It’s called “saving the planet,” you self-made ignoramus.
You don’t believe me? OK, name another agenda they could possibly have. Money? Nope — they could go make more money selling out their credentials and working for corporations. Power? Ha.
The purpose of this post isn’t to convince you that Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to be a judge (let alone a Supreme Court justice) or that he attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford and has a pattern of sexual harassment. The last of these points hasn’t been investigated, which is unacceptable. The Ford allegation is extremely credible but can never be proved beyond a reasonable doubt — not that this is the standard for a Supreme Court job interview. His lack of fitness to be a judge seems clear to maybe 100-200 million people.
Some of the stuff I’m posting here may sway you on Kavanaugh’s nomination. But again, I have an even larger point in mind here.
Good people are living in fear.
I’m not talking about the fear that your high school boasting about threesomes and voracious drinking may be exposed. That can be addressed.
I’m talking about the fear that people who come forward with sexual assault accusations will be harassed to the point of having to leave their homes.
I’m talking about the fear that women will have to re-live their traumas over and over.
And I’m talking about the fear that the country is and will remain in the hands of liars and bullies who are basing their political positions on simple hatred of people who do not deserve it.
I grew up with a deep suspicion of Northern elite liberals. If you harbor that suspicion today, I understand. Such beliefs run deep in the South, where I grew up.
But when you get out and expand your social circles, either by moving farther north or just talking with people on Facebook (not Twitter, where everything is a slogan and people try to pounce on anything out of context), you see that these are good people. They’re hard-working. They’re driven by compassion for their fellow human beings.
A responsible conservative movement would simply serve as a bulwark against excess and fountain of alternative ideas. We need a diversity of honest voices. We haven’t had that in decades. Not since Newt Gingrich led the 1994 revolution based on the false notion that the economy was still in recession. (The reality: The Federal Reserve was desperately trying to hit the brakes.) This two-minute clip (keep watching to the final minute) is a perfect example of Gingrich’s approach to facts. (“Statistics may theoretically be right.”) He doesn’t believe in them. He’d rather reinforce people’s feelings, even if they’re wrong. (“As a political candidate, I’ll go with what people feel.”)
It’s no longer about truth. It’s feelings.
And to what end?
The Kavanaugh nomination isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a horrifying example of several disturbing trends.
Rule of the bully
Kavanaugh’s testimony was simple bullying. Nothing more. When asked about his drinking habits, an important line of questioning because (A) it establishes whether he could be completely out of mind and capable of sexual assault and (B) it demonstrates his capacity for lying, he either deflected (“I studied hard, I got into Yale (as a legacy, by the way), etc.”) or went on the attack (“I don’t know — have you?”)
And this behavior is simply a reflection of the president, who managed to turn the term “fake news” (which referred to stuff that was literally made up by Internet trolls, some but not all from Russia) into a pejorative for the media. You may not trust the media — in another rant, I may explain why you should — but where they err, it is indeed error, not fabrication. It’s also a president who has mocked a disabled reporter, cheered a politician who physically assaulted a reporter, talked about grabbing women by the p—-, and spends a remarkable amount of his presidency going to hate-mongering rallies as if he’s still running for president — which, indeed, is all he ever wanted to do.
It’s basically “Why don’t you stop hitting yourself?” on a national stage, with the presidency and the Supreme Court in the hands of people who don’t regret their high school misbehavior but either deny it or revel in it.
The death of truth
See Gingrich above.
See the denial of climate change.
And no, it’s not all Republicans. See the anti-vaccine movement, which has some right-wing adherents but certainly isn’t limited to the right. See my compilation of bullshit, some of it isn’t political. There’s a lot of crap in soccer, which simply underscores the point. And I’ve written before about how the trendy-lefty — to borrow my libertarian-ish father’s term — academic concept of postmodernism actually fed today’s truth-impaired reality.
Sure, politicians lie. They spin. Bill Clinton wagged his finger and said he didn’t have relations with Monica Lewinsky. (As we’ll see, that’s hardly the equivalent of Brett Kavanaugh, but “whataboutism” and false equivalents are part and parcel of dishonesty.)
But today, we’re seeing Trump say things that could be so easily refuted that you may wonder why he said them. The answer is that none of his “base” cares if he’s lying.
And now we’re seeing it with a Supreme Court nominee. Take a look.
Women are living in fear
The majority of sexual crimes don’t get reported. If you don’t know someone who has been sexually assaulted and is finding this period of American history terrifying, you need to expand your social circles.
This hearing just exemplifies the problem. It’s why people like Ford don’t report right away. This may be news to Lindsey Graham (or it might not be and he’s simply being dishonest), but it shouldn’t be news to you.
