Specifically, they derive pleasure from the misery of “the other” that they have deemed unworthy:
I understand why it’s hard for normal people to believe that white evangelical Christians are sadists. Normal people have never been, as I was a long time ago, on the inside of that shadowy religious world. But the sooner they understand this, the sooner normal people will see that white evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump isn’t rooted in hypocrisy, contradiction or merely straying from the straight and narrow. The reason they support a fascist president is simple: They’re sadists.
The word “sadist” is off-putting. I get that. But if you’re thinking of sex, you’re thinking in the wrong way. If you’re thinking of “pleasure,” as in sexual pleasure, you’re thinking the wrong way. The pleasure white evangelical Christians derive from the suffering of human beings deemed less human than they are is not about sex. It’s about the pain, humiliation or even violence out-groups deserve by dint of being out-groups. Gay men, for instance, deserve their punishment because they are gay. Punishment for being gay is “divine justice.” From such “justice” comes pleasure—which is sadism.
I didn’t come up with the term. Richard Rorty did. I’m only pushing it as far to the fore as I can, because I don’t think normal people understand what they are facing, and if they don’t understand, they will keep treating sadists as if they have a legitimate place in a liberal democracy. Cruelty is the point, as Adam Serwer powerfully and famously put it in The Atlantic. But normal people must understand the animating force behind that cruelty. Sadists are sadistic not because they are cruel. It’s much simpler than that. They are cruel because being cruel to people deserving cruelty feels good.
I’m still considering the arguments, but the thesis is consistent with the actual observed events, and appears to have a significant predictive properties, which puts it a step above string theory.