According to right-wing mythology, conservatives have been stripped of their free-speech rights. However, while attending this year’s Politicon in Pasadena, California, it was the conservative attendees that seemed determined to drown out speakers who did not conform to their world-view. While he is usually busy interrupting city-council meetings of cities he does not live in, anti-immigrant agitator Arthur Schaper took the time to yell out over questioners who had been called on and to disrupt panel members. Cenk Uygur was heckled throughout his debate with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, with the shouting often starting as soon as he opened his mouth. In comparison, Uygar consistently motioned for his base to quiet down whenever they interrupted his opponent.
Unfortunately, one cannot scream and listen at the same time. While Shapiro thanked Uygur and Politicon “for a terrific discussion”, the truth is most of his fans did not hear any of it. It seemed by their behavior that they viewed this event as more like a sporting event with winners and losers than a political exercise where ideas were being exchanged. Shapiro was correct in his assertion that “we could use far more discussions...for the future of the country”, but both sides have to be willing to listen in order for them to do any good. Otherwise, the facts that meet our needs are cherry-picked to reinforce our political bunkers, possibly relegating ones that matter more to the scrap heap that will become our history.
Even more troubling was the Shapiro fans’ chant of “U.S.A, U.S.A.” as he entered the auditorium, ignoring the fact that both participants were Americans presenting their views of how our country should proceed forward. The same behavior was on display at Trump’s Boy Scout Jamboree speech. In this case, the chant was in response to the President’s promise to repeal Obamacare, somehow suggesting that opposing the removal of health insurance coverage from 22 million Americans is somehow anti-American. Have we really come to the point where we cannot imagine the possibility that someone with differing viewpoints can also be a patriot?
None of this should be surprising given the route that Trump took to the Presidency. Supporters of a man who rose to political fame by propagating the birther movement now tell liberals that criticism of the President disrespects the office. When Barack Obama held office, Trump found golfing, vacationing and executive orders beneath the dignity of the office. As president, he engages in all three more often than his predecessor. Predictably, Trump’s supporters find excuses for justifying his behavior while continuing to denounce Obama for doing the same. These same supporters complain that no proof has been provided for allegations of Russian collusion and demand an end to the related investigations while continuing to call for Hillary Clinton to be locked up for charges that have consistently been disproven. Perhaps one day Trump will test his theory that he could shoot someone in broad daylight and maintain the support of his base.
Trump says the polls are fake and the 38% of the electorate who still support him agree. Of course, they also believe that he really won the popular vote and that he had the largest crowd ever for an inauguration. However, reality cannot be held off forever and their bubble will eventually burst. For the sake of us all, let’s hope that they drop their sports team mentality at that point. The last thing this country needs is the equivalent of riotous soccer fans looking to scapegoat immigrants, the LGBTQ community, the press and anyone else who disagrees with their worldview.