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The new Republican Party that showed up to the “Stop Liz Cheney” rally carried more pro-Trump signs than anti-Cheney signs. They waved flags for the Patriot Party, for Blue Lives Matter. One attendee carried a flag for the Confederacy.

In the back of the crowd was Brooke Dugan, 32, a stay-at-home mom, who knew Gaetz from his frequent appearances on Tucker Carlson’s television show. She put her two boys, Liam and Bubba, in masks with American flags and the words “God, Guns and Trump” on them to “teach them about patriotism.”

“We came because we Republicans need to stick together,” Dugan said. “They’re coming after our guns. They’re trying to tell us what to do, so we can’t have people who are not with us.”

Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump prompts a voter rebellion in her home state, Washington Post, Feb 2, 2021

The rot didn’t start with Donald. It was a long time coming.

It was twenty years ago, now, when I sat in my brother’s TV room with my sister-in-law Anne, while together we watched an hour of TV which, in retrospect, told us all we needed to know to predict the current condition of the American polity. It was an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. A guilty pleasure. We were watching it ironically, you understand. Back then, the shit Springer peddled was still shocking, still mind-bogglingly deviant, and you never knew what you were going to get, it could be a food fight, or a rather too literal animal lover who married a horse, or a guy who cut off his own dick with a pair of garden shears as a gesture of protest – all real shows, you can look it up – but that day, it was something even better. It was Three Pigs and a Trailer. By Jerry’s own reckoning, one of his Top 10/Bottom 10. Gotta tell ya, it was spellbinding.

So here’s how it went, as best I can reconstruct it from memory (try as I might, I can’t seem to find any trace of the show on YouTube and the like): You’ve got these three worthless slobs. No, really: worthless. They’re all morbidly obese white guys, round and sort of squishy like medicine balls, hairy, filthy, disgusting, and they’re all shirtless in stretchy pants, that’s just how they roll. They’ve figured out some way to game the system, I forget how exactly, maybe they’re welfare frauds or something, but anyway, they don’t work, and they don’t do anything, really, except hang out together in a sort of Fat Piggy Club. For some reason – maybe their soon to be ex-wives objected – they don’t keep each other company at anybody’s home. Actually, they seem to have no homes. Instead, what they’ve done is commandeer an empty lot somewhere, like a parking lot, and they’ve assembled three big trailers, which I think were actually derelict mobile homes they found in a junkyard somewhere, into a big triangular formation, thus creating a de facto set of palisades and an inner courtyard. It’s rather like a castle. In the courtyard, they’ve placed three La-Z-Boy-type recliners, all ratty and torn, upon which they lounge all day in the sun eating hippo-sized servings of pork rinds, cheetos, and assorted other tasty junk food treats, while drinking gallons of beer. This is what they do. It’s all they do. That and pass gas.

Doesn’t sound like enough to fill an hour of programming, does it? But of course there’s all sorts of exposition on how and why they’re doing this, as they gorge on their treats and justify their lifestyle choices, you know, the usual Springer schtick, and it ends with the authorities coming in to bulldoze the whole set-up – dubbed Fort Pig – into oblivion, while the obese white guys, round, hairy, and shirtless, wail and damn the fates.

Now, if you were going to guess, would you have pegged the denizens of Fort Pig as Democrats or Republicans? Supposing they ever bothered to vote, which back then, I’m sure they didn’t, but if they did vote? If you asked them today, would you think they’d be big fans of AOC? Or would Marjorie Taylor-Greene be their gal? Take a wild frigging guess, right?

