The Seeds of Delusion

Joe Gregorio

Remember that nauseous feeling you had on waking up on Nov 5, 2016 to a Trump presidency? For me, the root of that nausea was the dawning realization that a majority of my fellow Americans were deeply racist, or at least there was enough of them to propel Trump to the highest office in the land.

I’m not naive, I always knew there were racist people, but I presumed they weren’t a majority, they were a minority, and a shrinking minority at that. Waking up to a Trump presidency was waking up to a country that was majority racist. Now I didn’t want to believe that, and there was some hope, as the race was close, Hillary had actually won a majority of the popular vote. Maybe a good many non-racist folks just failed to vote?

And indeed, four years later Joe Biden won. There were far more racists than I had ever believed, and I now accepted that, but at least they don’t represent a majority of the country.

I point this out to emphasize that I had a mental model of what the country I lived in looked like, and at least in magnitude I was wrong, and I’ve adjusted that mental model. On the other hand, I was not substantially wrong, the majority of Americans aren’t racist.

But now, let’s look at the past set of elections from the other side, imagine being a Trump voter, believing that the United States is a country build solely by and for white people, then waking up on Nov 5, 2020 to find their entire world view upended, they were wrong, they weren’t the majority. What could they possibly do? They could accept that reality, accept that the United States had changed over the past forty years, that racists like themselves were now firmly in the minority, or … they could cling to their beliefs even stronger, double down on the belief that Trump really won, wrapping themselves in a protective blanket of deep-state-suitcases-full-of-bamboo-ballots batshit crazy conspiracy theories. Because those conspiracy theories are more believable to them than the reality that they are no longer in the majority.

As you may have guessed, a lot of people chose the tin-foil hat.

I’m not saying this to excuse any of their behavior, from their attempt to overthrow the election on Jan 6th, to attempts to lay the groundwork for undermining the 2024 election. Instead I raise this to point to the magnitude of the work ahead.

You aren’t trying to convince these people that Biden won in 2020, you are trying to convince them that their entire worldview is wrong.

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