Fighting MAGA’s alternate reality

I am writing this on Thanksgiving night to help me through my after-dinner bloat. I am glad I don’t stuff myself like that routinely.

I’ve already had two types of pie, so I hardly need more dessert. Yet here I am, feasting on effluvia from the site formerly known as Twitter. Consider it opposition research: the Trumpian hordes love displaying their shortcomings.

A woman on X named Brigitte posted a meme showing Trump in uniform leading soldiers in battle. This despite the fact that he avoided military service and insulted those who served — not to mention that the fantasy Trump is much more fit than the reality, who perfectly embodies the Seven Deadly Sins.

In another X holiday post, a handsome young white supremacist walked through an airport making racist comments about the people of color he saw, falsely stating that our borders are wide open under President Biden. Someone else asked readers to “describe this Trumper in three words.” I responded, “Popular in prison.” My bad.

Contrary to the xenophobes’ twisted logic, the increase in border arrests means that the Border Patrol is doing its job.

The reality-challenged nastiness of the MAGA mob makes it clear that those of us eager to preserve democracy cannot expect to win the 2024 campaign with a tone of solemn, above-the-fray earnestness. We must be a relentless truth squad. We must make sharp jabs and use all of our wits.

Why do so many people continue clinging to Trump? The straightforward answer is that the devil whispering in your ear is more fun than the angel. It is hard to get between people and a demagogue who tells them what they want to hear and appeals to their lowest impulses.

Feelings trump reason. That means we need strong, vivid narratives to counter the bigots.

Once we get people’s attention, we have to convey the reality that truth and human decency are on the Democratic side. The diversity of American society is a fact of life, not a Democratic program to disrupt a meritocracy. If white Christian Americans are so superior, why is their behavior so blatantly unchristian? Why are their leading voices so vicious and ignorant? Why are they so eager to return a man to the White House who has made it clear he will be on a revenge tour?

One line of argument to avoid is anything that begins with “Everybody knows” or “Nobody wants.” Sentences that begin that way rarely end truthfully. There may be lots of things that everyone ought to know or nobody should want, but asserting a nonexistent unanimity is like declaring peace without doing any of the work. We cannot even get agreement that the Earth is round, that vaccines are safe and effective, or that members of various minorities are human beings.

The most vicious nonsense can be awfully hard to break people of. That is a central part of our challenge.

On my way to the coffee shop today, I saw what appeared to be a blackbird walking in the street. I put on my glasses, and it was just a plastic bag blown by the morning breeze.

The MAGA fanatics refuse to put on their glasses. They deny or minimize the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, or blame it on someone else, despite many defendants having put the blame on Trump. They are determined to impose their own version of reality. We cannot afford to sit out the fight.

We have to begin with people where they are, and try to connect. Hurling insults can be fun, but does not persuade anyone. (Imagine someone reacting, “You know, you’re right. I AM an ignorant slut. I’m sorry.” Nope.) Some people are persuadable, some are not. It is important to recognize the difference. 

A woman named Fran posted, “This fall has been pretty rough for me; mom passed away 6 weeks ago, I was laid off 2 weeks ago and got Covid yesterday. For the first time, I’m alone on Thanksgiving. If anyone sees this, please send cheer or funny pictures.”

I replied, “Look at it this way: you avoided a food coma. And unless you’re trapped in a stereotypical country song—in which your pickup truck breaks down, your dog dies, and your partner leaves you—it’s only up from here! Raise a glass to the moon and say, ‘Here I come, world!’”

We cannot know in advance whether we will defeat the forces of darkness, but we can have a fine time trying.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at [email protected].