SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2022
But also, what David Brooks said: For our money, yesterday morning's New York Times offered two clear-eyed looks at the lay of the land.
We start with Peter Baker's essay concerning the political state of play regarding Donald J. Trump.
The January 6 committee has made its case, Baker said. But with respect to public opinion, the needle hasn't moved.
BAKER (10/14/22): If the goal was to essentially put former President Donald J. Trump on trial, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol succeeded in presenting a powerful case full of damning testimony mainly from the defendant’s own advisers, allies and even relatives.
But as the panel wrapped up what was likely the last of its evidentiary hearings on Thursday, it was not at all clear that it had persuaded the jury. Americans who already blamed the rampage on Mr. Trump came away from four months of sensational and at times jaw-dropping hearings with more evidence for their belief, while those who started out in his camp largely remained there.
The relatively little movement in public opinion since the hearings opened in June, at least as measured by an array of polls, underscored the calcification of American politics in recent years. Many voters have been locked into their viewpoints, seemingly immune to contrary information.
Baker went on to detail a key fact: Trump's approval ratings have been unchanged over the course of the committee's nine hearings. Politically, nothing has changed!
Politically, there's a reason for that. Politically, we're now two separate nations. The blue nation listened to the committee's work and tended to believe what it heard. The red tribe tuned it out.
We're now two separate nations! In his opinion column, David Brooks diagnosed a type of imperfect perceptual framework to which, or so he said, our own anti-Trump tribe is prone.
Headline included, his column started like this:
This Is What Happens When Race Is Everything
Besides being offended by the racist comments made by members of the Los Angeles City Council—as so many people were—I was also struck by the underlying worldview revealed during their leaked conversation.
Council President Nury Martinez—who has since resigned from the Council—along with two colleagues and a labor ally talked about a range of subjects, including redistricting, but two assumptions undergirded much of what they said. Their first assumption was that America is divided into monolithic racial blocs. The world they take for granted is not a world of persons; it’s a world of rigid racial categories.
For ourselves, we weren't "offended" by the council members' amazingly low-grade comments. Nor would we start by describing those comments as "racist," a term which has lost almost all meaning through massive overuse.
We think the culture of being offended—perhaps, of performing the state of being offended—has been extended way too far within our failing blue tribe.
As to how we'd describe the council members' comments, we'd describe them in an array of ways. But we'd probably start with "human, all too human," then proceed to "depressingly stupid, destructive and dumb."
In Brooks' view, the racial / ethnic insults trafficked by the council members emerge from a part of blue tribe culture we ourselves have mentioned in the past.
In our view, the insults emerge from the world in which our own blue tribe has stopped stressing the fact that we humans are all the same. They emerge from a world in which we have instead adopted a view in which different "racial" and ethnic groups are fundamentally different—are different all the way down.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our nation's two tribes aren't especially sharp. The red tribe reeks with ludicrous amounts of false and unfounded belief. Our own blue tribe struggles along with the culture of persistent moral accusation—and the culture of moral performance.
We also struggle with a fundamental change in liberal / progressive outlook. We liberals used to stress the basic idea that We Humans Are All The Same.
We now stress Primal Difference.
The red tribe has stopped listening to our blue tribe's formulaic denunciations. Meanwhile, our blue tribe has established a prerequisite for tribal membership—we must never consider the possibility that we ourselves are falling short in some way.
Back to Baker and Brooks! As we pondered their offerings, weak and weary, we read the transcript of Ezra Klein's interview with Rachel Maddow. We view Klein and Maddow as very different types of people. But we were struck, reading the transcript, by a type of shared outlook.
Our culture reeks with ludicrous false and unfounded claims made by people in Maddow's profession. That said, you'd never know that this problem exists as you read Klein and Maddow's long discussion of the role now played by cable news, with Tucker Carlson receiving particular mention.
Maddow's new podcast was dropped this past week. We were struck, but not surprised, by the way the podcast starts.
Human nature is taking our nation apart. As Carlotta Valdes has frequently said, human nature has executed this task all through the course of human history.
Watching Maddow discussing her podcast on MSNBC last week, a certain thought popped into our heads:
For people being paid $30 million per year by their corporate owners, life can still be amazingly good!
We assume that Maddow's a good, decent person. We'd be amazed to learn that she isn't.
We think her judgment, and that of our tribe, can frequently be a bit poor.
Starting Monday: Performance