This is just a small illustration of the whole dynamic of our politics today. Yes, there are people saying asinine things about Amy Coney Barrett’s religious faith. But there are also people who need such people to exist to confirm their own hatreds and partisanship. And while, there are good examples from 2020 bolstering the case for religious bigotry, there aren’t nearly as many some on the right would like, which is why many of the ads and opinion show segments about the nomination fight recycle stuff from several years ago.

You know why Steve King, Ilhan Omar, and the other Star Wars cantina pols get so much attention? Because their enemies need them to be as prominent as possible. Ahab needs his white whale. Lokai needs Bele. Maggie needs Gerald Samson, the monobrowed baby. Mr. Glass needs The Overseer. Don Quixote needs his windmills to be sinister giants. In Bram Stoker’sDracula, when Van Helsing discovers Dracula, he joyfully declares that he has found “the enemy I have waited for all my life.”

And while there are countless people eager to play the role of the boogeyman the other side loves to hate—negative attention is sadly monetizable today—when there isn’t a suitable boogeyman available, it doesn’t take much inducement or work for the legions of professional smellfunguses out there to turn someone into the boogeyman you need. Many on the left need everyone on the right to be racists, and many on the right need everyone on the left to be Marxists. It’s so much easier to argue with caricatures and so much more lucrative to bravely stand up to an existential enemy.