I asked another Trump-friendly friend if he was LARPing by pretending Mike Pence had the power to keep Trump in office. His response: “The correct answer to that question is: no one cares. I don’t think the CIA has the power to secretly set up the president using fake intelligence dossiers. And yet, here we are.”

I think my friends express the thing exactly. A substantial portion of people, identified with the Right, no longer believe the norms and institutions of American life protect them. They believe the rules are applied by the dictates of an implacably hostile enemy. For them, the evidence is everywhere. A government in which they had a meaningful say would have noticed declining life expectancy among middle-aged whites earlier and treated it as an emergency. A government in which they had a meaningful say would not promote synthetic ideologies about transgenderism. If truth is no defense for them, and lies are no handicap for their enemies, why should they continue to play the game?

“Mostly peaceful” is now the leaden joke phrase among conservatives to describe the riots that the media tried to minimize in the summer of 2020. But, in a way it’s fitting for the MAGA rampagers as well. Like the BLM movement, they believe American institutions are irretrievably corrupted by a hostile ideology. Instead of “Defund the Police,” it might be “Defund Social Science and the Media.”