Monday, May 2, 2016

Pushing Back against the Guilt Trip

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.

Sullivan writes:

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.”


priss rules said...

Trump support could mainly be style.

Other GOP candidates come across as wussy. People like the alpha type.

He walks like a man.

David Foster said...

Part of it ("it" being the election of Obama) was guilt, more of it was virtue-signaling. I think relatively few Obama supporters have a *personal* sense of guilt about slavery or segregation; rather, they think the *rest* of us should feel guilty.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Surely, you are right... those who proclaim their virtue have done penance for their guilt... thus they feel that they have overcome it. Of course, they must continue to do penance, lest their guilt take over.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sullivan is an active intellectual and doubles as a highly political homosexual. That's who he is, that is his identity. Look at the volume what he writes. His subject matter is the liberty of sexual orientation and expression. He clearly has an audience and cache, and more power to him for that. My problem is the direction he wants to point his views. It goes well beyond tolerance and being polite. Sullivan's view doesn't stop at the state's recognition of the manifest expressions of sexual orientations, it extends to what others (including economic actors and those with religious objections) must be required to believe and how they are to act. That's not to besmirch him -- he can do whatever he wants to do, and say whatever he wants to say -- but he's another one who demands we all accept his choices. We must "celebrate diversity." Since Obama "evolved" to homosexual "marriage," Sullivan is willing to look the other way and spare his benefactor from any of the indignities of our present political culture. I expect nothing more from Andrew Sullivan. He likes the way Obama does things. They are of like mind. They are both obnoxiously thin-skinned and insecure about their ideas... therefore, others who have alternative views are BAD people.

Barack Obama and his henchmen are Chicago thugs, plain and simple. Passing ObamaCare was smashmouth politics with a supermajority seldom seen in history, and the Democrats chose to act. They got it done. Where things changed for me was with the IRS scandal, which was political thuggery used against citizens, rather than being directed other politicians and the DC ruling class.

Now he's upped the ante by trying to gerrymander the country by allowing unchecked illegal immigration, paired with calls for "a path to citizenship" for whoever happens to be here when the "path" is passed. This is calculated, and is dangerously unbalancing when/if Texas falls (Austin will shortly be a "sanctuary city"). Change the political map in Texas -- with its awesome electoral college tally -- and you've guaranteed a Democrat/Leftist majority for a long, long time. Consider that it takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Consider where the illegals are, for the most part. If one party has a lock on California (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Florida (27) and Illinois (21), they have 168 electoral votes. They need just over 100 more electoral votes to win, and we're not even counting Democrat electoral strongholds like Massachusetts, et al.

Obama and his allies have spent the last 7+ years telling other people to shut up (or else!). Trump is talking back, and saying America can rise and create a vibrant economy again after anemic growth. No one else is speaking this plainly about what's going on. It's refreshing. In an age where we have candidate-bots running around saying whatever the DC consultant class tells them to say, Trump is saying what he thinks, and it's digestible by the normal people the DC media-politico-intellectual class sneer at. Gee, I can't imagine why he's winning.

People want to be left alone to go about their business. The Left doesn't leave anyone alone, as evidenced by the anti-Trump Mexican riot in California that's been deemed a "protest." It's really a warning, and a trailer for what's to come. No bother. More legitimacy for thuggery if you are not a white male and have grievances against... someone.

People are most upset because nobody is doing anything about it. Paul Ryan seems very excited about a Puerto Rico bill. Spare me.

Anonymous said...

I don't really believe in therapy. I tend to favor the Crocodile Dundee approach but I realize a Man's career choice may not tell you a lot about the man and while I have no recollection of how I came across your blog I do read you fairly often. Having said that I'm not a big fan of Andrew Sullivan and I tend to see him as a poser rather than a conservative. I am not now nor have I ever been enthused about Trump but I am less enthused by the others. I like Ben Carson but doubted he was tough enough and I really wanted Fred Thompson in the previous years. I have no allegiance to a party but have never voted democrat but confess to having skipped a few entirely or voted Independent. I hope you mean well and in general I agree with you most of the time, only there must be better choices to quote than Andrew Sullivan. Respectfully, Dave

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Gideon Gentry @May 2, 2016 at 12:14 PM:

Well said. I have never understood why Andrew Sullivan is considered a "conservative." What's he "conservative" about?

Anonymous said...

Sullivan is conservative the same way David Brooks is a conservative. It's all defined by the liberals at the NYT.

Sam L. said...

"...those who proclaim their virtue have done penance for their guilt..." No WAY. They may claim so, but I find it not believable. Completely.

Ares Olympus said...

