THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2022
The possible role of our frameworks: Our endless Election Day is over, and Senator Warnock won.
He won re-election by something like 3.5 points. In this morning's New York Times, Gail Collins ponders the meaning of that somewhat narrow victory margin:
COLLINS (12/8/22): As the sun sinks over Georgia, we bid adieu to the Senate runoff election that seems to have been contested since the beginning of time.
Yes, dinosaurs once ruled the earth and Senate candidate Herschel Walker probably has a theory about how they could be killed by a werewolf. Or maybe a vampire.
This certainly was a race to remember. But now it’s over; Georgia very rightly decided that Senator Raphael Warnock, an estimable candidate, was better for the job than a guy who couldn’t seem to be clear about how many children he’d fathered or abortions he’d paid for.
But … Wait! Wait! Warnock got only a little more than 51 percent of the vote. That means more than 1.7 million Georgians thought it’d be a better plan to have a senator whose theory on global warming is: “Don’t we have enough trees?”
"Let’s face it," Collins says a bit later. "Warnock was running against one of the worst candidates in modern American history."
In our view, Collins may have been understating that point. Judged by any conventional standard, it's possible that Candidate Walker was the worst major-party nominee in modern Senate history.
Senator Warnock won by three points. Under the circumstances, that can seem like a weirdly narrow victory margin, as Collins notes.
At any rate, there is Collins, wondering about the 1.7 million Georgians who went out and voted for Walker. As to who those people are, Caroline Randall Williams was willing to tell us, or at least to suggest an answer, in a new essay for The Atlantic.
She offers a possible framework of understanding. Her presentation starts like this:
WILLIAMS (12/7/22): I watched the film version of Friday Night Lights almost obsessively during my senior year of high school. My father had just died. He was a diplomat, a businessman, and the general counsel of the U.S. Army, and he loved conservative optics and southern spaces and all manner of iconic Americana, for good or ill. So the movie connected me to him, or something—offered me catharsis, or something. The movie immersed me in all of the hard, strange things about the South, the questions about achievement and race and class and excellence and objectification, and what it can mean to lose or win or talk to God about any of it.
But there was one scene I hated to watch.
Quickly, a bit of background. Williams' father was Avon Williams III, a highly accomplished black conservative who died at the age of 45 after a severe asthma attack.
Williams herself, a high school student at the time, proceeded to watch the film version of Friday Night Lights "almost obsessively." As she continues, she describes that one scene, the scene she (understandably) hated to watch:
WILLIAMS (continuing directly): Coach Gaines is getting ready for the start of the season, and attending a booster-club dinner with a table of wealthy white donors who presumably love God and football and Texas and not a whole lot else. It’s a subtle scene, the dinner party spliced with distracting clips of the players at a raucous high-school party. A woman talks almost salaciously about the physicality of the young men she saw on the field during practice: “What I saw was speed out there, but where’s the beef, Coach? I saw me some small boys.” The master’s wife, perusing the auction block.
That's the background to the scene Williams (understandably) hated to see. (The woman's conduct gets worse from there.) A certain framework of understanding may already be appearing in Williams' essay at this point.
We can't find video of that scene at YouTube, or anywhere else. For that reason, we can't say whether we agree that the woman in question was speaking "almost salaciously" about those high school football players when she said those things to Coach Gaines.
We can say that this was a fictional woman in a fictional scene, one part of a fictional movie. When Williams describes that fictional scene, she describes the salacious fictional woman as "the master’s wife, perusing the auction block."
Who knows? That may be the way that fictional woman was actually meant to be seen! At any rate, Williams continues her account of that scene—but at least for today, we'll leave her account right there.
We'll even skip her apparent explanation of (all? most of? some of?) those Walker votes, along with her account of the way she feels when she observes such elections.
Concerning Williams herself, we'll offer some basic background.
Williams is a Harvard graduate (class of 2010). Before attending Harvard, she prepped at St. Paul's.
Her mother, the writer Alice Randall, is also a Harvard graduate (class of 1981.) As noted, her father, a Williams graduate, was general counsel of the U.S. Army when he suddenly died.
As for Williams herself, she's a writer in residence at Vanderbilt. Her mother is a writer in residence at Vanderbilt too.
Earlier in her career, her mother wrote a significant number of country music hits as part of the Nashville music scene. She's also the author of six novels, one of which was included in the Washington Post's listings for "Best fiction of 2004."
In connection with her Atlantic essay, Randall Williams was interviewed last night by Lawrence O'Donnell. One hour earlier, her essay had been discussed and praised on Alex Wagner Tonight.
In our view, Williams' essay advances a certain framework of understanding. As applied by Williams in her essay, that framework may or may not seem to make perfect sense in at least several ways.
That said, it's a framework which persistently comes to us blue tribe members, live and direct from our floundering tribe's political and "journalistic" elite.
Is it possible that this framework helps generate the large number of votes which went to history's all-time worst nominee? Is it possible that this framework may lead our tribe to future defeats, if Donald J. Trump ever stops directing his party to nominate such deeply flawed major candidates?
You will never see such questions "interrogated" from within our own blue tribe. Our elites have handed us a basic framework of understanding, one which we see our tribal elites express again and again.
Stating the obvious, Caroline Randall Williams is a good, decent person. She became a major star on O'Donnell's show after an earlier guest essay in the New York Times.
Williams is a good, decent person—but could it be that the framework she expresses in her Atlantic essay isn't necessarily accurate and isn't especially helpful?
For the record, we aren't saying that Williams' reactions to public events are somehow morally "wrong." We're asking if it's obvious that they're accurate and helpful.
You will never see such questions examined by our currently underwhelming tribal journalistic elite. People like Collins will note the oddness of Senator Warnock's narrow victory margin, but only one framework will be employed as our tribunes explain such events.
Is it possible that our mandated tribal frameworks aren't necessarily accurate and aren't especially helpful? Tomorrow, we'll return to the greatest film of all time, but also to Finnegans Wake.
Tomorrow: "Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk," our greatest writer once wrote.