Speaking truth to power is seriously overrated. Trolling the media for instances of Democratic Party derangement is also overrated.
Yet, so many of those who supported the losing candidate in the last presidential election have become unhinged, to the point where therapists might have had an opportunity to shed some light into the darkness. Unfortunately, they are so unhinged and uninformed themselves that they are of little real help.
Therapists are out in force explaining that they feel your pain, that they feel it worse than you do, and besides, that Donald Trump is a narcissist. In truth, therapists think that nearly everyone is a narcissist or borderline or some other empty category. We read these so-called analyses and the mind glazes over: they can’t really believe what they are saying, can they? And if they do then we, as a culture, are in much worse trouble than we think.
You would think that therapists would be the first to put the kibosh on a paranoid narrative, but such is not the case. Serious voices on the liberal left are peddling a narrative, to the effect that nefarious foreign actors stole the election. Too many therapists have found it plausible.
No one really wants to see the loyal political opposition lose its mind for having lost an election. One understands the crushing irony of the fact that most liberals really, really wanted to run against Donald Trump. He was the Clinton campaign’s preferred opponent, the one who would be easiest to defeat. It’s no wonder that they are gnashing their teeth and pulling out what is left of their hair.
Screw up your capacity for empathy and try putting yourself in the shoes of James Wolcott. Imagine what Wolcott was feeling when Trump beat Clinton. The Vanity Fair columnist was already savoring the joy of a Trump defeat. In his grandiloquent prose he reported what he saw in his crystal ball:
If Trump belly-flops on Election Day in bitter defeat, costing Republicans the Senate, the postmortem could provide the perfect bonfire for roasting marshmallows. Let the recriminations begin! The post-Trump conservative landscape will be a charred, feudal battlefield, the survivors fighting for the paltry remains of a party too dumb to live.
How did that one work out, James? Whose marshmallows are being roasted now? I like a good metaphor as much as the next guy, but “roasting marshmallows” does not really make the grade.
What the nation needs and what the Democratic Party needs is someone to shed light on the party’s defeat. It especially needs someone who does not wallow in conspiracy theories with foreign agents.
We found one in the person of Sam Kriss, a writer stationed in London, who explained it all for Slate. I had not heard of him before, but I am impressed by his screed.
Kriss is seriously disturbed to see what is happening to the mind of the American left. He was especially torqued to read the encomia that were being bestowed on a twitter rant by someone named Eric Garland.
Kriss is horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency. And yet, he is equally anguished to watch the moral meltdown of his liberal fellow travelers.
He begins by offering a diagnosis of the current wave of liberal despair:
Defeat, past or imminent, does strange things to people. They get desperate, they try to grab hold of any explanation that won’t incriminate themselves, they tear through their own skin looking for stab wounds in the back. It’s understandable.
Most therapists do not seem to have a clue, so we are especially grateful to Kriss for setting it straight.
And for liberals, who had assumed along with Hillary Clinton that the world was theirs to inherit, this needed an explanation—one that had nothing to do with their own failures, one that could be safely localized somewhere distant, malevolent, and unknowable. Russia, perhaps. Enter Eric Garland.
What, you haven’t heard of Eric Garland. I hadn’t either. He became famous for writing a twitter rant in 127 tweets that purportedly explained how Hillary could have lost:
Every so often, a text comes along that perfectly captures the mood of a certain section of society at a certain time, something that screams their pain for them in ways they can’t quite manage to do themselves. Garland’s tweet thread is that common roar of establishment liberalism in the age of Trump. It’s been retweeted thousands of times, gaining fawning praise from much of the liberal intelligentsia. Finally, someone has had the courage to put it all together, in a grand masterpiece of political analysis.
True enough, liberalism is in trouble. Last night Doug Schoen—formerly an advisor to Bill Clinton—explained on the Fox Report that his Party has been veering too far to the radical left. It also seems to have gotten lost in a forest of conspiracy theories.
Clearly something horrifying has happened to America’s great liberal intellects. One moment they were yapping along in the train of a historic political movement; now, ragged and destitute, they wander with lolling tongues in search of anything that might explain their new world to them. This is, after all, how cults get started. Cultists will venerate any messianic mediocrity and any set of half-baked spiritual dogmas; it’s not the overt content that matters but the security of knowing.