So we’re living in a world in which a guy can grope, jump on or even attempt to rape a woman — and the woman will not be taken seriously when she reports it.
You can’t be happy about this.
To some, this is all a means to an end. They want Roe v Wade overturned.
But we know what’ll happen. First of all, Roe might not be overturned at all. Second of all, if it is, the law will vary by state. Even IF there’s a federal law, which won’t happen because lawmakers wouldn’t dare alienate that many women (we think), Trump and his buddies can just fly their “in trouble” mistresses to another country and take care of the problem.
This isn’t about abortion. It’s about shame.
If you want to work against abortion, work for Plan B’s availability. Work for better child care so women won’t destroy their lives and bring children into a life in which they have little prospects.
So if you still support Kavanaugh …
I may not understand why. Perhaps you can explain one day. And maybe you can tell me why this needs to be rushed by the same party that wouldn’t even discuss Merrick Garland.
But I hope you understand why people are shaking with rage and sorrow. Good people who deserve better.
And I hope you understand that this isn’t a team sport. This isn’t about revenge for “liberals” — in fact, “liberals” are under attack from a new wave of leftists who are sick of Democrats putting up with utter nonsense. The Democratic Party will splinter in the next few years. Ideally, a new centrist party would spring up, giving the “reasonable” Republicans a place to unite with Democrats who can’t go as far left as younger voters want. We’ll have productive discussions between the “reasonable” people and the progressives — who raise good points of their own.
And then we’ll overcome the bullies at last. I hope you’ll reflect on what I’ve said here and join us, no matter what you think of what should happen over the next week.
Dear Mr. Edsall,
Please forgive me if the salutation is too formal. I was brought up in the South to say “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am,” and while I have modernized a bit depending on context, I felt it appropriate in this case to lead with traditional manners.
I should say at the outset that I’ve never understood what a “liberal” is, particularly in U.S. politics in my lifetime. To paraphrase Rebecca West, I only know that people call me a “liberal” when I express sentiments that differentiate the less fortunate from doormats or women from prostitutes. I keep hearing that the Democratic Party is going farther and farther “left,” but surely that’s a function of the old conservative “Dixiecrats” finally abandoning a party label that hadn’t made sense since Reconstruction. Social programs that the “conservatives” readily accept in Europe would be considered “socialist” here.
Your piece is frankly a confusing read. At the outset, it appears that “liberals” fail to understand their own role in creating Trumpist populism. Then it veers into a Karen Stenner’s argument about tolerance and inevitable conflict, which frankly struck me as a bit nihilistic. Next up was Eric Schnurer suggesting the “left” is ravaging the manufacturing industry, which I’d think most relatively objective economists would point out is a by-product of a rapidly changing global economy in which technology has revved up productivity. See the frightening headline “Robots Could Steal 40% of U.S. Jobs by 2030.”
The underlying assumption here is that “liberals” clustered in “blue” states lack the capacity or the will to understand Middle America’s concerns. You could probably come up with some evidence of that, sure. I’ve often joked that The Washington Post views everything south and west of the Potomac, even those of us just a few miles away, as a giant experiment in anthropology.
But these “liberals” have made a considerable effort to understand what’s going on, before and especially after last year’s election. Much of that effort has bordered on self-flagellation.
Why? Well, to paraphrase another Southern centrist now labeled “liberal”: “It’s the empathy, stupid.”
It’s also empathy based on a long-term view. You mention “Republican strengths” in your second paragraph, and you include: evisceration of key regulatory policies, economic growth, the Dow Jones, the unemployment rate and the new tax plan.
Unfortunately, “liberals” understand that any gain from all of these things is short-lived. Without those regulatory policies, climate change will continue unabated, eventually plunging coastlines underwater. The tax plan forces graduate students to include their tuition waivers as income, effectively reducing access to postgraduate education that would drive future economic growth as the world automates.
It’s too facile to dismiss these concerns as elitist East Coast-ism. If you’ve spent any time in the blue states and cities, you know that a lot of us are from somewhere else. I’m from the South, born and raised to be suspicious of “Yankees” and social programs. I went to summer camp and learned muscular Christianity, in which we would all grow to be good little Christians by beating each other up in preparation for the real world.
As I’ve grown older and moved northward, I’ve realized a few things. First of all, no matter how hard we work, we can’t predict the future and guarantee our financial success. I went into journalism, an industry that has sharply declined thanks to the Internet siphoning away readership and ad dollars. Others went into manufacturing, where their jobs have been lost to automation.
I’ve also realized that these “Yankees” ain’t such bad people. Living in a cold city fosters a mutually reliant community — in short, a sense that we all have to pull together to face whatever difficulty is in front of us. They’re also not ignorant about the rest of the country, in part because many of us are from the rest of the country. I’m not the only Southerner in Northern Virginia. Everybody here is from somewhere else.
