The Delusions of the American Right

Donald Trump
Trump shown speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference. For years, he has been trash-talking the Left and political opponents. PHOTO: Gage Skidmore

Among the many enduring right-wing fibs, myths, and falsehoods, right-wing’s hatred of feminism takes a special place. Modern day anti-feminism is a reminiscence – perhaps: a continuation – of hundreds of years of hating women called – misogyny.

Yet, right-wing anti-feminism has convinced itself that it needs to protect the nuclear family from the pillages of evil feminists who are dead set on undermining this bedrock institution. This delusion is conjured up even though feminists have never wanted to destroy the family.

Paradoxically, right-wing anti-feminism also believes that the women’s right movement is going to self-destruct because they are not going to have any babies. Historically, the hatred of women existed long before French socialist Charles Fourier coined the term feminism in the 1830s.

The fury of right-wing misogynists was surely fired up in the year 1921 when Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League. It became Planned Parenthood two decades later. The idea behind it – was not to destroy the family, as right-wing fiction believes – but to create healthier families through deliberate planning.

Worse for right-wing mythologists, in 1964, former “Republican” president Dwight Eisenhower joined former Democratic president Harry Truman as honorary chairmen of this organization.

Yet, things were getting even worse for right-wing misogynists as well as those who invent and broadcast right-wing fibs and legends. During his time, right-wing stalwart Richard Nixon – and before Watergate made “I am not a crook”, also known as Tricky Dick – conservative Nixon actively backed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act.

Things still did not get better with right-wing superstar Reagan. When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, most Republicans actually supported some accesses to abortion. As classical conservatives, they viewed it as being part of individual liberty and privacy. Damaging individualism and being seen as an intrusion into privacy, government intervention was unwelcomed.

Yet at roughly the same time, Christian fundamentalist groups such as the euphemistically mislabeled Moral Majority and Focus on the Family began to intensify their right-wing messages that feminists, gay liberationists, and civil rights activists are a threat to individuals, families, and the nation. Building up an enemy is a classical ingredient of right-wing myth creation.

Much of this assisted the setting up of another right-wing myth – the so-called Reagan Revolution. Ronald Reagan stood for family values while being the first American president to be divorced. Well, never let facts get into the way of a good right-wing myth.

The idée fixe of a Reagan Revolution was actually conceived out of an ideological-political strategy. Reagan’s very own henchmen desired to cement the hallucination that Reagan’s election victory had been a mandate by conservatism, the right-wing, Christian fundamentalism, and adjacent ideologies.

Still, the Reagan Revolution has several problems. First of all, there was no revolution at all. There was no attempt to achieve fundamental and sudden change in political power or political organization.

It was a ‘revolution’ that left everything as it is – capitalism continued. And so did the institutions of power from the parliament to the Supreme Court. The USA’s constitutionally guaranteed federalist’s structure did not change either. The police and the army did not vanish. Revolutionary workers’ councils were not set up.

The Reagan Revolution was also not a revolt against the government. It simply replaced an old government with a new government through an election – a rather normal occurrence in a democracy.

Yet, the illusion of a Reagan Revolution is designed to exaggerate the – in reality, non-existing – strength of 1980s conservatism. By inference, the Reagan Revolution was designed to aid the demise of liberalism. This too, has failed. Worse for right-wing myth engineers, Reagan won the election but did so with his margin in the popular vote being a narrow 50.7%. A 0.7% lead is hardly a revolution.

Furthermore, in 1980, a public poll showed only 28% of the electorate identified itself as conservative; only 13% saw themselves as strong Republicans; and only one Reagan voter in ten identified with Reagan’s conservative ideology.

Meanwhile, the mirage of a Reagan Revolution also does not gel with the fact that Democrats retained a firm grip in the House of Representatives with a 243-seat majority. Even worse for the myth, the Democratic majority increased to 269 during the midterm election. The Reagan Revolution was a revolution in which the opposition – not Reagan – was gaining in power.

The problems for the Reagan Revolution continued when, for example, federal spending reached 22.2% of GDP by 1983. It was 20.6% when the Reagan Revolution began. Worse for the right-wing myth makers is the fact that the total welfare spending increased in the 1980s, as programs retained significant support in the US Congress.   

