TEABAGGED: In praise of reductionist solitarism!


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 Voter
People voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes. They don’t deserve your empathy.
There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter! What could be simpler than that?

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 him
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...
Not people die but worlds die in them, whom we knew as faulty.


  1. This should not be difficult. 1) Don't continually deny that racism exists, or that it is very likely involved in specific statements, policies or acts; but 2) Do not erect a partisan wall between racists and non-racists - do not claim that your side is the only human tribe and the other is irredeemable. Specifically, 3) Think of ways that people with a common economic interest - that is the 99% - could be united on economic grounds so that racism is de-emphasized.

    1. Did you mean to say "assert" instead of "deny"?

      I would say that the legendary "99%" can NOT be united. (Ha, and am just as defeatist as Pierce) because there is too wide of a gulf between somebody who makes $200,000 a year and somebody who makes $20,000 a year.

      Take the Bush tax cuts (please). Most of those tax cuts went to the 99%. The legendary 1% only got 26% of them and the 99% got 74% of them.

      Ha ha, a huge victory for OUR side. Suck on it 1%!!

      Of course, the bottom 60% only got 18%, but let's not divide the 99% or something. That might be class warfare.

      Myself I would represent the bottom 70%. That is a substantial majority. Our current national politics has Republicans representing the top 5% and Democrats representing the next 15% and both of them pretending to represent the bottom 80%.

      Hard for me to win over a Trump voter by telling them "Trump is not going to represent you" when they can respond with the simple truth "Hillary isn't either".

  2. I am somewhat surprised by the defeatism? or apathy? of Pierce. He writes that Trump "who absolutely can do nothing about any of the problems that brought these people to him."

    Trump CAN do NOTHING. When Pierce says that, he seems to be saying that NOBODY can do anything to help working class Americans.

    I think that is interesting.

    I would say that Trump WON'T and not that he CAN'T. Trump and the Republican Congress will pretend to help working people with their standard "solution" to every problem - tax cuts for the rich.

    The truth is that probably people like Pierce WON'T either. He doesn't care about the problems of all those racist white people, a bunch of old fools longing for the old glory days that can never come back (in Pierce's eyes). Instead of even trying to help them, what Pierce seems to want, what the left seems to want, is for them to accept the "inevitable" changes to their world.

    To accept the immigrants and the Muslims and the non-cis people (if they can even find six of them in all of Maine, clearly making sure that those six gain full acceptance is far more important to liberal writers than any of the problems of those millions of white people in Maine.)

    Where would people get the impression that the left does not care about the working class? Maybe it comes from the reaction to Trump's victory. Things like my own white Christian male teacher (who is over sixty) posted on Facebook - that because Trump won we (on the left) are worried about what is going to happen to anybody who is NOT a cis straight white Christian male.

    Maybe non-immigrant was squeezed in there too, but of course, we are ALL immigrants to the left. A member of the DAR is just as much an immigrant, I guess, as somebody who came here illegally last week.

    See the list of groups and concerns that come ahead of the working class? Well, I guess the working class can't be helped anyway.

  3. "There's no such thing as a good Trump voter"

    Since he began his campaign talking about "Mexican rapists," I agree with the statement above.

    1. You know there actually have been Mexicans who have raped.


    2. And corporate executives who have pillaged.
      Where's their shit sandwich?

  4. I heard two "Democrats" on NPR say they voted for Trump and I could get the sense they know Trump is not going to PARDON DON BLANKENSHIP and get him opening up coal mines and avoiding regulations. They were asked how long Trump had to "give them the goods" and they said not long, well they don't know... he has 4 years. Then one of the guys had to leave because his back! started hurting. We put too much power in the hands of Obama and Trump and even George W. Bush along with CHE-knee. When you get down to it, you have to ask, where do these people people get their ideas about who they want as leaders. Rach? Rush? Hannity? Matthews? There is never one specific problem... Nixon and Reagan are DEAD and even if Hillary had gotten those needed votes in MI PA and WI, yes, Trump is a disaster with all the stuff coming out of the transition but how much "better off" would we be? Seems to me, both sides DO IT, fail upward, so to speak.

  5. I dunno. Something changed this time round - a disturbance in the force. I live in Seattle and, unlike most of my tribe, I've had a number of conservative friends, a few on this side of the Cascades and several on the conservative eastern side - which has long been plastered with Trump signs and "Hillary for Jail" posters.
    We got along pretty well through the Bush and Obama years, even as our politics were pretty widely divergent - always with, however, some basic tone of respectful disagreement.
    Just before this election, however, I drove east to visit some farmer friends, expecting the same attitudes to prevail. But the change in atmosphere was palpable - we didn't talk politics, a topic we've avoided in the past around election-time, but when I made my usual invitation to these long-time pals to pay me a visit in Seattle when they came across the mountains, the response shocked me.
    "Ain't gonna happen," muttered one friend - someone I'd supported and counseled through the untimely death of his wife. "I *hate* everyone in that place. Horrible people."
    I was a little dumbfounded. "Everyone?" I asked with a self-effacing grin.
    "Can't stand 'em," he affirmed, quite seriously. "I'm never going back over if I can help it - too many damn liberals."
    His visceral anger surprised me - something I'd never seen before - and I've discovered that several Trump supporters whom I'd counted as friends have distanced themselves from me; and these are folks whom I avoid *any* serious political discussion so as not to offend.
    Based on my personal experience, there is a level of anger and rage on the right that exceeds anything I've ever seen before; and I'd suggest to Sommerby that, at least right now, it's pretty pointless to hearken to and endure that outpouring of rage.

  6. Bob, this is a very difficult issue,

    One thing is why should liberals not be condescending? Because it is smart politically or because it makes us better human beings?

    I have a problem with the idea that being condescending is bad politically. I have spent my entire 55 years in a conservative Christian family, going to fundamentalist churches. And they are a million times more condescending than liberals ever are. To listen to the constant degradation of liberal thinking is sickening. Trump voters hate liberals, conservative churches preach that liberals are tools of Satan. Why don't you advise them to emphasize with us?

    Sure, we should treat fellow humans with respect and not sink to their level, but that ain't gonna help get them to vote for the politicians who might do them some good.

  7. To add further, Christian media and pastors have brainwashed people into a cultural segment that hates anything progressive ( as they define it). There is nothing rational about it. I live in a wealthy NJ suburb filled with doctors and lawyers and bankers, and they are smart people who earn lots of money, but their cultural views are abhorrent. They don't believe in equality because they believe the bible is literally true. How do you reason with that?

    1. Tell 'em the truth, "There is no God, and there never was."
      They can take-up their hurt feelings with those who eschew political correctness.