Fast times at Tribal High: Way back then, Mr. Lincoln was devoted to a noble if misdescribed experiment.
In an address the world would little note, he expressed an ongoing desire—his desire that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Today we're engaged in one of those eras where sensible people might wonder if we the people have the tools to meet that famous challenge. In an attitude we'll steal from Lincoln, we'll suggest that the possible failure of that experiment is apparent today in the conduct of Us, as well as in that laid to Them.
Let's start Over There. In our view, Candidate Trump is the least appropriate person ever to get this close to the White House. (Millions of our fellow citizens disagree with that view.)
Our view? When Trump declaimed for an hour this Tuesday night beside a table piled high with raw beef, an obvious question presented again:
Could Candidate Trump be mentally ill? We've asked that obvious question before. Today, we float it again.
(Generally speaking, it's a very bad idea to bring psychiatry into our political debates. In our view, Trump is sufficiently unusual to call that stricture into question. For what it's worth, mainstream journalists routinely questioned Candidate Gore's psychological state during Campaign 2000. Needless to say, there were no objections from us the liberals. Our intellectual leaders were busy protecting their sacred careers.)
In our view, Candidate Trump's bizarre behavior rises to the level of possible mental illness. Then too, there's the conduct pursued by Our Team, by the tribe Over Here.
Regarding the behavior and attitudes of Our Own Team, let's consider a fascinating news report in today's Washington Post. After that, let's consider last night's Maddow Show.
The news report to which we refer was written by Jose DelReal. In hard copy, it appears at the top of the Post's front page. It runs 2561 words.
As is the norm in today's low-cost mainstream press, DelReal seems to be quite young; he graduated from Harvard in June 2013. (Before that, he wrote for his hometown Anchorage Daily News while he was still a student at East High School.)
DelReal's relative youth may cut several ways. His report today is fascinating. In his fourth paragraph, he writes this:
DELREAL (3/12/16): Inside the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis earlier in the day, protesters interrupted Trump eight times, prompting catcalls and chants from the crowd as security officers removed them. Scores were injured or arrested in clashes between Trump supporters and critics outside the venue, where thousands had gathered in an overflow area to listen to the event over loudspeakers.Question: Did you know we'd reached the point where this particular candidate was being "interrupted" eight times in a single campaign event?
We were struck by the highlighted statement, slightly unclear though it is. Much later in DelReal's report, we were also struck by this:
DELREAL: During an event Saturday at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, which was interrupted by protesters at least a dozen times, Trump looked on while a man in the crowd grabbed a young Latino man who was with a black man yelling at the stage. One of Trump's top campaign staffers, George Gigicos, was the first to reach the two protesters, with security officers directly behind him, according to video from the audience posted online.Say what? That earlier campaign event was "interrupted" by members of Our Team "at least a dozen times?"
For the record, we're not entirely sure exactly what that statement means. That said, this is the way Jenna Johnson reported the event in real time, in last Sunday's Post:
JOHNSON (3/6/16): The rally, held in an arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida, attracted thousands and was interrupted more than a dozen times by protesters. At one point, Trump marveled at how "fun" his rallies are compared to those of other candidates.Make no mistake. Within the current tribalized context, those highly energetic "protestors" are playing on Our Team. That said, do you think it's a good idea to "interrupt" a campaign speech a dozen times; to "get close to the stage and begin yelling directly at" the candidate; to "crumple a campaign sign" as you do?
Later, two young men got close to the stage and began yelling directly at Trump, as one of them crumpled a campaign sign. Trump stopped speaking and stood on the edge of the stage, watching the two protesters, at least one of whom was black.
Do you think conduct like that is best described as a "protest?" Do you think that conduct fits within the basic framework within which we try to conduct "government by the people?"
Personally, we don't think it's a great idea to do politics that way. We'd be inclined to use the word "disruption" to describe that approach, rather than the word "protest."
Personally, we aren't inclined to find that conduct heroic, bright or politically helpful. We aren't inclined to regard that conduct as "principled" in any serious way.
That said, as we read DelReal's fascinating report, we were fascinated by the apparent outlook of others on Our Team. Before we get to one of our candidates, let's consider this remark by one of our fiery protestors:
DELREAL: In interviews, several protesters who have been assaulted during a Trump rally said they think that racial bias and a mob mentality are at play.Do you think you have a "First Amendment right" to interrupt a candidate a dozen times during a single speech? We're going to guess that many voters will find that formulation odd. We'd be inclined to agree.
"I'm not going to say Donald Trump is responsible for this. But the undertone of his campaign is very racist," said Isaiah Griffin, 38, who attended the Fayetteville rally with Jones. "He's bringing out a lot of the things that America tries to sweep under the rug that we know are still here. It's racism."