At the same time, there where promises that tax breaks for the wealthy and for businesses would trickle- down to the rest of the nation. This, too, didn’t pan out. Instead of trickling down, by the mid-1980s, economic inequality was worse than before Reagan. Meanwhile, the deficit kept growing.

Finally, the Reagan Revolution wasn’t a revolution when it came to AIDS. For months if not years, Reagan showed a stubborn unwillingness to acknowledge the disease and to take any sort of action on AIDS. Thousands died – needlessly.

Donald Trump’s non-response to COVID-19 decades later is a sad re-run of what gay-hating Reagan had done earlier. In short, conservative’s inaction killed thousands – in both cases.

Beyond all that, recent right-wing myth-making focused on voter fraud. Historically, the right-wing’s voter fraud myth has a long history. Already in 2016, Donald Trump started lying about massive and rampant voter fraud. In part, this right-wing myth led to the attack on the US Capitol in 2021.

Unfortunately for the proponents of the right-wing voter fraud myth, Georgia Republican Alan Powell admitted that widespread voter fraud… wasn’t found – was not found!

Rather than voter fraud, what really happened was voter suppression – preventing people from voting. In reality, the USA remains a world-class laboratory for voter suppression.

America’s right-wing and Republicans know that they have a very serious problem when it comes to voting. They lose the popular vote – election after election after election. The 2024 presidential election will mark twenty years since Republicans last won the popular vote.

Worse, in the year 2000, Gore won 48.4% of the popular vote while Bush got 47.9% – Gore won. The same happened in 2016. Hilary Clinton won 48.2% of the popular votes while Trump got 46.1% – Clinton won. In other words, even when “winning” (sic!) – Bush-over-Gore and Trump-over-Clinton, the Republican party still lost the popular vote.

As a consequence, the radical right is convinced of the following: remove African Americans from the electorate and it would eliminate the need to rig elections. In other words, the right-wing fights democracy on two fronts.

On the one hand, the radical right seeks to eliminate as many African American voters as it can. On the other hand, it claims – falsely – that there is voter fraud. While voter fraud is a crime, it is a crime that almost never happens. Voter fraud is a right-wing myth. It is not a reality. Legal scholar Michael Waldman once said,

firing a prosecutor for failing to find voter fraud

is like firing a park ranger for failing to find a Sasquatch.

Worse for the right-wing broadcasters of the voter fraud myth, Indiana’s Seventh Circuit and the US Supreme Court acknowledge that there had not been one documented case of voter-impersonation fraud in the state’s history.

Yet and despite any factual evidence, the right-wing voter fraud myth still remains an effective ideology. The consistent outpouring of the myth of voter fraud has done some serious damages.

In 2016, nearly ½ of Americans believed that voter fraud happens at least somewhat often. A whopping 70% thought it happens occasionally.

Even worse for the voter fraud myth is the following. Loyola law professor Justin Levitt conducted an extensive study on voter fraud. Between 2000 and 2014 and out of a whopping one billion! votes cast in elections in the USA, there were only thirty-one [read: 31] cases of voter-impersonation fraud: 31 out of 1,000,000,000. In other words, voter fraud happens in 0.0000031% of all cases. One does not need to be Albert Einstein to see that 0.0000031% is statistically and factually rather insignificant.

Despite the lack of evidence and to prop up the myth of voter fraud, Donald Trump had once set up a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission came about because of his 2016 claim that he would have won the popular vote if three to five million illegal votes had not been casted.

For Donald Trump and the proprietors of the voter fraud myth, the outcome of Donald Trump’s commission heralded nothing good. That commission collapsed with nothing but blank pages in the section on voter fraud.

Yet, undeterred, the voter fraud myth still serves a political purpose. It might just be able to masquerade the enormous damage that can be done during the 2024 election: voter suppression.

In the end, all three right-wing myths – anti-feminism, the Reagan Revolution, and voter fraud – serve a useful purpose even though all three are plain wrong.

Anti-feminism helps right-wing conservatives to keep women in their place; the Reagan Revolution glorifies the questionable non-achievements of Ronald Reagan; and finally, the voter fraud myth is designed to prevent people from voting. All three myths are extraordinarily dangerous.

Thomas Klikauer teaches at the Sydney Graduate School of Management at Western Sydney University, Australia. He has nearly 900 publications including a book on the AfD.

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