Schwab: How do you debate someone with a death wish?

CPAC attendees cheered low vaccination rates among Republicans. What argument is left to be made?

By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist

CPAC. Once a year, it allows us to witness, compressed and packaged, the degeneration of a formerly rational political party. Lucky us: twice, this year. Time was, the acronym stood for Conservative Political Action Conference. Now, it’s gotta be Christians Perverting Actual Christianity. What a lineup of lies, victimhood, ignorance and hate. Hate for their fellow humans; for the poor and needy, for immigrants, for teaching and truth. Everything, in other words, the Bible tells us Jesus loved. Died for, briefly.

Perfectly presenting the direction their party is headed — namely, electing and showcasing nasty, dishonest, uninformed, anti-democracy, pro-autocracy, conspiratorial demagogues — it’s more sorrowful every year. Attendees actually cheered for low vaccination rates among Republicans. “It’s horrifying,” said Dr. Fauci. “I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives!”

New guy Madison Cawthorn, whose preexisting dishonesty, like Trump’s, first time around, didn’t keep him from being elected, warned that the next step from bringing vaccinations to homes is coming for your guns and Bibles. This is a party bereft of ideas. Not to mention morality. It’s no exaggeration: they delight in death in order to “stick it to the libs.”

It’s even worse than that. They cheered for ending every pro-life program our government provides. This, the party of “pro-life,” which they wave like Trump flags, shout it louder than “lock her up.” Their pretense that they’re protectors of life ends when it’s those no longer enwombed. Excepting the already wealthy.

Attendees were also treated to a 7-point plan to restore Trump to office, immediately. Among others, it included getting the Congressional Black Caucus to switch to the party that would like them never to vote; that welcomed racist Proud Boys and Three-percenters to their ghoulish gathering. Cogent. This berserk zeitgeist is who and what they’ve become. How they got there is a complicated story, the result of decades of deliberate disinformation meant to endumb and divide. The why, though, is simple. (

OK. Stop. This is pretty bad writing, right? Hyperbolic. Purple. I admit it. The thing is, the continuing rise of Trumpism is making me increasingly incoherent. And perpetually depressed. Seeing America crumble before my eyes; witnessing one so-called conservative after another, people so far beyond redemption, so demonstrably against everything for which America once stood, get up and spew their reality-averse vitriol to a cheering crowd, is becoming psychically intolerable. And it shows.

I’ve tried to tell myself, well, these are just the lunatic fringe. But they’re not. Trumpism — by which I mean making lies central to the message, absent anything positive but full of voter suppression, science denial, and selfishness — is now the uncontested mainstream of today’s Republicanism. Commanded by the most dishonest, divisive, and delusional “president” this country has seen, whom they can only have elected not in spite of but because of those attributes, they’re culling any member who stood for democracy in the aftermath of the most scrutinized and confirmed election, ever.

And, while feigning outrage at so-called “cancel culture,” they’re systematically canceling the history of America: from learning why we amended flawed founding documents to acknowledging what happened on January 6, and what caused it. Lacking a positive agenda, they’re counting on riding a hyped-up, cynically-created culture war to victory. Said Jim Banks, R-Indiana, the “backlash against Critical Race Theory is real … We are in a culture war … we are winning.”

Till now, America had tended to improve itself by acknowledging and repairing its flaws; so what Republicans are doing is worse than Stalinism. Stalin did his gaslighting without Fox “news” and Rush-like radio talkers. And CPAC.

The people cheering at CPAC are forever lost to rationality. Their disdain for democracy is irreversible. They’re the culmination of a long-term project to stupefy millions of people, based on the recognition that for a top-heavy, unpopular agenda to prevail in a democracy, voters need to be made ignorant. CPAC proves its effectiveness. Tennessee confirms. (Tennessean:

Better writers than me, with far wider audiences, are making no difference. Polls show Republicans remain steadfast in their delusions, about the election, about Trump, about climate change and vaccines, about poverty, about education. Evidently, we’re at the point where carefully-crafted ignorance becomes indelible. No columnist can change it.

America could save itself by outvoting idiocy. But that’s like bailing a boat with no bottom: red states are attacking education and voting rights faster than efforts to stop it. Trumpists would only awaken, if at all, when they comprehend the damage being done to them and our country, by cynical manipulators. By then, it’d be too late. I think it already is. I need a break. Again.

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