We seem to be blind to this fact: What did we see on our autumn vacation? To the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, let's start with an irony which was scattered through Saturday's New York Times.
On the op-ed page, Bret Stephens gloomily said that American liberalism had "pierced its own tongue" (had shot itself in the foot) as November's elections approach.
Stephens, a conservative NeverTrumper, has been rooting for a blue tidal wave as a reproach to Trump. In his column, he listed various ways in which, or so he said, American liberalism has recently made that outcome less likely.
He didn't skip the Kavanaugh hearings. Stephens included these remarks (about "American liberalism"):
STEPHENS (10/13/18): It [shot itself in the foot] when The New Yorker violated normal journalistic standards by reporting Deborah Ramirez’s uncorroborated allegation against Kavanaugh, and much of the rest of the media gave credence to Julie Swetnick’s lurid one. The pile-on wound up doing more to stiffen Republican spines against an apparent witch hunt than it did to weaken their resolve in the face of Blasey’s powerful accusation.Stephens had a decent point about the treatment of the Ramirez and Swetnick claims. That said, the denunciation of all those "gender traitors" takes us to the front page of that same day's Times, where Matt Flegenheimer offered a somewhat peculiar analysis piece.
It [shot itself in the foot] when Susan Collins and other female Republicans who supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation were denounced as “gender traitors” in an eye-opening op-ed in this newspaper. Approximately 30 million women voted for Trump in 2016, and many of them (along with at least a few Clinton supporters) surely felt just as Collins did. Are they all “traitors,” too?
According to Flegenheimer, many liberals are wondering if we've been "going high" too often and too long. ("When they go low, we go high," Michelle Obama famously said and prescribed.)
Have we liberals been "going high" too long? It amazed us to think that anyone really believes that we've actually "gone high" at all.
Consider a piece from the next day's Sunday Review. After that, we'll return to Saturday's Times.
On the front page of the Sunday Review, the Times' editor on gender issues, Susan Chira, examined a major mystery. How in the world could any woman ever have voted for Donald J. Trump? How could women have sided with the Kavanaugh nomination?
How could any woman have taken these stances? As she started, Chira seemed to strike a sensible pose. She too cited the recent claim about "gender traitors:":
CHIRA (10/14/18): What are those women thinking?"Women don’t act as one," Chira sensibly noted. She then struck another sensible pose. In effect, she wondered why so many of us clueless liberals are still surprised by this blindingly obvious fact.
The ones who cheered President Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi, tweeted #HimToo in support of their sons who might one day be, in their eyes, unfairly accused of assault?
On the left, they’re being reviled as gender traitors, depicted as betraying the sisterhood and acting against their own best interests. The Democrats’ hope for a blue wave rests on female voters coming out to register their displeasure with the president’s party. Women will be acting as a political force.
But women don’t automatically ally with other women, as Senator Susan Collins’s vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court demonstrated. Sisterhood doesn’t override partisanship or deeply held moral views. Victims of sexual harassment didn’t all believe Christine Blasey Ford. Women don’t act as one.
The question is why so many people are still surprised that they don’t, even after the election of 2016.
What makes us liberals so clueless? Whatever the answer may be, we thought of Flegenheimer's front page report as Chira turned to the associate professors to explain the evil and the craziness of The Others—of the women who refuse to react and vote in the ways we liberals are nice enough to prescribe.
Have we liberals been going too high all these years? When Chira turned to Associate Professor Cassese, a flood of name-calling ensued, with Cassese and Associate Professor Barnes giving us several new bombs to drop on the heads of our neighbors.
Apparently, it's no longer enough to denounce The Others, including Other women, as mere "sexists." Thanks to the high-minded work of the associate professors, we now understand that some of these women are "benevolent sexists" while most are "hostile sexists."
That said, everyone has to be some kind of sexist! It's one of the ways we go high!
(Amusingly, Chira writes this at one point: "No one is saying that being a Republican woman means being a sexist." She doesn't seem to realize that that is precisely the impression that she, and her associate professors, are conveying in her piece.)
We liberals! Even as we imagine ourselves going high, we love to drop our many bombs on the heads of our various neighbors. We've been doing it for a very long time. Consider the Loudon Wainwright piece which appeared in Saturday's New York Times.
At one time, Wainwright was married to the late Kate McGarrigle. In our view, she and her sister, Anna McGarrigle, performed as the most wickedly funny feminist writers of all time.
They also performed as lovers of life and of living things. As we read Saturday's Times, we were struck by one selection in Wainwright's list of his "top ten protest songs:"
WAINWRIGHT (10/13/18): “Little Boxes:" In 1963, Pete Seeger had a folk hit with this Malvina Reynolds composition. It’s nursery-rhyme-like melody offers a tinkly condemnation of what used to be called middle-class conformity. Tom Lehrer considered it “the most sanctimonious song ever written,” but I like it. Kate and Anna McGarrigle recorded a fine French version, “Petites Boîtes,” in 2001.Say it isn't so! Our favorite duo recorded Little Boxes?
Little Boxes wasn't a classic "protest song." That said, it was, and is, a classic "liberal superiority" song.
It satirized an every-house-the-same housing development in Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco. Rather quickly, the lyrics offer this uplifting assessment of our friends and neighbors:
Little boxes on the hillside,Those Others! They were all made out of ticky-tacky and they all looked just the same!
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.
This song was written in 1962. Already, we liberals were "going high" through popular lyrics like these.
True story! Two years earlier, at the age of 12, we had stayed in one of those little, fog-smothered houses in Daly City with our aunt and uncle as our family looked for a house after moving to California.
Were our aunt and our uncle, and our younger cousin, all made out of ticky-tacky too? In fairness, they hadn't gone to the university, so maybe they weren't included in this very typical high liberal "insult song."
(Just a guess. There weren't a lot of doctors, lawyers and business executives living in that modest, fog-smothered development. Those little boxes were very small. Did we mention that they were fog-smothered?)
We liberals! We've been insulting our lessers, The Others, for a very long time (and in an assortment of ways). But to the tune of The Baby Elephant Walk, we rational animals Over Here seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that we routinely do this.
We can see the dumb things The Others do. We can't seem to see the things we frequently do Over Here.
That said, The Others are able to hear the various things we say! To the tune of The Rational Animal Walk, this is one of the obvious ways we've managed to create our current debased situation.
What did we do on our autumn vacation? We also listened to NPR's Krista Tippett, whose sensibility we've admired for years.
Tippett's new episode was called Relationship Across Rupture. To the tune of The Potentially Educable Liberal Walk, let's start there tomorrow.
Also this: Wainwright wrote The Swimming Song. The McGarrigles perform it here.