald Trump and the right wing echo chamber that even an act of God seems unlikely to save them from their delusion.

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In response to a recent column in which we advocated that, just like President Joe Biden’s age, Donald Trump’s mental health (or lack thereof) must be an important part of the conversation ahead of the 2024 election, a reader asked what can be done to get the former president’s most ardent supporters to return to reality. 

The answer is simple: Nothing can be done… except perhaps an act of God or Fox News being taken off the air, and neither of those would likely do the trick because those tens of millions of Americans have been so thoroughly brainwashed and gaslit that they now suffer from their own mental illness: delusion.

Trying to return them to sanity would be a Herculean task. Just look back in history. After 12 years of Nazi rule, a lost war, and unimaginable atrocities committed in their name, it still took a decades-long “deNazification” campaign (mandated by an occupying force) to deprogram the German people and root out any Hitler sympathizers who held any position of public influence. 

To this day, Germany does an exemplary job of educating its own people about the horrible acts of genocide and war that the Nazis committed. But as the period after the Civil War has shown, the US has very little appetite to own up to or learn from its mistakes. 

And that brings us back to what it would take to “unbrainwash” those millions of Trump supporters who have gone off the deep end. They are so enmeshed in an alternate reality spun by the former president and a vast right-wing propaganda apparatus that it would be impossible to get through to them. 

Unable to pass legislation, House Republicans have become a group of performance artists who sometimes work together and just as often against each other. 

One great example is that a large number of Republicans will now latch on to any kind of conspiracy theory that somehow justifies their view of the world. Obviously, the biggest one is the Big Lie about January 6, 2021, which continues to rage in the MAGAverse unabated. If anything, even more Republicans now believe that storming the Capitol served a legitimate purpose, that Biden somehow stole the election, and ultimately that the rioters/insurrectionists were either harmless tourists or “deep state” agitators, depending on what fits the MAGA narrative in that moment. And the Big Lie is just the start. 

They seem oblivious that their viewpoints are often completely contradictory. For example, to them Biden is both an evil mastermind who managed to plunge the country into some dystopian nightmare within days of taking office and also a doddering fool who can barely tie his own shoes.

A vast part of the GOP base has shown a willingness to believe just about anything: for example, that singer Taylor Swift is part of some clandestine government effort to harm Trump; or that Michelle Obama is just waiting in the wings to replace Biden, who, it bears repeating, they believe is behind all that ails the US.

To be fair, it takes two for a thorough brainwashing: the victims who gullibly believe anything they are told, and those, like Trump, Fox, and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber, feeding them a steady diet of lies.  

Another contributing factor is that any sane voices in the GOP have long been silenced or drowned out. In a way, Republicans in Congress today are a perfect microcosm of where their party stands. 

On the Senate side, some reasonable voices remain and are working to get things done, even if that means — gasp — working with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion. We saw that this week when 22 of them joined most Democrats in opposing Vladimir Putin and providing military aid for Ukraine to continue defending itself from Russia’s attempted invasion. 

However, for every Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) or Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), there is now a crackpot like J.D. Vance (R-OH) or Coach Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn). As a rule of thumb, it is fair to say that the more a GOP senator appears on Fox News or other right-wing outlets, the less likely it is that they should be taken seriously. And that brings us to the House, where no Republican should be taken seriously. 

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Unable to pass legislation, House Republicans have become a group of performance artists who sometimes work together and just as often against each other. 

In the Senate, there are still plenty of Republicans who at least try to represent what the party used to stand for: lower taxes, less regulation, and advocacy for the unborn. This is a breed of politician that no longer exists in the House. In large part due to heavy gerrymandering which has radicalized the party, most House Republicans are completely off their rockers.

Their sole aims seem to be various stunts, building their brands, spreading lies on conservative media outlets, and occasionally stabbing each other in the back. As a soap opera, this would be fun to watch; however, considering that these people represent the sharp decline of a once-serious political party, it’s just sad. 

As in the Senate, there is still a sizable chunk of Republican voters who are primarily interested in the traditional GOP values and platform. Ironically, these and the politicians they support are the ones whom Trump refers to as RINOS (Republicans in name only). But the mainstream of GOP voters has now shifted away from an interest in these policies. They support instead an agenda centered around extremism, conspiracy theories, tribalism, and an alternate view of reality.

Therefore, even if there were more sane GOP lawmakers, the Trump base has shown zero appetite for supporting them. 

That really leaves us with one question: How much damage will they, and the representatives they support, do to the United States? 

Based on the agenda that Donald Trump is laying out for his potential second term and the MAGAverse’s embrace of authoritarian ideas, the answer is: quite a bit.  


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a senior editor for Politics and director of the Mentor Apprentice Program at WhoWhatWhy. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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