During the Obama era, sizable swaths of the American public—Republicans in particular—embraced absurd conspiracy theories, like the idea that President Barack Obama was a secret Muslim (who, nevertheless, regularly bombed Muslim-majority countries).
Public ignorance among conservatives could be chalked up to the misinformation and lies peddled by Fox News. President Donald Trump's penchant for publicity didn't help make Americans any more well-informed either: the reality TV star used his celebrity platform to stoke suspicions that President Obama wasn't really American.
Needless to say, Republicans have not exactly become more critical and nuanced thinkers with the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency.
Here's a list of strange things Republicans seem to believe in the era of Donald Trump—and the horrendous policies issuing from them.
1. Children fleeing Latin American death squads pose a dire threat to Americans' safety
The administration's "zero-tolerance" policy towards migrants at the US border has created a humanitarian crisis: hundreds of kids were separated from their families and incarcerated by the federal government. Families that had made the dangerous trek from their home countries, through Mexico, and to the US border, were deported after swift immigration proceedings.
As the administration (slowly) works to reunite families that have not been booted from the country, many children are showing classic symptoms of PTSD. It doesn't help that some appeared to have been drugged with psychotropic medications without parental consent.
Yet Donald Trump so adeptly stoked Republicans' fears about the threat posed by MS-13, that many Republicans saw little wrong with the administration's approach to migrants. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released in June, while two thirds of Americans opposed child separations, a small majority of Republican voters (55 percent) supported Trump's child separation policy.
Fear-mongering about MS-13 has become so routine that it's turned into a campaign issue in the midterms, the Washington Post reports.
Although MS-13—whose violence is fueled in part by the US-led global war on drugs—is responsible for reprehensible acts of violence, migrants are often fleeing the violence and instability created by Latin American crime syndicates, not coming to America to perpetrate it.
As immigration expert Stephen Yale-Loehr previously told Raw Story, given the extensive screening that occurs at the US border, it's highly unlikely that dangerous criminals would try to infiltrate America by applying for asylum.
2. Sanctuary cities are murder dens overrun by criminal immigrants
Once again, Republicans—particularly those who live in less urban and diverse parts of the country—could (almost) be forgiven for believing that sanctuary cities are dangerous. President Donald Trump has fear-mongered about cities and states that have opted for sanctuary status throughout his campaign and Presidency.
"There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept," Trump tweeted in April. "Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!"
In a July poll, a whopping 94 percent of Republicans answered "yes" when asked "Should cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes be required to notify immigration authorities they are in custody or be prohibited from notifying immigration authorities?”
But Republicans vastly overestimate how far sanctuary cities go to protect vulnerable immigrants. Just because, say, the New York Police Department isn't allowed to actively aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement, doesn't mean that ICE is prevented from rounding up people they suspect of being undocumented and swiftly shuffling them into an understaffed immigration court system.
3. Abolishing ICE will lead to utter mayhem
The same poll found that 78 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of independents said ICE should not be abolished.
That's no surprise and might be a problem with progressive messaging: the controversial slogan "Abolish ICE," popularized by the Democratic Socialists of America, suggests the dissolution of law and order itself.
“You get rid of ICE, you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News recently.
But that's not speaking highly of other law enforcement agencies tasked with keeping Americans safe.
There are multiple agencies that police immigration, from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to the Department of Homeland Security. And ICE was established in 2003—so getting rid of the agency would merely take America back to the days of the Clinton, Bush, Reagan administrations, and so on—hardly the Wild West.
Journalist Sean McElwee, who helped popularize the idea that abolishing ICE is doable and not a radical's pipe dream, tells Raw Story that it's ICE's mission that's extreme. "A world with ICE is far more radical than a world without one," he says.
"A world in which civil immigration violations are met with the full force of a paramilitary force is far, far less reasonable than one in which they are treated like parking tickets."
4. Desperate refugees fleeing global proxy war, ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad pose an existential threat to US safety
The driving force behind President Donald Trump's travel ban, which severely restricts tourism and immigration mainly from Muslim-majority countries, is fear that letting Muslim refugees (often fleeing the aftermath of wars America had a hand in)into the US will increase the likelihood of a terror attack.
That fear seems to fall along party lines: just 23 percent of Republicans support accepting refugees from war torn Syria, even as a slim majority of Americans support accepting Syrian refugees.
