This morning brings us Andrew Sullivan’s initial article for New York Magazine. One applauds Adam Moss for publishing such a long and intricate thought piece about the current state of America and about the Trump phenomenon.
Trump supporters will not much like the way Sullivan describes their hero, but he has certainly reflected on why people love Trump. He sees Trump more as a symptom than as a solution, but he is hardly alone in that judgment.
Sullivan’s piece will elicit a mountain of commentary, from different sides of the political spectrum. Such is as it should be. I will address his ideas at length, but it will take more than one blog post to do so.
Sullivan understands well that today’s left has produce a state of anarchy and anomie. It has abused the public and the democratic process itself, to the point where people believe that we will need a strong man to take charge.
Call it an “atavistic longing” for a monarch or a pagan idol, as Camille Paglia and I have said, but one cannot seriously grasp what is happening without measuring the responsibility Barack Obama bears. Sullivan exculpates Obama and in that he errs. It is the most significant flaw in his argument.
People are looking to a leader because they have been misled. They have seen their nation transformed, but transformed for the worse.
In fact, the problem with the country is that those who are at fault do not take responsibility. Worse yet, those who would hold Obama and his supporters to account are immediately denounced as bigots. Sullivan does not participate in the guilt tripping, but he does not see that Obama bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the condition of the nation he leads.
Sullivan is correct to see that the nation is awash in rage. He should have said that after more than seven years of Obama and political correctness people have a reason to be angry. He seems to understand a point that I have made, namely that the rage masks a fundamental fear, a fear about the present, a fear about the future, a fear for one’s family and a fear for the values that founded the American republic.
Sullivan does not see how the suave demagoguery of Barack Obama has damaged the nation. But, he does see that the rise of Trump is a reaction to the guilt the left has been assiduously laying on the nation for decades.
American citizens elected the manifestly unqualified Barack Obama to the presidency because they were induced to feel guilty for slavery and segregation. They were led to believe that they could assuage that guilt and the attendant anxiety—guilt is anxiety about an anticipated punishment—by electing a black man to the presidency. We can call it penance politics, a politics that has become a religious experience, so much so that people believed that the solution to our financial crisis was to expiate our guilt over slavery.
It was not enough to vote for Obama. Americans were told that they had no right to disagree with Obama, lest they be considered racist. If Obama did not know how to negotiate with Republicans the fault was Republican racism. So, everyone who was trafficking in guilt rose up to protect and defend the Obama presidency, to accept his decisions as good regardless of whether they were or were not.
Obama has been calm and suave but he has ruled like a demagogue. He has been ruling through administrative decree. He issued new immigration orders on the absurd grounds that if Congress did not act, he had to.
His toadies and apologists in the media and the courts defended his decisions… because they did not want to be seen as racists.
The citizens of Massachusetts made Scott Brown a senator so that he could cast the deciding vote against Obamacare. The citizens of a state that had suffered through Romneycare wanted Obamacare to be defeated. What happened then? Congressional Democrats changed the rules and used a parliamentary maneuver to get the bill passed. If you did not like it you were a racist.
Obama has been divisive. He has doubled down on the left’s demonization of the right and refused to work with Congressional Republicans. The fault, in his eyes, was not only with Republicans. Everything that was wrong with the nation and the world was the fault of white people. Never imagine that Obama learned nothing from spending two decades at the feet of Jeremiah Wright.
If black crime increases, the fault lies with white police officers. If black gun violence increases the fault lies with the NRA. If you do not want men in the women’s room, you are a bigot. If you are a white fraternity brother accused of sexual assault, you have no rights to due process and are guilty even if you are proved innocent.
Obama opened America’s borders to illegal immigrants. His leadership in the Middle East has led to unmitigated catastrophes, in that region and in Europe. So naturally he was praising Angela Merkel for throwing open Germany’s borders to unassimilable immigrants. Neither he nor Merkel cares about the crimes committed by these people. If you disagree, you are a bigot.
Trump has risen, Sullivan notes, because the social fabric has disintegrated. White people are accused of belonging to an organized criminal conspiracy. By virtue of their race. The left has decided that white America is guilty, that all white people bear the stain of guilt because all white people are partners in crime. The left has laid an extensive guilt trip on white America, and white America has had enough of it.
Guilt did not make America great. A sense of pride did. But, Sullivan explains, Obama and his leftist enablers have no sense of pride in America. Instead they have attacked the white working class, mocking their values and even their sense of reality.
For the white working class, having had their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome. This is just one aspect of what Trump has masterfully signaled as “political correctness” run amok, or what might be better described as the newly rigid progressive passion for racial and sexual equality of outcome, rather than the liberal aspiration to mere equality of opportunity.
A brief interjection here: what does Sullivan mean by “their sense of reality?” He doesn’t say. Perhaps he does not want to get into too much trouble, so allow me: Caitlyn Jenner. Or better, you are no longer allowed to believe that there is any significant difference between men and women. Or between traditional and same-sex marriages. People are no longer allowed to disagree about same-sex marriage and they are no longer allowed to think that there is any difference between the two kinds of marriage. After all, isn’t all love created equal?
Since Sullivan was in the forefront of the movement to legitimize same-sex marriage, he should have had something to say about this. Does he consider that movement to be a threat to anyone’s sense of reality? In this case, the reality of procreation. Keep in mind, Sullivan’s argument about love and marriage defies the history of the institution of marriage. Only a miniscule number of the marriages that have taken place in the course of human history have been expressions of romantic love.
Radical leftists are trying to control peoples’ minds. It is a typical totalitarian tactic, also known as brainwashing and indoctrination. When radical policies fail the fault cannot be with the maniacs who have forced them on an unwilling populace. The fault lies in the thought crimes committed by those who are not sufficiently true believers. How better to control someone’s mind than to force him to abandon his sense of reality in favor of ideology.
The current madness over North Carolina restrooms tells people that they must treat Bruce Jenner as a woman because he thinks that he is a woman. Reality says otherwise, but you, if you don’t want to be excoriated as a bigot, must agree. And you must agree to allow anyone who thinks he is a woman to use a woman’s restroom. So, reality does not matter. Belief does. No one considers the possibility that he might be lying.
Sullivan continues, outlining what I would call the guilt trip that has been laid on the white working class:
Much of the newly energized left has come to see the white working class not as allies but primarily as bigots, misogynists, racists, and homophobes, thereby condemning those often at the near-bottom rung of the economy to the bottom rung of the culture as well. A struggling white man in the heartland is now told to “check his privilege” by students at Ivy League colleges. Even if you agree that the privilege exists, it’s hard not to empathize with the object of this disdain. These working-class communities, already alienated, hear — how can they not? — the glib and easy dismissals of “white straight men” as the ultimate source of all our woes. They smell the condescension and the broad generalizations about them — all of which would be repellent if directed at racial minorities — and see themselves, in Hoffer’s words, “disinherited and injured by an unjust order of things.”