Brett Favre and the Conservative Cliché
Lately, the Republican Party has me seeing, hearing, and reading double.
I get dizzy from all the double talk, those disingenuously two-faced arguments I keep seeing, hearing, and reading over and over — on cable news, on YouTube, on podcasts, in comment sections. An example: Cancel culture is the devil — but let’s cancel Taylor Swift for being a Democrat, Britney Spears for supporting Black Lives Matter, Republican US Representative Liz Cheney for voting to impeach former US President Donald Trump, and anyone who dares to kneel in public while the national anthem is playing.
Even more dizzying: the split personality that now defines the GOP and has turned it into a two-faced beast. The first one is shouldered by Republicans like Adam Kinzinger and Cheney who are unafraid to break ranks and see the world as it is and not entirely through a rose-colored partisan lens. They are able to make compelling arguments that aren’t purely based on political ambition or stubborn, shallow, hypocritical conservatism. Sadly, there aren’t enough of them in Congress.
And then there’s the now-dominant face of the party, the one shouldered by a seemingly overwhelming majority. No matter how many holes we poke in their specious arguments (which they love to spin as “opinions,” even when they’d be more accurately categorized as bigotry or lies), they keep falling back on them without adding a grain of nuance or any semblance of layers.
This week, retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre made comments on his Bolling with Favre podcast that were riddled with what have become Republican buzz phrases: “I just gave my opinion,” “I’m certainly not a racist,” “I’m for unity”… As I read reports of his “opinions” and the backlash they stirred, something dawned on me. Either these conservatives all read the same Republican playbook, or they’re just punkin’ us. Surely they can’t be that uniformly basic.
But the repetitive, clueless comments keep coming, the ones where challenging, or even acknowledging, White privilege makes you a reverse racist, where cancel culture is the greatest possible threat to free thought, and where all lives matter. A reader who commented on one of my recent stories suggested that all Black men are scum because a Black boy she once defended against bullies didn’t defend her back after the bullies turned on her. I’m still not convinced she wasn’t making fun of people who think like that.
They can take nuanced, layered liberal arguments and twist and misrepresent them so that they’re as narrow as the ones they deliver in response. We can explain that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter. We can describe in excruciating detail why the movement is needed. They’ll keep ignoring reason and come back with the same old argument: “All Lives Matter!” — and they drop it like it’s the most clever, original thing anyone has ever said.
At this point, they don’t have to identify themselves as Republicans for me to recognize them as just that. The routine has become that predictable. If it actually exists (and I’m not ruling it out), that Republican playbook must be loaded with ammunition, which is a fitting metaphor, considering the conservative obsession with Second Amendment rights. Alas, when they fire, they shoot blanks — words that, for the most part, ring hollow. A sampler:
- “I’m not racist.” They doth protest so much because they’re always saying racist things. People who are not racist just aren’t. They don’t have to keep telling us.
- “This country is so divided.” They say it without a hint of irony or awareness that they’ve reaped most of the division by making everything, even our health, partisan fodder.
- “Who cares what celebrities think?” Unless, of course, the celebrity is a Republican spouting nonsense on Fox News.
- “Politics don’t belong in sports.” In other words, f*** First Amendment rights. It’s not really about politics anyway. It’s about a Black man, Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the national anthem.
- “The world is flat.”
OK, no one in real life has actually said that last one to my face, but doesn’t it sounds like something an anti-science Republican might declare? Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few friends bombard me with messages and links as to why I should not get the COVID-19 vaccine (too late!), with all the fervor of a flat-world theorist.
The links are always from websites no one has ever heard of, and they are typically accompanied by a warning about how the “biased” mainstream media won’t cover this side of the story because they are in cahoots with some unidentified force that wants to de-populate the world. These people present this stuff with confidence because they’ve done their “research” (i.e., a deep Google dive), and if you read it on the Internet, of course, it must be true.
They conveniently overlook that there isn’t a lie that you can’t confirm somewhere online. I may not have heard anyone say the world is flat in real life (besides former The View co-host Sherri Shepherd), but there are people who claim to have done the research to prove that it is.
I don’t have to verify the political affiliation of the folks most inclined to peddle this stuff to make an educated guess that most are conservative to the core. In a weird, convoluted way, it makes sense they wouldn’t have faith in science or the vaccine because they’ve been politicizing the pandemic from the beginning. Many of them are the same people who insisted coronavirus was a hoax while refusing to wear life-saving masks because they infringe on their First Amendment rights, which are hallowed to conservatives until they’re inconvenient to them.
From a debate standpoint, I could shut them down in my sleep. But as easy as it is to call them out, it’s even harder to make headway with them. That Republican playbook, if it exists, must be as persuasive as The Holy Bible.
I’m not really a man of faith, but I’m holding out hope that they’re punkin’ us after all, that one day I’ll accidentally turn on Fox News and see Brett Favre, Senator Josh Hawley, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, and a parade of other VIP Republicans squared off in a Zoom telecast. In unison, they’ll say one word that will finally wake us all up from this nightmare of partisan stupidity and foolishness: “Gotcha!”