And the most “elite” of these Yankees, you’ll note, are voting against their self-interests. Does a “limousine liberal” benefit from the GOP tax plan? Most definitely. And they’re not the ones who’ll lose access to health care. They’re not the ones whose water will be poisoned.
These elite blue-staters are in pain right now not because of what they will experience. They’re in pain because of what others will face.
And they grasp the problems in the red states with greater acuity and greater empathy than the populists.
The populists, you see, are lying. And the blue-states know that.
The blue-staters know that the promises of manufacturing jobs are hollow. They know that today’s young people are emerging into a “gig economy” that leaves them without employer-sponsored health insurance, which means they’re one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy. They know the populists’ weeping for the decline of traditional moral values is a bunch of poppycock — for goodness’ sake, the Democrats just tossed Al Franken, and Alabama is about to elect Roy Moore.
So while I appreciate your concern for liberals misunderstanding America, may I humbly suggest that what we need instead is better communication so that we Americans are less susceptible to demagogues? The Democrats, quite frankly, need a lot of help doing that.
You see — the problem isn’t with liberals’ ears. It’s with their mouths.
I wouldn’t be a good Southern gentleman (albeit a modernized one) if I didn’t thank you for your time. Thank you for reading.
Our town has a pretty big Halloween parade, and it’s an annual tradition to toss blankets and chairs along the parade route to stake a good viewing spot.
Yesterday, I saw this:
Yes, that’s a Confederate flag blanket on the main street in my town, which is not exactly a Trump hotbed. (It is, though, quite white, and Asian and Hispanic residents far outnumber African-American residents.)
I was shocked, to say the least. I posted it to Facebook and instantly had several volunteers to go toss that thing in the trash.
But I did have to go back and question myself …
I watched The Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, like many kids of the 70s did. I played Dixie on the clarinet — the melody is a pretty good exercise for beginners. In college, my roommate one summer actually had a Confederate flag — he was in a fraternity that occupied part of my dorm building and had “Old South” events. At some point, I wrote a Chronicle column that was essentially a “live and let live” plea that included a paragraph about letting people show the flag for “Southern pride” if they wanted.
So am I being hypocritical?
I’d like to think people can make progress. Exhibit A: Tom Petty, who used to show the Confederate flag at his shows and later renounced it, quite eloquently:
The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant.
Some of us on Facebook said the same thing. More Petty:
To this day, I have good feelings for the South in many ways. There’s some wonderful people down there. There are people still affected by what their relatives taught them. It isn’t necessarily racism. They just don’t like Yankees. They don’t like the North. But when they wave that flag, they aren’t stopping to think how it looks to a black person. I blame myself for not doing that. I should have gone around the fence and taken a good look at it. But honestly, it all stemmed from my trying to illustrate a character. I then just let it get out of control as a marketing device for the record. It was dumb and it shouldn’t have happened.
My dad actually had a good way of looking at it. He was an old-school Southern gentleman, also influenced by a life of traveling the world as a prominent biochemist. He believed the flag was not offensive but, if others found it offensive, a gentleman’s good manners would dictate that we shouldn’t fly it. I agreed with that at the time, but I think the next step was to recognize parts of the history that had been, to put it mildly, de-emphasized.
Only as an adult did I learn that a lot of Confederate flag-waving and monument-building took place in the 20th century, not the 19th. And it was done for specific reasons — basically, whenever black people made noise about injustice. Even if you can somehow rationalize the flag as some sort of historical affectation for a “states’ rights” cause without that knowledge, I can’t imagine a decent human being who’d rationalize the flag with that knowledge.
Today, there should be no excuse not to have that knowledge. Tom Petty and I grew up in the South before people talked about such things in public forums. In the Internet age, how can anyone not understand what the Confederate flag means today? Again — even if you can somehow rationalize that it’s OK to fly it given what it meant in the 19th century, how can you rationalize it when it is quite clearly a symbol of hate?
(I wonder how many people who objected to a mosque in New York because it was some sort of “triumphalism” see no problem with the dirtbag who flies a giant Confederate flag on I-95 knowing full well it’s going to be seen by thousands of slaves’ descendants every day.)
I did have a quick conversation with my walking companion. See the man in the picture? I have no idea whether the flag blanket was his. But someone walking with me figured it was, based on his pronounced Southern drawl.
And so I had to explain that we shouldn’t stereotype — at all. I’ve known thousands of people with Southern drawls — some of them fulfilling every stereotype Family Guy can toss out, some of them brilliant and progressive.
