A few days ago, Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota and a hardline supporter of the MAGA, sometimes mentioned as a possible running mate for Donald Trumpwarned that the president Joe Biden is “remaking” America, turning us into Europe.
The first thing I thought was:
As the US presidential campaign moves closer to a rematch between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, China watches with trepidation.(AP Photo)
So it's going to increase our life expectancy by five or six years?
In the context, however, it was clear that Noem believes, or hopes her audience believes, that Europe is a theater of damage caused by hordes of immigrants.
It turns out that last year I spent a lot of time walking through various European cities and none of them were hell.
Yes, generally speaking, Europe has had problems with immigrants and immigration has become a hot political issue.
And yes, Europe's economic recovery has lagged behind that of the United States.
But the visions of a devastated continent for immigration are a fantasy.
Yet such fantasies are now the common currency of American right-wing politics.
Remember the days when pundits solemnly declared that Trumpism was caused by “economic anxiety“?
Well, despite a booming economy, there's still a lot of justified anxiety out there, reflecting the real struggles of many people:
The United States remains a nation plagued by inequality, insecurity and injustice.
But the anxiety that drives MAGA is not motivated by reality.
On the contrary, it is driven by dystopian visions that are not related to real experience.
That is, right now, Republican political strategy depends largely on scaring voters who are personally doing relatively well—not just by official statistics, but by their own accounts—by telling them that other people are doing relatively well. terrible things.
This is most obvious when it comes to the US economy, which had a very good – in fact, almost miraculously good – 2023.
Economic growth not only defied widespread predictions of an imminent recession, but also far exceeded expectations; Inflation has plummeted and is roughly where the Fed wants it to be.
And people are noticing it in their own lives:
63% of Americans say their financial situation is good or very good.
However, a few days ago, Nikki Haley declared that “we have an economy in ruins and inflation out of control.”
And the Republicans who heard her probably believed her.
According to YouGov, nearly 72% of Republicans say our 3-2 economy — about 3% growth and 2% inflation — is getting worse, while just over 6% say it's getting better.
Again, this negative verdict does not reflect personal experience.
In December, YouGov asked Americans to evaluate 2023 overall.
Republicans said it was horrible for the nation, with 76% saying the year was bad or terrible.
However, interestingly, 69% of Republicans – almost the same number – said the year was OK, good or great for them personally.
Now, that last survey wasn't specifically limited to the state of the economy, and presumably also reflected things like perceptions about crime.
But the crime decreased significantly in 2023, which in a rational world would have added to the good economy to foster a sense that things are getting better.
But the world – especially the MAGA world is not rational.
And it is a long-standing observation that Americans tend to say national crime is increasing even when it is decreasing, and even when they admit that it is decreasing where they live.
Once again, these misperceptions They are strongly associated with partisanship, with a surprising willingness of Republicans to believe things that are not true.
Falsely believing that Europe is a continent on the verge of ruin is one thing (although millions of Americans visit Europe and thus have the opportunity to see for themselves each year).
It is much harder to excuse the belief that New York – one of the safest big cities in the United States – is some kind of urban wasteland.
After all, it is estimated that more than 50 million Americans They visited the Big Apple last year, and many people who have not visited New York know someone who has or who, myself, lives here.
However, only 22% of Republicans say the city is safe to visit or live in.
The destruction of New York raises the question of the extent to which MAGA supporters are willing to ignore the evidence of their own eyes.
People buy gasoline all the time; when Trump says that “gas prices are now $5, $6, $7, even $8 a gallon,” about double the price clearly displayed on large billboards across the country,
Do your followers believe you?
And then, of course, there is the pandemic. COVIDin which MAGA politicization of vaccines appears to have contributed to higher death rates among Republicans.
What does this say about the future of America?
It can't be good. A large segment of our body politic, in effect, has joined a cult of personality whose beliefs are almost impervious to reality.
How did this happen to us?
The truth is that I do not know.
But you can't talk seriously about the state of America without acknowledging the pervasiveness of the fear-based MAGA worldview.
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