Friend Ronnie Rouse, 32, added, "Everybody wants to keep their Second Amendment right, but they don't want to let you keep your First."
That said, one of our candidates seems to be right in line with this somewhat unusual thinking. Fresh from her latest weird remark, the one concerning Nancy Reagan, Candidate Clinton has now been quoted saying this:
DELREAL: "You can't even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence," Trump said in an interview on MSNBC. "I didn't want to see the real violence, and that's why I decided to call it off."When we interrupt a candidate a dozen times, yelling at him from the front of the stage, are we affirming "everything that made America great, like freedom of speech and assembly?" For our money, Candidate Clinton made more sense with her statement about Nancy Reagan.
These incidents, and the candidate's own rhetoric, would almost certainly become an issue in the general election if he becomes the nominee. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said during an MSNBC interview this week that she is "truly distraught and even appalled by a lot of what I see going on" at Trump events.
"You know, you don't make America great by, you know, dumping on everything that made America great, like freedom of speech and assembly and, you know, the right of people to protest," she said.
Should people playing on Our Team stage these interruptions? Do you think that conduct is part of Mr. Lincoln's idea? And uh-oh! Let's also ask this:
Do you think that conduct is likely to be politically helpful?
We're so old that we can remember when other people on Our Team helped bring on The Ages of Nixon and Reagan with similar principled conduct. Luckily, if you watch the Maddow Show, you won't be asked to wonder about the appropriateness or political wisdom of the work being done by Our Side.
Alas! Rachel Maddow provides many services to us, her gullible viewers. One such service is this—she tends to disappear considerations which might make us question the wisdom and moral greatness of those who play on Our Team.
Last evening, Maddow provided this familiar service shortly after 9 PM Eastern. As soon as she came on the air, she interviewed Tina Sfondeles, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times who was present in the hall when last night's campaign event was cancelled by Candidate Trump.
Sfondeles could have a mistaken impression of what occurred, of course. But speaking about the "hundreds of protestors" who had gathered inside the hall, she described "the deafening noise when they announced the postponement. It was just— My ears are still ringing a little bit," Sfoldeles told Maddow as she continued. "But these people were so happy because they came here to do this, to disrupt it. And they got their way, the protestors."
Sfondeles could have a mistaken impression, of course. That said, let's consider the principle involved in what she described:
Do you think players on Our Team should attend campaign events with the intention of "disrupting" those events? Possibly with the hope or intent of shutting the events down?
Good news! If you were a Maddow watcher last night, you didn't have to consider those questions! Playing a typical service role, Maddow blew right past this statement by Sfondeles, in which our heroic tribemates were portrayed in a way which may not seem moral or wise.
At the start of last night's show, Maddow blew right past that statement. As usual, her moral concerns would all be directed The Other Way Only last night.
As a full-service tribal guide, Maddow routinely protects us against any concerns about our own team's behavior. That said, in this morning's New York Times, Davey and Bosman report last night's events in Chicago the same way Sfondeles did.
They too were present in the hall. This is the way they began their front-page report in the Times:
DAVEY AND BOSMAN (3/121/6): With thousands of people already packed into stands and music blaring to warm up the crowd, Donald J. Trump’s campaign abruptly canceled his rally here on Friday night over security concerns as protesters clashed with his supporters inside an arena where he was to speak.Should hundreds of players on Our Team "let out an elated, unstopping cheer" when a candidate's event is cancelled? Is it morally right or politically smart when our teammates behave that way?
Minutes after Mr. Trump was to have taken to a podium on the campus of a large, diverse public university just west of downtown, an announcer suddenly pronounced the event over before it had begun. Hundreds of protesters, who had promised to be a visible presence here and filled several sections of the arena, let out an elated, unstopping cheer. Mr. Trump’s supporters, many of whom had waited hours to see the Republican front-runner, seemed stunned and slowly filed out in anger.
We'd answer those questions in this way: no, and probably not. But of one thing you can be certain. Our darling Rachel will work very hard to keep us tribally barefoot and clueless—to keep us from having to confront such obvious points of concern.
In our view, Candidate Trump has been horrific, in endless ways, dating at least to 2011. That said, basic questions exist about the conduct, and the political wisdom, of players within Our Own Tribe.
People like these young "protestors" have caused tremendous harm in the past. If you keep watching the totally tribal Maddow, you won't have to think about that.
Basic questions exist about the wisdom of people within Our Own Tribe. Are you willing to think about those questions? Or have you instead gone totally tribal at Totally Tribal High?