THE WAY WE LOOK: When we seem to sneer!

THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2017

Part 3—We explain things to Those People:
E. J. Dionne starts his new column with a familiar but sensible claim about Donald J. Trump. In the world of Donald J. Trump, it's never Donald Trump's fault:
DIONNE (4/13/17): President Trump rose to power on a combination of meanness, incoherence and falsehoods. His strategy depended almost entirely on playing off the unpopularity and weaknesses of others.

Every aspect of his approach has blown up on him since he took office, but as is always the case with Trump, he will not take any personal responsibility for what’s going wrong. He must find a scapegoat.
A failure is never Trump's doing or fault. Blame must be cast somewhere else.

That's a familiar observation about Donald J. Trump. That said, it seems to us that our own liberal tribe tends to behave the same way.

We just managed to lose an election to the worst candidate ever. But we tend to direct all the blame Over There.

We tend to dump all the blame on Those People, the stupid racists who live Over There. Very little responsibility, imperfection, error or blame gets attributed to Us.

To the contrary! In the months since Trump was elected, we've created a heroic tale about our tribe's noble push-back. We're staging a "resistance," we keep telling ourselves. In this way, we compare our glorious selves to the greatest political heroes of the past century.

(To be flattered this way, just watch Rachel.)

Could there be something that we did wrong on our way to November's election? Could it be that some part of our liberal team's game needs to be discarded or improved?

We'd suggest that we abandon the way we look when we liberalsplain to Those People, the rubes who live out there "in America." And yes, we put those words in quotes for a reason.

We liberals! We've spent a fair amount of time insulting the very stupid people who voted for Donald J. Trump. That said, we've played it this way for a very long time. The perception that The Others are dumb is a long-standing part of our culture.

We rarely seem to notice the standard types of dumbness which often emerge from Us. As an example of one such practice, consider the way a recent book event started in Berkeley.

The book event was taped and broadcast by C-Span. It concerned Rebecca Solnit's new book, The Mother of All Questions.

Solnit may be best know for her earlier book, Men Explain Things to Me. She didn't use the term "mansplain" in the book, but the book is generally thought of as the text which describes the phenomenon most clearly.

Solnit's new book is one of quite a few; she also does a column for Harper's. At the Berkeley event, she was interview by Jeffrey Chang, who tended to fawn too much for our taste while dropping a few high liberal names on one or two occasions.

We have no view on Solnit's overall work. We were amazed by the way the interview started. If you want to know the way we liberal will often appear to The Others, we'd suggest that you consider the way this discussion began.

Do we seem to look down on The Others? Do we seem to condescend? We'll not suggest that Solnit meant to convey such attitudes. But the analysts started to wail and moan at an early point in the colloquy.

As the discussion started, Chang said he'd last spoken to Solnit after she returned, last September, from a visit to the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota. Loud alarms began to sound as soon as Solnit said this:
CHANG (3/16/17): If I remember correctly, when you were coming back from North Dakota, you were sitting next to a Trump supporter, yeah?

SOLNIT: Yeah, this is what happens when you're from San Francisco. I've had two conversations with Trump supporters.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

You know, my friends in Nevada and New Mexico and such I think have had a few more. I was kind of fascinating about both. I don't know what you remember.
The Berkeley crowd enjoyed a long laugh when Solnit said she's spoken to just two Trump supporters. To our ear, it didn't sound like friendly laughter.

Beyond that, as you know, there's a bit of a history here:

Long ago and far away, in December 1972, New York Times film critic Pauline Kael made a famous comment. She was quoted by her own newspaper. Here's what the Times said she said:

“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

For the record, President Nixon had just won a massive re-election. The popular vote had gone exactly like this:

Nixon: 60.7 percent
McGovern: 37.5 percent

Oof! One month before, almost 61 percent of the electorate had voted for Nixon. Kael said she knew only one such person—though she could smell or otherwise sense their presence when she sat in a large darkened room.

Kael's statement became quite famous. It has long been taken as a marker of liberal hauteur and condescension. It's hard to see why such a strange statement shouldn't be taken that way.

Because Kael's statement is so famous, the analysts began to wail when Solnit headed down that same road. In fairness, she got a good laugh from the crowd—though to our ear, it didn't sound like friendly or self-deprecatory laughter.

To our ear, it didn't sound like the joke was on us Berkeley types, encased in our liberal bubble. As Solnit continued, the drift of the humor became a bit more clear:
SOLNIT (continuing directly): What I found fascinating was that both of them were voting for a man who was, you know, completely fictitious. It wasn't even official Trump propaganda. It was their imaginary ideal Trump. Their Platonic Trump.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

CHANG: So what were they—who was this Platonic Trump to them?
Last November, 63 million people voted for Trump; Solnit had spoken to two of them. On the basis of that research, the audience was enjoying a good solid laugh at their ridiculous dumbness.

