Epilogue—Our tribe's modern rules for the road: Did we liberal get teabagged last Tuesday night?
We'd have to say that we did. Here's how the bagging went down:
When the teabaggers first appeared on the scene, we were honest enough to push back. We called them racists, homophobes, bigots, misogynists, nativists and Islamophobes. Their xenophobia was also quite clear.
They didn't much care for our truth-telling ways. The baggers have always been like that!
Certain people keep insisting that We should take a different approach. Plainly, Professor Arlie Russell Hochschild is the all-time worst. Please try to follow her "logic:"
According to Professor Hochschild, not only should we speak with teabaggers, we should "take our political and moral alarm system off" when we do! She says we can thereby "establish a floor of respect and liking on which a lot more can be said, ambivalences can be admitted, complexities arrive."
We can even like the baggers, this Berkeley professor has said.
This seems to mean that we shouldn't start off by telling the baggers they're racists. Can you see the way this works? These people would strip our endangered tribe of our top number-one modern skill!
We love to tell the baggers they're racists! Consider two recent manifestations of this part of our culture.
Our first example involves Charlie Pierce. In this November 14 post, he said there's "no point in denying" that Those People are bigots.
His demonstration proceeded like this:
Frank Bruni had written the passage shown below. Before posting the passage, Pierce declared that Bruni had "tugged his forelock until he removed half his scalp" in composing such manifest nonsense:
BRUNI (11/12/16): Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not on board with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren't themselves on board just five short years ago.Leave it to Bruni! He noted our top RightThinkers held the position just five years ago. He further noted that one of Those People was characterized as a hateful boob for holding the same position today.
People like Bruni want you to think there's something odd, dogmatic, peculiar, unkind or inconsistent about that. Pierce gave the lie to his theory:
"Frank, if that woman is not 'on board' with marriage equality at this point in history, she may not be hateful," Pierce replied. "She might not even be a boob. But she's a bigot. There's no point in denying that."
Thank you! Why would we ever deny the fact that Those People are bigots! In his analysis, Pierce helps us see a basic point—Us and Them are often connected to That Was Then / This Is Now.
Hochschild would also stifle Jamelle Bouie. One day after Pierce's post, Bouie posted a RightThinking essay at Slate which carried these TrueThinking headlines:
There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump VoterThere’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter! What could be simpler than that?
People voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes. They don’t deserve your empathy.
Bouie works on the brighter end of modern liberal/progressive journalism. For that reason, some will be surprised to see him offer AccurateThink without a hint of "nuance."
Bouie helps us see the basic facts about the 61 million people (and counting) who voted for Candidate Trump. You're right if you notice that his essay doesn't exactly make perfect sense. But the key point is the statement that all 61 million are bad.
The endless construction of Us and Them is our tribe's key modern skill. People like Professor Hochschild want to take this weapon away. They would strip us of our "reductionist solitarism," to use a catchy term David Brooks has coined in today's anti-"Us and Them" column.
There's one more skill we liberals have mastered in recent years. It's the skill of boasting that We don't have the slightest idea what They could be thinking about.
Pierce displays this skill in this paean to puzzlement concerning the people of Maine. "I'll never understand how that pain brings this woman to someone like Donald Trump, who absolutely can do nothing about any of the problems that brought these people to him," Pierce writes.
Might we talk? At one time, the inability to understand others was seen as a type of shortcoming. Today, it more commonly provides an occasion for liberals to boast.
Bouie helps us see that (perceived) bad judgment on the part of Trump voters can't be permitted to serve as a moral excuse for their vote. (We liberals have never shown bad judgment. Why should They be excused?)
Pierce extends the reasoning. He shows that we must continue to declare Their judgments incomprehensible, even after we note that they've been misled by things they've "been told about on their favorite radio and cable television shows." Might their judgment be lousy, imperfect? Have they been misinformed by professional sophists? For Them, there can be no excuse! All 61 million are bad!
These are a few of the basic skills the Hochschilds would make us renounce. They'd ask us to break bread with The Others, creating "a floor of respect." They suggest that such conduct might open the door to future political progress.
If we understand their program correctly, we aren't supposed to tell the baggers that they're bigots right away. Instead, we're supposed to bide our time. We're supposed to let them know later.
Isaac Chotiner also writes from the deeper end of the liberal pool. On November 1, he helped us see the correct way to feel when forced to encounter The Others.
Chotiner interviewed The New Yorker's George Packer for Slate. Late in the piece, he revealed an important point in the form of asking a question:
CHOTINER (11/1/16): In your piece, you talk about condescension. I find that it’s a really hard subject, because when you’re talking to someone who says that Obama’s going to take revenge on white people, or you’re talking to someone who says that global warming is a hoax, it’s difficult to know the proper way to respond to that. Do you feel condescension but try not to act on it?How should one of Us react when speaking to one of Them?
Chotiner assumes condescension. The question is how to handle this feeling. Chotiner doesn't imagine a world in which we don't look down on Others who may, perhaps, be less bright than he is. We were saddened to see someone so bright making that confession.
Professor Hochschild weirdly claims that beings who come from different species can "communicate" with each other. She seems to think that We can speak respectfully with Them, reaching some type of "understanding" at some point down the line.
She seems to think we should stop the name-calling. She suggests that we shouldn't be arrogant, dumb, unintelligent, vain—all the traits at which we excel.
Being dumb is our stock in trade—has been for some time! Sure, we'll get teabagged but good in return. But dear God! How good it feels when We get to call Them all those names!
How good it felt when Rachel gave us our small tiny brains our two weeks of small tiny dick jokes. How good it feels when we praise our own non-existent greatness by aiming our insults at Them.
Yevtushenko on people: "No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko wrote.
Plainly, he'd never met us! At any rate, he demanded no perfection:
In any man who dies there dies with himNot people die but worlds die in them, whom we knew as faulty.
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.
There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.
But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.
Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures...