Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. It describes any one of a number of psychological states, but, among Democrats today it refers to a visceral disgust with the Clintons coupled with an eagerness to put Hillary in the White House.
Frank Bruni did not use the term “cognitive dissonance” in his op-ed column yesterday, but his analysis of the state of mind of serious Democrats is excellent. Between Bruni and Ross Douthat we have reason to believe that the future of the Times op-ed page will be brighter and smarter.
Bruni opens his column:
LATELY I’ve been running into people even more put off by the Clintons than the nefarious operatives in the “vast right wing conspiracy” ever were.
They’re called Democrats.
I had breakfast with one last week. I’d quote him directly, but The Times doesn’t permit profanity.
He’s furious at Hillary and Bill, because they’ve once again created all these ugly, obvious messes that they could and should have avoided. He’s disgusted, because he has come to believe that they’re tainted.
He’s also resolute: He’s voting — even rooting — for Hillary.
Bruni offers an excellent description of the man’s cognitive dissonance:
So here he stands, or rather squirms, exhilarated by what Hillary embodies and repelled by what she represents, wanting to see her take the oath and wanting never to lay eyes on her and Bill again, determined that they reclaim the White House and despairing of the muddy road there and the certain muck beyond. He’s a riot of warring emotions, a paradox with a pulse.
Now, how does said individual rationalize his decision to support Hillary? There’s a quantity of liberal guilt, a feeling that his vote should serve to help overcome patriarchal sexism, and a sense that the Clintons are the lesser of two evils:
Party loyalty motivates him. On top of which, he’s worried about the Supreme Court and how a Republican president might pack it.
And he keeps hearing the voices of little girls in his life who have asked him whether a woman can be president of the United States in reality, not just on some TV show.
He wants them to see: Yes, she can.
Nice choice of words: "pack" the Supreme Court. Of course, the only president who tried that was Franklin Roosevelt. Unless someone changes the constitution, no president is going to "pack" the Supreme.
Besides, haven't we elected someone president based on how good we will feel about having overcome our past bigotry?
How did that work out?
If you elect someone who is unqualified and manifestly incompetent solely because of his race you will feel good for having overcome racism but you will be producing another kind of racism. In the new racism people will believe that black Americans owe their positions to affirmative action, but are really not up to their jobs.
Someone should ask whether Hillary can do the job and whether her ascendance will help or hurt the reputation of women in the workforce.
Bruni’s friend knows what that a President Hillary will visit calamities on the nation and the world. And he cares so much that his mind is becoming a battleground of conflicting thoughts.
But, someone who feels that the worst thing that can happen to the nation is that there might be one or two more conservatives on the Supreme Court is not thinking very clearly. He is not thinking about what is good for America or even the world. He is thinking about his own tribal loyalty and about being ideologically correct.
For his part Bruni believes that putting the Clintons back in the White House will do nothing good. More precisely, they will inflict psychological torture on us:
And it’s different from politics as usual. It’s politics as a peculiar form of psychological torture, because the Clintons have a way — it’s their trademark — of being the best, most exciting vessel for people’s hopes even as they make those people feel icky about their investment in the couple.
His friend does not seem to care about what happens to the country as long as he can tell his daughters that a woman can become president.
In principle, serious Democrats should be trying their best to find an alternative. It would attenuate their angst. By now, however, they have been tricked into going all-in on Hillary and feel that they must honor their commitment, regardless of how good or bad it will be for the country. Who cares about the country when you can strike a blow against sexism?
At some point over the last year Democrats placed just about all of their chips on Hillary, reassured by the depth of her experience, aware of how much money she could raise, and inspired by what a perfect sequel to Barack Obama she’d be. He broke the color barrier. Now she’d shatter the glass ceiling that she put all those cracks in.
What “depth of experience?” A series of failures in jobs she was not equal to.
When Bill Clinton touts the wonderful work of his foundation, even Democrats no longer believe any of it.
Bruni describes Bill Clinton’s defense of his foundation:
His words were a reminder that perhaps no other former president has lavished so much travel and star power on such an ambitious engine of good deeds. The foundation is an exemplar.
Until you peek inside and behold a convoluted braid of public service and personal aggrandizement, a queasy-making brew of altruism and vanity, a mechanism for employing loyalists and rewarding friends, a bazaar for favor trading. Straightforward admiration is no longer possible.
Bruni also discussed the issue with another senior Democrat. He describes the conversation:
A few days ago I spoke with one Democratic elder who ranted, like my breakfast companion, about all the ammunition that the Clintons had needlessly created for a Republican nominee.
He envisioned a flood of negative ads in Florida and Ohio about State Department emails, speaking fees and foreign donations. He said that this deluge could very well make a difference.
He was livid.
Would that keep him from campaigning for Hillary?
No, he said. Even if he couldn’t count on her, she could count on him.
It didn’t seem fair.
It’s fairly obvious now that if Elizabeth Warren can find a justification for going back on her declarations of non-candidacy, Hillary’s dreams will go up in smoke.
As for the cognitive dissonance of Bruni’s Democrat friends, one suspects that they are suffering a severe case of Republicanophobia?
They will accept anything, but not a Republican.