There was a time when I could write about the various shocking aspects of the most recent CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) event and it would shock and horrify. It would lead to massive protests and calls for change. But we aren't that country anymore.
For example, there's the fact that little more than a week after a young man motivated by the "great replacement" conspiracy theory murdered 10 mostly Black people in cold blood, the Republican leaders and pundits at CPAC are now cementing their alliance with the leaders of a country, Hungary, which has made responding to "the great replacement" part of its guiding governmental principles.
Once upon a time, a Jewish person like myself would have felt a deep dread in my bones over such a story, especially after learning that one of the speakers who shared the stage with the likes of Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson was a notorious antisemite and racist who called Jews "excrement," called Roma people "animals," and used the N-word to describe Black people.
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I could tell you that in order to deny the charges of antisemitism, the chair of CPAC, Matt Schlapp, claimed that both the person calling out the antisemitism and Pope Francis (!) were in the pocket of Jewish financier George Soros.
I could remind you that Hungary is now an increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic state, and that every major Republican at the event supported its vision of government. Or we could talk about the fact that practically every recent Republican policy initiative, from targeting queer people to striking down the legality of abortion, has already been on the agenda of Hungary's ruling party.
I could do all that, and yet it wouldn't matter would it? We've become inured to it. Argue with me all you want, but there was a time when this kind of hate would have thousands or even millions in the streets. There was a time when antisemitic Soros conspiracies led to calls for a Fox News host to get fired. Now, the most popular Fox News host created a feature-length documentary called Hungary vs. Soros: The Fight for Civilization.
These things all once mattered. Now they don't. In places like the The New York Times, stories about CPAC are almost completely relegated to the opinion pages. And "great replacement"? That's now believed by half of Republican voters.
Emily Tamkin, the author of The Influence of Soros, tweeted that the bigotry, authoritarianism, and open fascism of the Republican Party is now merely "part of the wallpaper."
This could just be seen as a normal development in the process of a political movement in the United States becoming mainstream. Do we really need to report and turn something which is now normal into a scandal?
Most of us who are paying attention are well aware that the Republican Party is now the party of bigotry and fascism. I hear this argument often when I call for other liberal Jews to stop "both side"-ing antisemitism: the argument is that they know antisemitism is part of the right, but that we need to be more vigilant on the left, since it has historically been our political home.
The problem with simply accepting the racism and fascism of one of the only two viable political parties is that we become contributors to its normalization, no matter how much we object.
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In a sense, we are all today living the "banality of evil," the famous term coined by Hannah Arendt, the author and Holocaust survivor who memorably described the ways in which the evils of the Nazi regime became normalized.
"In the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognized it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm," Arendt wrote.
This is what the Republican Party has done: It has not only transformed its own base into full-on extremists, it has conditioned us all into seeing what is plainly evil as just part of the normal political discourse.
This is the big news of the scandal: that it isn't a scandal.
That we, all of us who care about maintaining our democracy and multicultural vision of America, are now surrendering to the reality of what the Republicans have become.
If our actions were in direct proportion to the increasing extremism of the right and of Republicans, our marches would be ten times the size of the 2017 Women's March. They'd lead to general strikes, massive organizing, and a press that was on constant high alert about a country on the verge of losing everything that once made it free.
But evil has become banal. And we are sitting numbly as it overtakes us.
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