Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Witch Hunts and Conspiracy Theories

Setting The Tone for
American Politics for
Centuries to Come
 Americans love two things: witch hunts and conspiracy theories.

Americans periodically get mesmerized by witch hunts such as the charges of Russian Collusion brought by Democrats against then-President-elect Donald Trump before he was even sworn into office in 2016. The fantastical scope of conspiracy theories postulated for the past four years which culminated in not one but two impeachment proceedings made even the craziest conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy Assassination look sane by comparison.

British historian Paul Johnson observed, "America seems particularly prone to these spasms of self-righteous political emotion in which all sense of perspective and the national interest is lost."

No one has said it better. America has had such paroxysms before: the Salem Witch Trials, 1692. The Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s under John Adams. The Sedition Acts in 1917-1918 under Woodrow Wilson. The Red Scare of the 1950s under Senator Joe McCarthy. Watergate, Irangate, Whitewatergate, Travelgate…the list never ends.

Most of the time, political witch hunts are a colossal waste of time, effort and energy. They usually end in no convictions, no proof revealed and no conspiracies uncovered. It is hard enough to get political people to agree on a date for a lunch meeting and to then show up on time without blabbing to the press, much less plot to overthrow our government and cooperate with Putin and his hackers.

Conspiratorial theories are one thing. Flawless execution of a legal and political strategy, such as what has been pulled off by the Soros Open Society Foundation and the Arabella Advisors network in states such as Colorado and Georgia for the past decade, is entirely another topic.

While Congress played the conspiracy fiddle for the past four years, the national debt exploded from $22 trillion to $28 trillion; the COVID virus invaded America; and China continued to gain economically and politically around the world at the expense of American influence and prestige. The nation’s work has been ignored for the sake of political expediency.

Periods of political hysteria in America are usually measured in months, perhaps a few years. They usually end when a brave person steps up, such as when Army counsel Joseph Welch popped the witch hunt balloon of Joe McCarthy in 1954 by saying during a hearing, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

When the American people start demanding a sense of maturity and decency from their elected officials in Washington and the media, this current state of hysteria will end. When conservatives stop subscribing to the New York Times or buying stuff from Amazon, they will go out of business. When conservatives who have been viciously attacked online or in-person or censored by people on the left file lawsuits based on existing hate crime statutes — because that is what is really going on when the left “hates” someone for what they believe or say — the left will be forced to retreat.

Former Congressman McMillan, with whom I worked on Capitol Hill for a decade, often would remark as he watched a liberal Democrat on the floor of Congress figuratively foam at the mouth attacking Republicans on some issue or the other, “I hope they keep the cameras on him. The more he talks, the more he makes the case for our side, because he simply does not know what he is talking about.”

Proverbs tells us that “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” In a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain, the same sentiment holds: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”.

The American people may be fooled some of the time by political theatre and machinations. But they cannot be fooled all of the time. And when they get tired of being fooled, they will wreak havoc on the offending party come election time.

(first published in North State Journal 2/17/21)

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