So here’s something so obvious that you’ll roll your eyes at me: today’s GOP is the triumphant culmination of a decades-long campaign to do whatever it took to get the guys in Fort Pig so fired-up full of grievance, bitterness, racist hatred, and existential dread of The Other, as to get them to haul their otherwise apathetic asses out of their La-Z-Boys one or two days a year to go vote. That’s the formula. It’s that f’ing simple. The only sure way to get elected as, say, a Republican member of the House of Representatives – even after all the gerrymandering and voter suppression – is to get this guy to heave his ponderous bulk into a temporary upright position so he can pull the lever for Matt Gaetz, or Devon Nunes, or Lauren Boebert, or some such idiot:

And you motivate him to do that with an ad like this:

You didn’t use to see ads like that, not quite. They were heading in that general direction, sure, way back as far as Lee Atwater and Willie Horton, but nobody was ever quite brazen enough to just go ahead and run with ham-fisted parodies not clever enough for the Onion. So what happened? The way I figure it, Anne and I weren’t the only ones watching Springer that day. Sharp operators all over Red State America were tuned in, and it hit them like a diamond bullet: the same millions who sat rapt in front of their goggle boxes ogling the porcine layabouts of Fort Pig were a huge, untapped political resource. Just look at how Springer was leading them all around by their nose rings! He made it look like child’s play! Shit – maybe it was child’s play. Maybe they’d been going at it all wrong. Maybe you didn’t have to be even halfways clever about it. Maybe you could just ditch the dog whistles, and use bullhorns instead, and look, if they were dumb enough for Springer, maybe you could tell them anything, and whip ’em all into a lather.

Even better: maybe it wasn’t just a matter of pushing their buttons. Maybe you could induce them to grow the desired buttons first – culture them, as it were, the way you get oysters to turn sand into pearls – and then push them! There was probably internal debate about all this, with converts to the new method quibbling with the old school, but all of that would have ended when they ran the experiment and put Sarah Palin on the ticket. It was Palin, seems to me, that sealed the deal, and made everything we see today inevitable. I bet that’s when Trump realized he could take his phoney-baloney real estate tycoon/Apprentice schtick to the next level, just as soon as he saw how the crowds responded to the crazy Alaskan, with her folksy bullshit, and Joe the Plummer and all those morons all over the tube. Palin made it plain for all to see.

If you’d been watching, though, you’d have seen it coming years before, the grim harbingers sitting there in the improvised courtyard behind the parapets of Fort Pig.

Eh? What’s that now? You want to get all up in my grille for being just the sort of snobbish, contemptuous liberal the Trump disciples complain about? Uh-huh, well, that’s mighty woke of you and all, and fine, guilty as charged, but I think you’ve stumbled on to the wrong web page. This ain’t the New York Times. We don’t do the “both sides” thing here. I don’t care that I’m a snobbish, contemptuous liberal. Maybe I wouldn’t be, if the backwards-assed country fucks that vote Republican weren’t such frickin’ idiots. Maybe I’d have more sympathy if they weren’t such bigoted, whining, ignorant purveyors of endless right wing conspiratorial dumbfuckery. Maybe I’d feel more kindly disposed towards them if one out of a hundred could name the three branches of government, or find Mexico – or their own goddam State – on a map, or tell me whether the Earth revolves around the Sun, or vice versa. What do you want me to think about the woman who takes her kids – named Liam and Bubba, for Chrissakes – to go see butthead Matt Gaetz like he’s Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount, all decked out in face masks with American flags and the words “God, Guns and Trump” on them to “teach them about patriotism.” What do you want me to think about these climate change-denying anti-vaxxers, these know-nothing birthers and Deep State-fearing Q-Anon disciples who think COVID is a hoax, and agree that the last spate of California wildfires was ignited by Jewish space lasers put into orbit by the Rothschilds and the International Zionist World Government?

You think I should have more respect for folks like these?

Or maybe I should have sympathy for these guys and their point of view?

Perhaps this guy deserves our sympathy, and not a couple of decades in the five bar motel?

Maybe I should try harder to walk a mile in this lady’s shoes?

You think? Cuz I don’t. I don’t think so at all.

But Graeme, you say, You were sitting there on the couch enthralled by Fort Pig too!

I told you. It was ironic. We were hate-watching, OK? Fuck off.

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