In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the protagonist faces the nightmare of opposing “The Party,” which “told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” When reality doesn’t conform to the Party’s interests, the Party revises reality to achieve its own ends. Orwell may as well have been referring to today’s Republican Party, which denies facts, evidence, and logic to support positions, laws, and policies riddled with contradictions, distortions, and hypocrisy.
Consider Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde describing the January 6th attack on the Capitol, witnessed by millions on national television, as “a normal tourist visit,” by citizens acting “in an orderly fashion.” Another Republican, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, even accused the Department of Justice of “harassing peaceful patriots.” Subsequently, the Republican National Committee declared the January 6 attack “legitimate political discourse.” Now, a third of Republican voters agree with them. In other words, Republican leaders have successfully convinced their base to “reject the evidence of [their] eyes and ears.”
Consider, also, that the nominal head of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, continues to trumpet The Big Lie–that the 2020 Presidential election was rigged and stolen–despite no evidence of widespread fraud, multiple authentications of the results, and court judgments. Nonetheless, Republican legislators, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, echo this lie to the party’s base for political profit. In other words, the law-and-order party wishes to justify breaking the law for political gain.
These Republican extremists practice the audacity of cynicism. By exploiting their base’s widespread assumption that all politicians are liars and thieves, and that government is essentially corrupt, party extremists perversely embrace “The Big Lie” as a declaration of honesty. They’re absurdly saying, “Look, I’m no liar because I’m lying to you in public at the top of my lungs.”
This hypocrisy further manifests itself in the party’s public contradictions. Republican Governor of Florida Ron De Santis, a likely presidential candidate in 2024, has made a national reputation for protecting “parental rights” from government interference. For instance, he signed legislation prohibiting mask mandates in public school. He even scolded local Tampa students for wearing masks at a television press conference, calling it “COVID theater.” But he failed to consider that those students behind him were wearing masks at their parents’ request. So much for “parental rights;” as for his public admonishment of school children? —strictly “political theater.”
And while the party loves railing against political correctness, censorship, cancel culture, and “safe places” in schools; the “Don’t Say Gay” and the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” signed by DeSantis, as well as similar laws signed by other Republican governors, amount to political correctness on steroids. These laws prohibit classroom discussion of race, gender identity, and sexual preference as well as any other subject that makes students feel “guilty,” “uncomfortable,” or that the state considers “inappropriate.” The party wants to have it both ways.
Indeed, some governors, like Abbott from Texas and Ducey from Arizona, have gone so far as to support policies and legislation to investigate “child abuse” of those parents pursuing gender confirming treatments for their child. So, in the name of “parental rights,” these Republicans want to prosecute those exercising their parental rights?
Further, the party, which claims to represent the “moral majority,” practices moral relativism in its pursuit of political expediency. Consider that Texas state law now requires teachers to provide students with “both sides” of controversial issues or to suffer discipline, including firing. So, in the case of the recent murder of Black people in Buffalo, NY, by a white supremacist; teachers in Texas may not discuss the issue of racism without providing equal legitimacy to the white supremacist’s bogus “great replacement theory.”
And it’s difficult to deny that this “both sides” argument has trickled down the party from Donald Trump’s claim that there were good people on “both sides” of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where rioters chanted, “We will not be replaced.”
It was instructive, however, when one Buffalo resident asked about the shooter, “How did an 18-year-old learn so much hatred?” In other words, as teachers and parents search for ways to talk to children about these school shootings across America, Republicans are passing legislation to ban discussion of historical, systemic racism, the kind which indoctrinated this 18-year-old Buffalo resident to act upon white supremacist ideology.
Meanwhile as some Republican governors and legislators say they’re banning books and controversial topics to protect children; these same politicians won’t support banning the sale of AR-15 rifles that’ve been used to massacre the nation’s school children. If “The Party” didn’t indoctrinate its followers “to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” they might see that books don’t kill people; guns kill people.
Finally, as Republicans crusade for “parental rights” and staunchly oppose government intrusion into family prerogatives, the party nevertheless supports the banning of abortion, a government intrusion not only into family privacy but into a woman’s literal body. Forcing a woman to have a baby against her will denies her the right to live as she chooses. It amounts to nothing less than a form of state rape. If that’s not government intrusion into an individual’s privacy, then nothing is.
So, it’s no wonder that “The Party” that hates “wokeness” wants you “to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” It allows the party to lie and call it truth; to do wrong and call it right; to excuse an insurrection and call it democracy.
Thomas Cangelosi is a retired teacher residing in Avon.