FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2020
Does Eddie Glaude want to know?: We were struck by something Eddie Glaude said on cable TV last night. This is the way it went down:
For the second straight night, Lawrence O'Donnell had started his show by misexplaining "margin of error."
In fairness, could any journalist explain margin of error? We would be extremely surprised if even one journalist could.
At any rate, Lawrence started with margin of error for the second consecutive night. A bit later, he discussed the way people are literally risking their lives when they attend a Trump rally. He vastly overplayed the heat stroke element, but he mentioned the Covid risk too.
That said, why do people take the risk of attending those jam-packed, mask-free rallies? We think that's a very good question. But where would you go to find out?
When Lawrence threw to Glaude, Glaude mentioned "the obvious callous disregard that Donald Trump has for the people who support him." Then, he offered a peroration about Trump's supporters which struck us as revealing:
GLAUDE (10/29/20): I'm also interested from the other side, that's the people who attend these rallies. The folk who see, in some ways, the callous disregard. The folk who make a choice to risk their lives to attend these super-spreader events.I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the source of the attraction. It's not just simply charismatic authority. It's not just simply charismatic power, because I don't read Donald Trump as a charismatic figure.There is something that he represents. He's an avatar for something that in some ways inspires—that's the wrong verb—that leads these folk to risk their lives, and I think we need to ask ourselves the question, "What is that?" Because it's the question that takes us to the subsequent question:Why do we still see a certain number, a large number, of Americans still supporting this guy after the record of four years? That's the question that's really deep for us to answer, particularly come November 4.LAWRENCE: Professor Eddie Glaude—GLAUDE: November 3! Not November 4.
We'll bite! Why do so many people still support Donald J. Trump?
We agree with Glaude on one major point—we think that's an important question for our team to try to answer. But we think the way Glaude approaches this question unmasks our own self-impressed tribe.
Glaude starts by making an unsupported assumption about Trump supporters. He seems to say that they are able to see Trump's "callous disregard" for their lives, but agree to risk their lives by attending his rallies anyway.
We know of no reason to think that's true. Glaude is already off track.
Glaude thinks Trump is displaying a callous disregard for his supporters' lives. We agree with him on that point.
But do Trump's supporters think they're risking their lives by attending those rallies? We will guess that they generally don't, but you'd pretty much have to ask them, and very few journalists have.
(Some of them may believe that the pandemic is a hoax. Explanations may continue from there. Like you, we don't know what they'd say.)
Glaude then moved to a larger question—Why do these people still support Trump? This time, as he continued, he drew back the mask from himself!
Why do so many people still support Trump? It's an important question, but how odd:
Glaude described it as a question we have to ask ourselves!
"No, Eddie!" the analysts screamed at that point. You'd actually have to ask them! But professors like Glaude may not be inclined to lower themselves in such ways.
We'd say that Glaude's condescension was visible all though his oration. Consider:
Because he doesn't think that Trump's charismatic, that means Trump's supporters can't! Moments later, the professor seemed to correct himself for suggesting that Trump could possibly "inspire" his supporters, though that may not be what he meant.
Sad! Meanwhile, don't worry—Trump supporters have been hearing that sort of thing since the dawn of time. For some of them, Trump is an inspiring figure precisely because he refuses to defer to elite figures like Lawrence and Glaude!
Such figures have always been with us. Here's sacred Thoreau, in 1854, making one of the most famous declarations in our cultural history, while perhaps looking down his nose a tiny tad:
THOREAU: Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests?...The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.
In such time-honored passages, "the mass of men" might possibly hear a strain of condescension. Many years later, along comes Glaude—and it doesn't seem to occur to him that he might have to ask "the mass of men" how they understand the world.
Glaude says we progressives "need to ask ourselves" why these folk love Trump. When we suggest that he should ask the Trump supporters themselves, are we merely playing games with a meaningless turn of phrase?
On balance, we'll guess that we aren't. Once again, a bit of a guess:
Trump supporters are inspired by Trump precisely because it seems to them that he stands up to this tired old guff!