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Most folks are familiar with the concept of the Potemkin Village. Named for an 18th Century Russian Courtier, Grigory Potemkin, it’s the practice of building an artificial structure and convincing people that it’s real.

He pulled a minor scam on Empress Catherine II by building a series of shell villages along the Dnipro River to convince her that her new territory was indeed populated by thriving villages and hard-working peasants. After the Empress’s royal barge had passed, the villages were hastily dis-assembled, moved further downriver, and reassembled so the Empress saw what she was meant to see.

For a humorous take on the idea of making something that wasn’t there appear to be something that was, think of the town of Rock Ridge in the movie Blazing Saddles.

Now, it seems, current Republican Party leaders have taken this idea and turned it upside down, spending much effort and money to convince voters that something that is not there, is there. By presenting a non-existent situation as a problem, they can be seen charging to the rescue like Dudley Do-Right rescuing Little Nell, ever vigilant to save True Americans from Liberal Evils.

Take Critical Race Theory, for example.

It was developed by legal scholars in the 1970s and 80s to point out that racism has never really been eradicated from our laws, policies, or institutions. The idea was weaponized by Christopher Rufo, a Fellow at the Koch-sponsored Manhattan Institute. Rufo distorted the premise, and put out the battle cry that CRT was being force-fed to our young school kids (it isn’t), to teach them that White people are evil (it doesn’t).

But by stirring up a huge controversy where one didn’t exist, and fanning the flames to get honestly-concerned parents (and far-right firebrands) to threaten the safety of school board members, the Republican Party has created a problem which they present as one that only they can solve. Vote for us, they say, and CRT will not be a problem any more.

Or take the issue of grade school kids using litter boxes instead of regular rest rooms because they identify with animals.

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What appears to have started off as an internet hoax is being taken seriously by concerned parents, with the usual far-right firebrands fanning the flames. It is not a fact, never was a fact, and a lot of valuable school board time is being wasted defending this.

Or, Replacement Theory.

This idea is being peddled as a scenario of non-white immigrants invading America and voting a certain way, drowning out the votes of white Americans. In their eyes, a threat to their own well-being, and the well-being of the nation.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, this idea has roots in French nationalism of the early 1900s. More recently, to French writer Renaud Camus, who wrote “The Great Replacement” in 2011. According to the ADL, white supremacists have picked up the idea to blame Jewish people for nonwhite immigration to the U.S., linking Replacement Theory to antisemitism.

David Lane, a member of the white supremacist group The Order, coined the slogan "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. That slogan has become the battle cry for the Replacement Theory zealots.

So, as Gertude Stein, put it, there is no there there. All the hateful rhetoric, threats of violence, and sometimes actual violence caused by these inside-out Potemkins don’t solve any real problems, and exist only to inflame voters and get Republicans elected.

“Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” if you prefer the Bard.

Most folks can see through them. Hopefully enough can.