Already, the analysts had lapsed into a cataonic silence. They'd seen this type of unwise, unkind condescension many times in the past.

Solnit almost seemed to be offering an anthropology of Those People. And now, as she answered Chang's question, good God!

Her hauteur became massively worse:
SOLNIT: Well, I was—on the way back from Standing Rock, I sat next to an evangelical wheat and soybean farmer, whose sons both had addiction problems, which is how you know you're in America. And uh—

The kind of agrarian junkie scene. And uh—

CHANG: Hmm.

SOLNIT: You know, and he was like—and this was right around—was it before the "grab them by the pussy?" He just thought, he thought all those sort of scandals were just sort of fabricated and that wasn't really who—he thought he was a much better man—he basically thought Trump was a lot more like him than any of the evidence would possibly suggest.
To watch the entire tape, click here. Solnit's discussion with Chang starts eight minutes in.

Credit where due! Solnit seemed to "pause for laugh" on two occasions as she described the addiction problems of the evangelical farmer's two sons, who were part of "the kind of agrarian junkie scene."

To their credit, the audience balked—and to our ear, Chang's "Hmm" almost seemed to suggest disapproval of Solnit's remark. But good grief! The analysts especially tore their hair over this rank formulation:

"I sat next to an evangelical wheat and soybean farmer, whose sons both had addiction problems, which is how you know you're in America."

"Which is how you know you're in America?" Where in the world does Solnit think that she and her followers live?

Did Solnit want to come across the way she so plainly did? We'll guess that wasn't her intention, but everyone out there "in America" would instantly sense the hauteur her words so plainly conveyed.

Solnit had spoken to one of Those People—to one of Those People out there "in America!" We liberals have been presenting ourselves to the public this way for a very long time.

The punishment wasn't over. Having described the evangelical farmer whose addicted sons live in America, Solnit started telling Chang about the second Trump voter she had encountered.

Here's where the two women met:
SOLNIT (continuing directly): And then, every four years with my amazing friend Paul Polkerson, who's organized this radical progressive coalition for the state of Nevada, I go do "get-out-the-vote." It's my sacrifice on the altar of democracy to try and ward off evil.

And you know, and I was in like this kind of like bleak suburb about ten miles north of downtown Reno doing get-out-the-vote, and this South Asian woman started really badgering me, because she was there to do get-out-the-vote for Trump. And I just wanted to figure out why she liked Trump.

And she had two things she was really committed to and that there was no arguing with her about...
Solnit encountered this second Trump voter due to her own amazing friend, with whom she was sacrificing on the altar of democracy, as she does every four years.

Solnit had encountered this woman "in like this kind of like bleak suburb about ten miles north of downtown Reno." We will guess that that "bleak suburb" is found "in America" too.

We'll guess that Solnit didn't intend to come across in the way she so plainly did. But her condescension and her hauteur were familiar and unmistakable.

What did we think as we watched that last statement? People live in that suburb, we thought. And guess what?

Those people are people too!

Solnit spoke to a Berkeley crowd. On the whole, her hour-long discussion struck us as rather light, but she plainly has fans in the area.

That said, everyone in that bleak Reno suburb would have understood what they were hearing that day:

We liberals explain things about our lessers. Last fall, those voters spoke.

Tomorrow: Sources of hauteur

For the record: For the record, Solnit's conversation with that deluded American farmer would have preceded Trump's "grab them" remark.

31 comments:

  1. Talking about lack of self-awareness: I have lived in Berkeley, and I find the city charming. However, by normal standards, Berkeley's residents are politically weird. Berkeley residents are a lot farther from the main stream than Trump voters.

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    1. Nah. It's just that most people can't afford to live in Berkeley. It's like "San Francisco Values", obviously most people would like to live there, that's why the housing prices are so exorbitant. The free-market capitalists get amnesia when the people vote with their feet the wrong way.

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    2. Comrade DinC, if by mainstream Trump voters you mean lying bastards like yourself, then I would have to agree with you.

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    3. “everyone out there "in America" would instantly sense the hauteur her words so plainly conveyed.”

      There is no “everyone” Bob--her book sales don’t approach the daily listenership of MS even in SF:

      Michael Savage is dominating on San Francisco's KSFO-AM radio in the coveted 25-54 demographic and on streaming sites, boosting the station as the "de facto talk radio leader in the market.”

      http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/michael-savage-radio-ratings-dominate/2016/06/10/id/733228/

      Solnit's book sales don’t even come close in impact to Savage’s 5-10 million daily listeners over the years.

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  2. Pauline Kale said that 45 years ago.I am not aware of anyone who has said anything like that since then.Nor was she speaking for any liberals wheb she said that.To ascribe her views to any other liberals is McCarthyism.

