One of the abiding features of early 21st century American politics is that a lot of change on the right happens in the subterranean world of what we used to call “the Crazy.” In the pre-Trump years it’s not that any of this was really hidden. It wasn’t subterranean in that sense. But it was off the radar of most of conventional journalism and the mainstream political discourse because it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t real. It was just crazy antics on the margins. But as we’ve tried to chronicle for decades now, that was never the case. That was the real GOP politics. It controlled and drove the presentable mainstream leaders — the Boehners, Ryans, McConnells and more. The ascension of Donald Trump was in many ways a simple inversion of this dynamic, putting “the Crazy” in formal and open leadership of the party.
Something has happened as recently as the last four to six weeks that follows this pattern, is important and dangerous and is still mostly coasting under the radar of “proper” U.S. political discourse and reporting.
Let’s start with this tweet from three weeks ago from Ben Collins, a reporter on the far right beat at NBCNews …
You can look at the full thread to see all of what he was talking about. But the gist was the “grooming” discourse I mentioned here and here. In short, the entire bundle of conversations about transgenderism, gender identity and homosexuality have been very suddenly repackaged as “grooming” and “pedophilia.” Any discussion of gender identity or homosexuality in schools is now “grooming” kids for pedophiles. Even same sex marriage — which is, of course, by definition for adults — is another part of the “grooming” agenda. Disney is now routinely attacked as a hotbed of “grooming” and pedophilia as a downstream effect of the corporation begrudgingly taking a position against Florida’s “don’t say gay” law.
Nikki Mccann Ramirez, a researcher at MediaMatters, captures some of that here.
Whether same sex couples should be able to marry to whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete with the gender that matches their gender identity and a million other issues in between obviously covers a vast stretch of cultural territory. But you have to step back to see the real picture. The new equation is that anything that doesn’t amount to a staunch defense of sexual and gender traditionalism is just some form of pedophilia and “grooming” children for pedophiles. That is the governing equation that has exploded across the right really just over the last two months. While it’s true that claims about predation on children have been a staple of anti-gay politics for generations, what we are seeing here is still genuinely new.
You may have seen this story today about the Michigan Republican who sent out fundraising texts with a faux appointment confirmation for “your child’s gender reassignment surgery.” Perhaps you saw this viral video of a speech by Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow (D) lashing out at a Republican colleague who accused her of “grooming and sexualizing” children in a fundraising email. (Michigan, amirite?) Or maybe you remember high flying degenerate Marjorie Taylor Greene calling Democrats “the party of pedophiles … the party of princess predators from Disney … the party of teachers … trying to transition their elementary school age children.” These aren’t just a few random weeds popping up on your lawn. They’re part of a vast welling up from the deep recesses of the earth that you just heven’t fully seen yet.
This isn’t just from the far right. It’s become normalized within the mainstream GOP. That’s what that whole “soft on child porn” thing was about during the confirmation hearings for Justice-to-be Ketanji Brown Jackson. That’s what’s driving state legislatures and members of Congress all of a sudden to start accusing virtually everyone of “grooming” through every channel of communication. It is a very rapid turn of events by which the most outlandish and genocide-friendly features of the Pizzagate and QAnon movements suddenly became totally ubiquitous and mainstream among Republican officeholders from Capitol Hill all the way down to the local level. It turns out the Democratic Party really is run by a conspiracy of pedophiles and child sex traffickers. And now you don’t have to go to 4Chan or 8chan to hear that. You can just open the emails from your Republican senator or Member of the House of Representatives.
This is the big, big thing going on right now in GOP politics even if much of conventional media remains blind to it.