In fact, people applying for asylum are so heavily vetted that—much like the mythical MS-13 gang member sneaking into America disguised as a child—an aspiring terrorist could find far more efficient ways to get into the country.
Plus, many acts of terrorism have been committed by white men, a demographic President Trump and his NRA supporting-Republican fans seem eager to arm to the teeth.
5. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun"
At this point, the NRA's signature slogan should be burned into the American consciousness alongside the "thoughts and prayers" Republican lawmakers offer after every mass shooting.
The idea that Americans won't be safe from (immigrants, terrorists, MS-13, shooters, you name it) unless we're all armed to the teeth has inspired lawmakers—including President Trump—to denounce common sense gun safety measures and instead suggest policies like arming school teacher (the school teacher's union opposes this safety plan).
Although there are a handful of anecdotal incidents (widely broadcast by the NRA) of armed individuals intervening to stop a mass shooting, there are similar anecdotal examples of unarmed individuals stopping a mass shooter before they could cause further carnage—most notably James Shaw Jr., who wrestled the gun away from a mass shooter at a Nashville, Tennessee, Waffle House restaurant.
At the 2018 NRA convention in Dallas, Texas, Stephen Willeford was celebrated for giving chase to a killer who'd just shot up a church. While Willeford was surely brave, it must be noted that he was able to intervene only after 27 had been mortally wounded.
6. The Wall will keep danger out
On Monday, President Donald Trump threatened a government shutdown if Congress doesn't earmark more money to build a Wall (it's not clear what happened to Trump's doubtful claim that Mexico would pay for it–a claim regularly rebutted by Mexican lawmakers).
Nevertheless building a wall remains popular among Republicans: 73 percent saying they back additional border wall construction in a poll released in June.
But as Raw Story and others have previously reported, the Wall is not an effective way to keep drugs out of the country.
"He's using the drug war to pursue his war on immigrants and people of color," Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, tells Raw Story.
The conservative CATO institute has noted that the wall probably wouldn't work to stem the flow of immigrants into the US.
"But the biggest practical problem with a wall is its opacity," CATO wrote. "In fact, many Border Patrol agents oppose a concrete wall for precisely this reason (albeit quietly, given that they were also some of Trump’s biggest supporters during the election).
A Border Patrol agent explained why on Fox News.
“A cinder block or rock wall, in the traditional sense, isn’t necessarily the most effective or desirable choice,” the Border Patrol agent told Fox News. “Seeing through a fence allows agents to anticipate and mobilize, prior to illegal immigrants actually climbing or cutting through the fence.”
7. The Socialists are coming and that's silly—yet terrifying!
Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez swept the floor with Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's Congressional primary, the panic on the right has been palpable (although, to be fair, quite a few establishment Democrats seem pretty nervous too).
"The Democratic party is falling apart," Sean Hannity soberly intoned. "Her views. Her policy positions are actually downright scary." The National Review has also discovered newfound concern for the Democratic party's future. "The Unserious Face of an Unserious Movement," the magazine warned, next a picture of Ocasio-Cortez making a goofy face.
In fact, Ocasio-Cortez' very serious and not very scary political positions include universal health care and housing as a human right.
But perhaps in this case Hannity—and Republicans—have reason to be concerned. A poll showed that young people are growing increasingly disillusioned with capitalism. Meanwhile, Republicans, people who make more than $100,000 and those 65-and-older still favor capitalism.
8. Pizzagate, et al.
That just covers views held by a majority of Republicans. It doesn't even get to the wild conspiracy theories swirling in the fringes of Trump's base. Allow us to present QAnon, a conspiracy theory even weirder than Pizza-gate. According to the Daily Beast, adherents of "QAnon" are convinced an anonymous administration official code-name "Q" has been posting mysterious clues about elite conspiracies involving John McCain, the Supreme Court and Hillary Clinton. Q reportedly leaves "breadcrumbs" in online forums like 8Chan.
Like Pizza-gate, an online conspiracy theory is start to bleed into real life. The Daily Beast reports that QAnon true believers have started staging protests demanding that transparency about "Q" from the Justice Department. The Beast notes that there's no evidence that Q is anything more than an Internet huckster playing a prank on gullible conservatives, but in the Trump era, who knows?