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    1. You must have missed the 2016 election. Every member of the media was convinced their candidate was going to win. They never talked to anyone who was not programmed and indoctrinated in the same way they are. They couldn't conceive of another possibility.

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    2. Not every member of the media...

      https://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Rage-Through-Donald-America/dp/1510714286

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    3. They never talked to anyone who was not programmed and indoctrinated in the same way they are.

      The view from wingutland. How's the oxygen level up there anon 3:03?

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    4. "Every member of the media was convinced their candidate was going to win."

      Do you mean Jill stein, or the woman they breathlessly reported used a private server which wasn't hacked?

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  3. Pauline Kael was not a film critic for The New York Times. She wrote for The New Yorker. However, an article in the NYT did quote Kael making that statement.

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    1. And the article provided the context for the quote, which followed a comment by a fellow panelist mentioning a comic book in which Nixon was eaten. Her comment was meant to be a joke and was taken as such by her audience.

      Bob never mentions that. Nor does he note that
      most of the mentions of this famous "quote" come in right wing blogs and misquote her, part of a systematic effort to say liberals are out of touch, a theme Bob Somerby has adopted with Dimmesdalian devotion.

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  4. The blame for the election isn't on the Trump voters. They lost by 3 million votes. The blame is on the Sanders and Stein suporters who first sabotaged Hillary then didn't vote. And the blame is on Comey and Russia. We might start by asking the DNC why they let Bernie run as a Democrat when he shit on the party.

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    1. why they let Bernie run as a Democrat when he shit on the party.

      We didn't know that was his intent. We expected a nice clean campaign based on substantive policy debate.

      Never expected he was going to sink to slimey personal character assassination, incessant whiney attacks on the legitimacy of the process thereby inciting his supporters to throw their vote away, and joining in the "lock her up" freak show. As someone once said, he took a shit on the party and wiped his ass on the curtains on his way out. Fuck him.

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    2. Funny, Democrats were upset Ralph Nader ran as a third party candidate in 2000. Basically, you're saying political leadership should be drawn from a narrow selection of donor approved Democratic and Republican neo-liberals while New Deal/Great Society Democrats should shut up, line up, and vote for the new Gilded Age.

      For those of us who have checked a calendar recently enough to know it's not 1992, Bernie Sanders is obviously the biggest asset the Democrats have these days.

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    3. I'll never forgive Nader for forcing Al Gore to make Joe Lieberman his running mate.

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    4. Bernie Sanders is obviously the biggest asset the Democrats have these days.

      Earth to CMike. Sanders isn't even a fucking Democrat anymore. Another lie he told during the campaign. He just used the D party for his quixotic run because he knew he had a snowball's chance in hell as an Independent, which is what he is now.

      Furthermore, as far as being an asset, the fucking nasty piece of work to this day refuses to give the DNC his donor list, something that is normally automatic.

      Good luck with your revolution.

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    5. By definition, all mooky mooksters are living in a political fantasy [LINK]:

      Senate Democrats tap Bernie Sanders to lead outreach
      WASHINGTON, November 16, 2016

      [QUOTE] Bernie Sanders will now have a Senate leadership post to help further his “political revolution.”

      The Vermont independent will be the chair of “outreach” for Senate Democrats next Congress, Senate Democratic Leader-elect Chuck Schumer of New York announced Wednesday. He will be the first independent to hold a party leadership position since the modern leadership structure began in the early 20th Century, according to the Senate Historical Office.

      “Real change doesn’t take place on Capitol Hill," Sanders said in a statement. "It takes place in grassroots America. It takes place when millions of working people, young people and senior citizens come together to demand that our government works for all of us and not just the 1 percent. When the people lead, the leaders follow." [END QUOTE]

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    6. Outreach? Gee, he doesn't seem to be reaching out to me.

      Let's see how he does, so far his track record is fairly miserable.

      Here's a wonderful example of his "outreach" from my little Commonwealth.

      Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has emerged as a leader of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing after his unsuccessful presidential campaign, has endorsed former congressman Tom Perriello in the Virginia governor’s race.

      Perriello is competing for the Democratic nomination in the June 13 primary against Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is backed by nearly every Democrat in the state legislature, congressional delegation and statewide office.

      “We need to elect progressives at every level of government if we are going to beat back the dangerous agenda of the Trump Administration and its Republican allies,” Sanders said in a statement Tuesday. “Tom is committed to fighting the rigged economy and income inequality. He was the first major statewide candidate in Virginia to run on a $15 minimum wage and the first to say two years of community college should be tuition-free.”

      Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Senate Democrats, is the first national figure to endorse Perriello. In the Super Tuesday presidential primary last year, Sanders lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton by nearly 30 points.


      Good luck with your revolution.

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    7. Outreach? Gee, he doesn't seem to be reaching out to me.