So we all have a lot of progress to make. I’m not done just because I’m less ignorant about this ugly collection of stars on a cross than I was when I was 14 or 19. And I’m not sure of the best way to encourage whoever laid this hideous blanket on the main street of my town to start making some progress, too.
Attention conservative or “yes, Trump is evil, but when will the Left address the other side” people: Most people I know on the “Left” (whatever that means) want nothing to do with these idiots and have done a far better job disassociating themselves from then than Trump has from — you know, actual white supremacists and Nazis.
In case you don’t believe me, or in case you think the media are giving these people a free pass, check out two stories today.
Carrefour said he knows that some people who are sympathetic to the anarchists’ general beliefs would not approve of the tactics used at the inauguration. But, he said, recruiting more anarchists is never the goal.
“The notion of convincing people is a liberal idea,” Carrefour said. “I also think it’s important to attack the symbols of capitalism. It’s just property at the end of the day.”
The rioting brought swift rebukes.
On Inauguration Day, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser — a Democrat who has criticized many of Trump’s policies — condemned the rioting, tweeting that while the city welcomes protesters, officials “cannot allow you to destroy our neighborhoods.”
Muhammad Ashraf, whose 2015 Lincoln super-stretch limousine was burned by rioters while parked downtown, wondered whether the protesters understood the effect the rioting had on him.
Ashraf, 52, owner of Virginia-based Nationwide Chauffeured Services, watched on television as his limo was engulfed in flames. The vehicle was a total loss. After insurance payments, it cost him $60,000 out of pocket to replace, he said.
“When that car becomes a source of your livelihood, it becomes a part of your life. I don’t know if the protesters understand that when they destroy something — the way I felt when I saw my car burning, it really hurt me deeply even though it’s just a car,” he said. “Six months later, I still want to know, did that accomplish anything?”
Still, having heard Antifa’s elevator pitch in person, I must acknowledge that their analysis of ingrained injustice gets more than a little bit right.
Corporate power ought to be challenged. Racial hierarchies are deep and powerful and must be uprooted. The criminal justice system perpetuates mass incarceration while doing little – or nothing – to address police violence.
States captured by corporate interests routinely run roughshod over democratic, Indigenous and local control of land, water and resources, as witnessed at Standing Rock. Ours has become a land of inequity and injustice aplenty.
But in their flirtation with political violence, Antifa ends up hurting the progressive groups it stands with and claims to protect.
They play into the cartoon-image of the left sketched by Fox News and Breitbart. Though violence may not be their dominant tactic, it is inevitably their hallmark. And though the group may not always incite violence, their presence invites it, putting others in danger.
So thanks, guys, but we in the media are aware of these people. Here are the differences between them and the white supremacists …
To sum up: Antifa bad. Anti-racism/fascism/discrimination good. Now what are we going to do about racism, fascism and discrimination?
Like a lot of bullying tools, “whataboutism” is powerful because there’s a bit of logic to it, however twisted it may be.
In fact, on the meta level, it’s easy to use whataboutism to fight complaints about whataboutism. Most people use it in some form at some point.
The key difference to me is this: Are you using bringing up an opposing side because you’re making a decision between two things (say, candidates) or because you’re trying to deflect criticism instead of dealing with it?
In other words, if we’re talking about an election with only two viable candidates, and you tell me Candidate X embezzled money but I know Candidate Y murdered somebody, I’ll have to point that out. (I hope it never gets to that point!)
And in some cases, what appears to be “whataboutism” is actually making a case to give one entity the higher ground. For example — if a Trump voter criticizes the Clinton Foundation, it seems fair to point to the Trump Foundation, especially if you go on to note that the Clinton Foundation actually does some good.
Let’s say the Charlottesville situation had been reversed, and an “antifa” demonstrator had killed someone. Surely someone would use that incident to claim there’s no difference between the “left” and “right” in this situation. (Aside to media: Can you quit using “left” and “right” in describing this sort of thing? CBS did it for Boston, which was ridiculous — I’m sure a lot of registered Republicans were among the “left” crowd in this case and were quite offended by the assumption that the supremacists were the “right.”)
But the counterargument would be this:
A Facebook friend made this sort of point in answering Trump’s “whatabout” on Washington and Jefferson owning slaves. Washington and Jefferson don’t have monuments because they supported racism. They have monuments for their actual accomplishments. Monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are for their service to an abhorrent cause.
Historical footnote — I did not know this:
In May 1985 the U.S. State Department funded a conference at the Madison Hotel on the fallacy of “moral equivalence,” a philosophical cousin of whataboutism. The goal was to tamp down comparisons of the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, among other instances. The actions may be comparable, the State Department implied, but the intentions were not.