Saturday, May 19, 2018

Half-Witted Intolerance


Yesterday, in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson, described a societal problem of Trumpism in terms of social psychology. It reminded me of George Orwell's post-World War II writing. And Huxley's Brave New World pre-World World War II masterpiece. And Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968). There were other authors who tackled the dystopian problems that Trump is thrusting on us today, Margaret Atwood (Handmaid’s Tale), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Stephen King (The Running Man). "Human beings," wrote Gerson, "are wired to favor their ingroup and to view people in outgroups as interchangeable and dispensable. We are willing to form ingroups at the drop of a hat, based even on minor characteristics. We tend to believe that bad things that happen to people in our ingroup are bum luck, while bad things that happen to people in outgroups are evidence of a just universe. Because we are inherently predisposed toward stereotyping, we are particularly vulnerable to propaganda." In a Trumpian Age that's a real problem.
In West Virginia, Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of creating jobs for "China people" and getting donations from his "China family" (McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan). In Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams drives around in a bus he promises to fill with "illegals" who will be deported to Mexico. On the rear is stamped: "Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters, and other criminals on board." In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate (and former sheriff) Joe Arpaio is a proud "birther" with a history of profiling and abusing Hispanic migrants. Vice President Mike Pence recently called Arpaio "a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law." In Wisconsin, Republican House candidate Paul Nehlen runs as a "pro-white Christian American candidate."

Randy Bryce is the progressive Democrat in Wisconsin who will prevent Paul Nehlen-- or some Paul Ryan clone-- from following Paul Ryan as the congressman for southeast part of the state. "Our campaign," he told me today, "was launched by stating we need a bigger table. Not only does everyone deserve to be heard, but, everyone deserves to begin the race from the same starting point. I am committed to working on that and will not rest until it becomes a reality. I will not sit down while nobody else is standing up to a man in the White House referring to people as animals. Every member of Congress who is silent now needs to be silenced in their ability to represent us come November. There is only one thing that I refuse to tolerate. That thing is intolerance."
Yes, these are fringe figures. But they are fringe figures in a political atmosphere they correctly view as favorable. In the Republican Party, cranks and bigots are closer to legitimacy than at any time since William F. Buckley banished the John Birch Society.

For some of us, this was a concern from the beginning of Donald Trump's rise-- not just the policies he would adopt but the attitudes he would encourage and the passions he would provoke.

...Whatever else Trumpism may be, it is the systematic organization of resentment against outgroups. His record is rich in dehumanization. It was evident when Trump called Mexican migrants "criminals" and "rapists." When Trump claimed legal mistreatment from a judge because "he's a Mexican" (Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana). When he proposed a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." When Trump attacked Muslim Gold Star parents. When he sidestepped opportunities to criticize former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. When he referred to "very fine people" among the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. When he expressed a preference for Norwegian immigrants above those from non-white "shithole countries."

This is more than a disturbing pattern; it is an organizing political principle. And it has resulted in a series of radiating consequences.

First, it has given permission for the public expression of shameful sentiments. People such as Blankenship, Williams, Arpaio and Nehlen are part of a relatively (and thankfully) small political group. But the president has set boundaries of political discourse that include them and encourage them. Even when Trump opposes their candidacies, he has enabled the bolder, more confident expression of their bigotry. The Trump era is a renaissance of half-witted intolerance. Trump's Christian supporters in particular must be so proud.

Second, Trump's attacks on outgroups have revealed the cowardice of a much broader faction within the GOP-- those who know better but say little. Some leaders (see House Speaker Paul Ryan) have been willing to criticize specific instances of Trump's prejudice. But few-- and very few with a political future-- have been willing to draw the obvious conclusion that Trump is prejudiced, or to publicly resist the trend toward prejudice among the GOP base.

Third, Trump's attitudes toward diversity have moved the center of gravity of the whole GOP toward immigration restrictionism. In Republican Senate primaries such as the one in Indiana, candidates have engaged in a competition of who can be the most exclusionary. Mainstream attitudes toward refugees and legal immigration have become more xenophobic. Trump has not only given permission to those on the fringes; he has changed the Republican mean to be more mean.

The good news about bias against outgroups is that it can be mitigated. And that, in fact, describes the high calling of a democratic leader-- to set an aspiration of unity, to speak the language of empathy, to emphasize our common goals, our common values and our common fate as a people. The GOP waits on leaders who will make these tasks their own.
Goal ThermometerBlue America isn't waiting for Republican leaders who will make these tasks their own. We're waiting for the November midterms to steer America away from the path Republicans are on. Alan Grayson was an Orlando area congressman when he turned my on to Philip K. Dick's books. I wish other members of Congress understood dystopian visions as fully as he does. Today he told me that "Trump thinking is Neanderthal thinking, and look what happened to them. The things that make us different are the things that make us special. Our differences are not something to be tolerated or overcome; our differences are to be cherished."

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, these are fringe figures."

No they are not. And you know this. Quit the lying. Statements like this one are a big part of the problem... and you also know that.

Before the usa went full-tilt shithole, these sentiments existed. But there was enough decency among the electorate that it forced candidates on the right to suppress their baser reflexes lest they help elect their opponents. Not everywhere. But in more than enough demos that the overall meme was less purely hate-based.

There used to be a party which stood for our better instincts and could win in numbers that made the haters a permanent minority. Thanks to the republican/banking great depression and the timing of Lincoln, even southern white racists were a part of the solution for 50 years.

No more.

The party which used to stand, more or less, for our better instincts, has, in deeds and now more than ever in words, has repudiated those instincts in favor of greed and increasingly in hate. Their math has calculated that winning does not rely upon better instincts any more. And their math has solved the problem such that they now can be openly tolerant of hate.

Is America that much a shithole? Is that party leading the shitholery or is it just following the denizens into shitholery? chicken/egg?

We need to flush that newer shithole party and see if Pogo was prescient or not. ("We have met the enemy and he is US.")

epiphany yet?

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 'Anonymous Democrap'. Your certainty is only as great as your intolerance of information. You've long ago processed any information you received into crap cynicism and shithole one-size-fits-all 'Give-Up Loser Mentality', which sees nothing but 100 percent stinking negativity that emanates from your every thought and word. You continue to process information with the shithole mentality you've settled into life with. You are a sad pathetic case of the mental runs. Everyone reading your crap opinions have wasted their time with stupidity at its dullest - the tripe of losers who desperately want to spread their shit onto everybody else just to try to lessen the stench in and around himself. You lose, 'Anonymous Democrap'. You can and will continue thinking and flinging your miserable shithole thoughts onto people as long as you live, because that is the ONLY thing you are capable of. I wish you better things, but that will be impossible as long as you are too rigid and desperate to mainstream the nihilism of your surrender to the evil you only PURPORT to be against. Truthfully, you can only be happy if all the naive nonsense you spew would turn out to be true, which it won't. Therefore, you can NOT be happy. Sad AND Disgusting.

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democrats are on the upswing toward more progressive policies again. The last Democratic convention platform was the most progressive since the 1960s and before that FDR's Democratic Party. Democrats have won FIVE OF THE LAST SEVEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND SOME OF THE MIDTERMS. I agree that you have a loser mentality that gets no one anywhere they want to go. I also think you are permanently panicked. You also may just be too arrogant and lazy to invest any time or effort in changing things other than attacking people who have committed themselves to be in the thick of resisting the doom you so gleefully sling about like monkeys slinging poo.

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:14, you betray your own predisposition and inability to learn.

Quit bitching and smell the open sewer. Did you read about the 2(!) school shootings yesterday? The GA one only killed 1 and injured 2. So it isn't newsworthy ... and certainly not anything that you'd care to process... might upset your blue sky and rainbow world.

You want to seem credible? Support your dogma with proof and reduce your ad hominems to 1 or 2 per screed.

You just want to bitch? fine. let it out. I hope your eyes never open to the truth.

At 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:20, same-o. party platforms are like tits on a bull. useless and there for looks only but nobody bothers to look.

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When referring to americans, using "half-witted" is actually hyperbolic praise.

When referring to Americans' "wittedness", the term 'potted plant' would be closer to truth. 7:20 case in point -- believes political party platforms are more than pandering lies to fool the dumbest potted plants.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:20 also ignores the growing coverage of the "democratic" Party working diligently to eliminate anyone who doesn't work for corporate profitability and against human beings. Even site more prominent than DWT are beginning to cover the topic. Yet 7:20 wants to continue to believe that the "democratic" Party still represents the working class against those holding the reins of Big Money when there is so much evidence that We the People are getting screwed. Just start with Gilens and Page and keep digging.


Post a Comment

<< Home