      Glad for the anecdotal evidence that Sanders isn't wasting any of his time or credibility on any of you dyed in the wool Hillary-or-pout outliers. Meanwhile, in his role as a Democratic asset:

      [LINK]:

      Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez plan multi-state Democratic unity tour

      By Miranda Green and Eric Bradner, CNN
      Updated 9:48 PM ET, Thu April 6, 2017

      [QUOTE] Sen. Bernie Sanders will join new Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez this month on a multi-state tour aimed at mending a party fractured by 2016's primary battle, people familiar with the plans tell CNN.

      The tour will begin April 17 and last roughly one week. The exact locations are still being nailed down, but the tour is expected to begin in Maine and is also likely to include stops in Florida, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Nebraska and Utah.

      Sanders' support carries major weight for Perez: the Vermont senator publicly backed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez in February's vote for a new DNC chair. That contest was viewed as a proxy battle between the liberal and centrist wings of the party representing Sanders and Hillary Clinton, respectively. [END QUOTE]

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    8. Unity tour?

      Right out the gate he decides to take on the entire Democratic party in Virginia. I guess he's upset with all the success we've been having here in VA. Maybe he wants to put us back in the red column.

      Get back to me on June 14 and let me know how Bernie did. Me and my clan will be voting in that primary.

      Good luck with your revolution.

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    9. You Hillary cultists are devoted to supporting big donor approved candidates and you think that makes you progressive. That's not exactly breaking news. Worst of luck to you all.

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    10. CMike and mm

      Why Democrats win!

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    11. Win...by 3 million votes!

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    12. How old are you CMike, 12?

      Sanders lost his bid for the Democratic Party nomination because Democratic voters overwhelmingly chose Hillary Clinton. Not because she was the "donor approved" neoliberal candidate, but because she has worked her ass off for the Democratic Party her entire adult.


      Truth of the matter was Sanders was beaten pretty soundly and was essentially acting as a spoiler by early springtime, hoping against hope that Comey would indict her. He won 1 state primary total. Everything else was caucuses.


      Whether King intended it or not, he implied that caucuses — which often require hours of participation and mean lower turnout — are representative of what would happen if a larger electorate had its say. Well, a funny thing happened in Washington on Tuesday: The state held a mail-in, beauty-contest primary — so voting was easy, but no delegates were at stake. (The Associated Press has declared Hillary Clinton the winner.) The results are still being finalized, but Clinton leads by about 6 percentage points with more than 700,000 votes counted. Sanders won the Washington caucuses, which had 230,000 participants, by 46 percentage points.

      So, turnout was much higher in the Washington primary than in the caucuses, and Clinton did much better. Something similar happened in Nebraska, where Clinton lost the early March caucuses by 14 percentage points and won the early May primary, in which no delegates were awarded, by 7 points.

      Nebraska and Washington are part of a pattern. As Sanders fans claim that the Democratic primary system is rigged against their candidate and that Sanders wins when turnout is higher, they fail to point out that Sanders has benefited tremendously from low-turnout caucuses. Indeed, if all the caucuses were primaries, Clinton would be winning the Democratic nomination by an even wider margin than she is now.


      https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-system-isnt-rigged-against-sanders/


      You have a very unhealthy grasp of American politics. You will not win over Clinton supporters by insulting them every chance you get.

      Good luck with your revolution.

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    13. When the people lead the leaders follow?
      Naaaah! The "leaders" duck out the back door of their town hall meetings, or cancel them altogether.

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  5. I'm a solidly Liberal (san franciscan dwelling) person. Voted for sanders... then clinton. Solnit is the WORST! Somerby's instincts about her are spot on.

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  6. I've gotta say I think the silliest scapegoat that the elite are trying to sell is "the Russians." The release of the DNC and Podesta emails was equivalent to normal Republican ratfcuking, and from where I sit it didn't really have nearly as much effect as the daily NYT/WaPo "her emails." Come on people, didn't you notice how that chipped away for months? And then the Comey TWO letters to congress, one of them just two days before election day -- or was it the day before? I have to think the people and consultants who have control of the Democratic Party now really, really regard the American people with contempt, trying to sell this outdated dog food. These people have been running the party since Bill Clinton and have been in complete control since Rahm Emanuel got Obama to put Tim Kaine in charge of the DNC. They need to have their rice bowls broken. Most of them should go bankrupt. 33 fcking states are now under Republican control, 17 of them with veto-proof majorities. 33 Republican governors. Heckuva job, Debbie/Steve/Tim/Chuck. And it's all because those darned Russians.

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    1. Just wait. You'll see that "the Russians" issue is a lot more serious than you think. There's a reason the US intelligence services set up a joint investigation to address the massive hacking, interference, propaganda, etc. "Silliest"? Tell that to Mr. Comey and the FBI.

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