State Senator Bob Steinberg gives us insight into exactly how crazy the right has become. In an interview with WRAL, he told reporter Travis Fain that he believes in a broad, international conspiracy to steal the election from Donald Trump. He can offer no evidence of the scheme, but he’s so sure it occurred, that he believes the President should throw out constitutional protections to round up the plotters. 

The interview is telling. Like most of the Trump-supporting, delusional right-wingers calling the election rigged, Steinberg lacks much self-awareness. “I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye,” he says as he spouts baseless conspiracy theories without any evidence.

According to Steinberg, the CIA and FBI are totally aware of the plot to steal the election but are doing nothing about it. Chief Justice John Roberts is compromised by some sort of blackmail that keeps the Court from hearing the Trump lawsuits. He doesn’t offer any insight into what motivates the other eight Justices or multitude of lower court judges who keep rejecting Trump’s claims. 

Probably the most telling quote in the article has little to do with the hairbrained conspiracy theories, but everything that leads to the mentality that believes them. “And they think we’re just a bunch of boobs out here in the hinterland,” Steinberg told Fain. “Well, these boobs are waking up.” The forces driving the conspiracies, as well as the cult-like idolization of Trump, are rooted in resentment. They’ve created a collective outcry from people feeling left behind by the 21st century. Emotion, not reason, dominates their reaction.

If Steinberg were alone in his thinking, we could laugh him off, but he’s sitting in the mainstream of Republican politics. His views represent those of millions of Americans who believe Democrats and the left are going to steal their way of life. That’s what the hashtag #Stopthesteal really means. 

Living in bubbles and propped up by misinformation from Fox News and now OAN and Newsmax, they are sure that the elites who have been mocking them are both a minority and conspiratorial. In their minds, there is no way that many Americans want a future so different from the one they desire. Something must be terribly amiss. 

Domestic terrorism experts warn of “mass radicalization” resulting from the disinformation being spread on right-wing media outlets and social media. In Texas, a former police officer hired by a group out to prove election fraud ran a man off the road and held a gun to his head because he believe the man’s van contained 750,000 fraudulent ballots. In Michigan, the state capitol was closed to the public when the Electoral College vote took place because of credible threats of violence. In Kansas, a Republican mayor resigned because of death threats after voting for a mask mandate. In Georgia, election officials need security details because of the threats they’ve received. 

The President of the United States is encouraging this behavior by not condemning it. Phil Berger, the leader of the North Carolina Senate, refused to comment on his colleague’s baseless and dangerous conspiracy theories. The silence of elected Republicans sends a signal to the militia groups and conspiracy theorists that their behavior is acceptable. 

We know now that national outlets like Fox News will send mixed signals at best. People like Chris Wallace might ask the tough questions but commentators like Sean Hannity keep up the lie of voter fraud. It’s time for responsible conservatives to openly oppose those in their ranks calling for violence and suspension of civil liberties. Conservatives like John Hood need to address the right flank. A few years ago, Hood told us that the left was a threat to free speech when college students chased Charles Murray at Middlebury College, but he’s been silent about those threatening violence and calling for suspension of constitutional protections. The John Locke Foundation and Civitas Institute announced they will join forces, claiming to be a force for freedom in North Carolina, but are so far silent about elected officials who would suspend the speech of millions of voters to satisfy the fever dreams of conspiracy theorists like Senator Steinberg. It’s time to speak up. 

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