On first look Sullivan's article thoughtful and wise. I just don't get why Stuart has to make everything partisan.

Stuart: Americans were told that they had no right to disagree with Obama, lest they be considered racist.

Were we told this? Sorry, I never got the memo. We're a country of free speech, unlike many parts of the world, at least when you're not talking back to the police and are interested in avoiding detainment.

Perhaps the imagined tyranny of Obama is something like when W said "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." on September 20, 2001, an argument that helped the NeoCons get us into a 8 year war against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Or am I being partisan now?

And let's not forget when Stuart says Americans have no right to disagree with the right-wing nutcase prime minister of Israel, lest they be considered racist, i.e. anti-Semitism.

Silencing the opposition with bogus arguments must be bipartisan, but you don't actually have to be quiet because someone tells you to.

Andrew_M_Garland said...

Ares Olympus (May 2, 2016 at 4:55 PM): "And let's not forget when [that?] Stuart says Americans have no right to disagree with the right-wing nutcase prime minister of Israel, lest they be considered racist, i.e. anti-Semitism."

Where did Mr. Schneiderman state that?

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Ares, please tell us why Netanyahou is a "right-wing nutcase". Of course I am sure your political and strategic grasp of Israel's situation is just vastly more informed and refined than Bibi's.

It is your kind of ignorant condescension that has infuriated many people in this country.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ignorant condescension??? But Ares Olympus' greatest claim to his own intellectual, moral and ethical magnificence is that he doesn't have strong opinions, and is able to see both sides with the sort of mysterious wisdom we all aspire to. You see, everyone else has opinions, and that is why all others ate wrong, while Ares is always the vanguard of understanding, since he knows there is no truth... save his own!

Ares Olympus said...

Andrew_M_Garland said... Where did Mr. Schneiderman state that?

It's central to everything Stuart says about Israel. If you speak against words or actions of Prime Minister Netanyahou, you're being anti-Semitic, you're showing your hatred of Jews and you want the destruction of Israel. If you risk criticizing Israel's government, you're allowing anti-Semitic thoughts to have legitimacy, again threating Israel and all Jews. Jews are not strong enough to defend themselves without needing to silence hatred against them or their leaders.
Stuart: "I have long hypothesized that President Obama, among his many dubious achievements, has made anti-Semitism respectable again. Surely, his open contempt for the prime minister of Israel sends a message. It’s acceptable to hate Israel, to hate the leader of the Jewish state and to hate Jews."
Stuart: As this unfolds in full public view, where are Israel’s supporters in the Democratic Party? How is it that Jewish Democrats in Congress have nothing to say about Obama’s actions, actions which are threatening the state of Israel? Why do Jewish Democrats refuse to stand up to actions that are legitimating anti-Semitism? ... Barack Obama is at war with Israel, he has vilified the prime minister of Israel in ways he would never do with terrorist leaders like the ayatollahs in Iran… because American Jews have his back. The way to force him to change his tune is for American Jews, led by their politicians to take a stand against Barack Obama, against Jeremiah Wright’s protégé, and against anti-Semitism?
Stuart: Taking a page out of the Zionist conspiracy chapbook, commentator Chris Matthews denounced Netanyahu for trying to take over the American government. Christiane Amanpour called the speech that it was “Strangelovian.” ... One expects that television talking head try to say something that will get them quoted. But, coming from Democratic members of Congress, the rudeness was grotesque. Directed against a foreign leader, who was duly invited to speak to Congress, it smacked of anti-Semitism.
Stuart: Much has already been written about Obama's disgraceful treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. That the leader of a democratic nation and U. S. ally was snuck out of the back door of the White House, after having had a meeting that did not receive any real recognition from the White House, tells that Obama has taken sides against Israel. No photo op, no statement, no press conference, no recognition of lasting friendship... Obama was trying to put Israel in its place, and that place was no longer as part of the discussion.

Do I need to find more?

Dennis said...

Just to add to my point about guilt shaming, protesters, et al.
The nation as a whole is starting to get enraged by the fact that those who say they are tolerant are the most intolerant people every where they protest. Again, if I am damned if I do and damned if I don't then your opinion is on NO value to me. These people do not want a mutually agreed upon solution because they would cease to have importance, in their own minds.
One of the important thinks about attaining a college degree is the added intellectual tools one gain in quest of solving or ameliorating the problems we face as a country. This does not mean that the "tools" gained will not be used to destroy or hide behind a wall of intellectual "straw men.". One of the worst attributes gained from a little education is the ability to see both sides and be so intellectually bereft that one cannot make decisions based on the best possible solution. At some point one has to make a decision. Cowardice under fire is NOT an outstanding characteristic.