Democrats have a quaint notion that arguments on the merits will win over political opponents. They lay out the facts, present the values at stake and show how solutions can address a problem. Meanwhile, Republicans are spinning bizzaro conspiracy theories and throwing temper tantrums when confronted with reality.

In poll after poll, large majorities of Republicans still insist the 2020 election was stolen despite the total absence of evidence to support their claim. The disgraced former president must have won, they claim, because he was so popular and had such big rallies. They cannot explain how the election was stolen. (His lawyers now facing sanctions sure couldn’t.)

Now, they are sowing the seeds for another “big lie” in California. The New York Times reports: “As a wave of recent polling indicated that [California Gov. Gavin Newsom] was likely to brush off his Republican challengers, the baseless allegations accelerated,” though the report declined to call the pre-claim of fraud a “lie.” The Times continued, “This swift embrace of false allegations of cheating in the California recall reflects a growing instinct on the right to argue that any lost election, or any ongoing race that might result in defeat, must be marred by fraud.”

Republicans no longer need to present evidence — or even tortured conspiracy theories — to explain their losses. They simply state the standing excuse of election failure, knowing the base requires no proof.

The same lack of rational judgment has led the GOP to buy into anti-vaccine hysteria. Even the less hysterical Republicans have been dragged into the anti-mandate craze.

The Times reports: “Resistance to vaccine mandates was once a fringe position in both parties, more the realm of misinformed celebrities than mainstream political thought. But the fury over [President Biden’s] mandates shows how a once-extreme stance has moved to the center of the Republican Party.” The report adds that opposition to mandates from Republican governors “reflects the anger and fear about the vaccine among constituents now central to their base, while ignoring longstanding policy and legal precedent in favor of similar vaccination requirements.”

Republican officials, when they venture outside the right-wing bubble, cannot logically explain their aversion to mandating vaccines among government workers and contractors. Nor can they justify their opposition to protecting workers at big firms by requiring them to get vaccinated or submit to weekly tests.

Consider Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’s interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday. Wallace explained: “You say it’s a personal choice. In fact, to attend school in your state of Nebraska, children must be vaccinated against a number of diseases. They must be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; measles, mumps and rubella; hepatitis B; chickenpox.”

Well, Ricketts weakly offered, polio vaccinations have been around for a long time. So? The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Ricketts also insisted that covid-19 is not as bad as polio. What? Nearly 660,000 Americans have died from covid-19. It is surely a lot more dangerous than some of the other diseases for which vaccines are mandated. Plus, no one has to get the vaccine if he or she works for a private employer; a weekly test will suffice.

In short, Ricketts is incapable of articulating a rational argument to oppose the vaccine requirement. (Hint: He has none.) Nevertheless, he apparently feels compelled to go along with the base that has been fed a steady diet of lies, conspiracy theories and hypocritical arguments about “freedom.” (If they are serious about the latter, women in Texas have a serious bone to pick with the abortion bounty hunters.) The base has become unhinged to the point of risking their and their children’s lives. Ricketts simply does not have the nerve to tell them the truth.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is no better. He opposes the vaccine mandate because it “increases division." With a majority of Americans favoring vaccine mandates, one might conclude he is making the issue divisive by catering to the irrational mob. And remember: This is the same governor who expressed regret for signing a ban on mask mandates.

NBC News’s Chuck Todd reminded Hutchinson on Sunday that “you’ve expressed your own frustration at the misinformation that had clearly gotten around, particularly in the rural parts of your state.” He added, “You know, there was no other — nothing else was accelerating the vaccine pace other than dead bodies, right? Unfortunately, the one thing that does seem to work in persuading people is when they have a family member who dies from covid.” Hutchinson’s reply was revealing:

Our vaccination rates went up 40 percent, both because we’re providing better information, bringing in trusted advisers to the public, but also because of the risk factor, as you point out — and so yes, as the risk goes up, vaccinations increase. That’s a little bit of human nature. But it’s all about the trust factor. I try to build it by bringing in community-respected leaders in the health-care profession to talk to and to get over some of the hesitation. But it was clear to me from the very beginning the distrust is with government. This enhances the distrust in a state like Arkansas.

So Arkansas residents continue to resist vaccinations thanks to disinformation (a paltry 53 percent of adults there are fully vaccinated), yet Hutchinson is acquiescing to their delusions by fending off a lifesaving mandate?

Whether it is the vaccine requirements or the “big lie” about a stolen election, loony Republicans are running the party. Many outside the GOP cocoon keep waiting for someone to tell Republicans “the truth.” It did not work for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), nor even for the former president (who was booed when he recommended vaccinations). Cynical and power-hungry Republican elites may have thought they were simply catering to a base whom they calculated would buy just about anything. Right-wing media moguls figured they could cultivate an angry viewership who would buy a steady diet of anti-vaccine conspiracies, xenophobia and straight lies.

The MAGA ringleaders “succeeded” in creating an unhinged and angry mob of tens of millions of Americans. That is precisely why mandates, rather than reasoning, are the only way to get the pandemic under control.