I have glanced at some of Garland’s tweets, but, for reasons that do not need elaborating, I did not make it to the end. Kriss did, and we are grateful to him for doing it so we don’t have to:
So it’s strange, but not surprising, that so many people would sing the praises of Garland’s masterpiece, because it is absolutely the worst piece of political writing ever inflicted on any public in human history.
If you ask who this new reigning genie of liberal thinkers is, the answer does not inspire confidence:
Garland is not a political expert. He describes himself instead as a “futurist, strategist, author, bassist.” His personal site carries the tag line “Track the trends. Explore the scenarios. Make the strategy. Rule the world” and urges you to sign up to his mailing list and “become a trend insider.”
He’s a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman, peddling sleek gibberish to people who’ve never read a book without “… and how YOU can profit” in the subtitle; in any true meritocracy he’d be putting his strategic skills to work hawking trinkets by the roadside. And it shows.
As for Garland’s analysis, it all comes down to a vast Russian conspiracy—one understands that the vast Russian conspiracy is an offshoot of the vast right wing conspiracy. Wherever did Democrats get the idea that political life could best be understood as a conspiracy?
Garland goes on to give his own personal account of the past few decades of U.S. and world history, in which absolutely everything is the product of a long, slow Russian master plan to bring America to its knees by encouraging the population not to trust the noble, hardworking CIA.
If you do not care to read any more Garland than need be, Kriss summarizes the arguments:
Trump is here, Garland tells us, because the Russians put him here. No evidence is offered for any of this; it’s just a story, for you to believe if you want to. And this story is delivered in an almost psychotically annoying style, directly transplanted from the internet of the mid-2000s, an unholy reanimated prose corpse shambling through the discourse, groaning hideously if it can haz cheezburger. A sample tweet: “And now, it’s December 11th. Trump says he don’t need no stinkin' intel agencies. Russia (BWA HAHAHAHAAAA) blames Ukraine! LOLOLOLOLZZZ. A lot of Republicans stare into the middle distance, except for McCain and Graham who are NOT HAVING THIS SHIT. (I salute you, gentlemen.)” As the journalist Libby Watson showed, when you collapse this screed into a single paragraph, it’s almost unreadable: demented, speed-addled bullshit, signifying nothing.
Kriss has succeeded in putting it all in context:
Countries sometimes try to exert influence in each other’s internal affairs; it’s part of great-power politics, and it’s been happening for a very long time. When Americans meddled in Russia’s elections, it was by securing victory for Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s very own Donald Trump, a man who had sent in tanks to shell his own parliament. Leaked cables suggest that Hillary Clinton’s own State Department interfered with the political process in Haiti by suppressing a rise in the minimum wage. And American involvement in the politics of Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Iran was mostly through military coups, sponsored by none other than the CIA. There was no question of these countries repeating their elections; anyone the generals didn’t like was tortured to death. Next to the mountain of corpses produced by America’s history of fixing foreign elections, a few hacked emails are entirely insignificant.
If you want to know the real reason why Hillary lost, Kriss explains it… not to gloat, and not to tell his fellow liberals to get a life, but to incite them to some serious moral reflection:
What cost Hillary Clinton the election can be summed up by a single line from Sen. Chuck Schumer, soon to be the country’s highest-ranking Democrat: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” As it turned out, he was fatally wrong. It wasn’t the Russians who told the Democratic Party to abandon the working-class people of all races who used to form its electoral base. It wasn’t the Russians who decided to run a presidential campaign that offered people nothing but blackmail—“vote for us or Dangerous Donald wins.” The Russians didn’t come up with awful tin-eared catchphrases like “I’m with her” or “America is already great.” The Russians never ordered the DNC to run one of the most widely despised people in the country, simply because she thought it was her turn. The Democrats did that all by themselves.
What the Russia obsession represents is a massive ethical failure on the part of American liberals.…They’re far too busy weaving themselves into intricate geopolitical power plays that don’t really exist, searching for a narrative that exonerates them from having let this happen, to do anything like real political work.
If the Democratic Party is to recover it must stop blaming it all on Vladimir Putin. The gesture itself is disempowering. Failing to take responsibility leads you to think that there is nothing you can do and nothing you can say to right the situation:
It wasn’t us, it wasn’t our country, we were all duped by Putin. And if this means falling into reactionary paranoia, screaming red-faced about traitors and spies, slobbering embarrassingly over the incoherent rants of any two-bit con artist whose name isn’t Donald Trump—so be it. None of this will help anyone or achieve anything, but that’s not the point.