Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Cheese Stands Alone?

Hillary Clinton is too distant, says conservative man using his New York Times platform to pen an intimate, humanizing portrayal of an authoritarian predator.

I've seen even liberals approvingly cite David Brooks' recent column on Trump, cited above, but my summary is really the big take-away I get from it.

Brooks asks us repeatedly to imagine that we are Trump and how pathetic and sad that must be, and that, if/when Trump loses he'll be all alone in his isolated misery.


Let's take a step back.

Shortly after California's anti-gay Proposition 8 passed in 2008, a professional class of "marriage defenders" started increasingly framing themselves as a "civil" voice of opposition to marriage equality, in contrast to, say, Fred Phelps and his more obviously hateful clan. The role of these groups, such as National Organization for Marriage, seemed to be, in part, to convince courts, legislatures, and the populace that opposition to marriage equality was not rooted in bigotry but, rather, in a mere nicey-nice belief that all children deserved a mother and a father.

An expression of this purportedly non-bigoted belief can be found in the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson. Sample: "Marriage is a comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act."

While perhaps sounding innocuous, it wasn't really one that most non-professional, non-paid, non-academic opponents of marriage equality would cite for opposing same-sex marriage. Rather, such "regular people" were more likely to express varying levels of disapproval of homosexuality or, what we often think of as, bigotry.  (Sample: Homosexuality is wrong and society shouldn't condone it by allowing gays to marry).

I have a long, 10+ year, history of engaging with anti-equality folks on Internet. And, it's my strong belief that the professional class of marriage defenders knew that their base was bigoted, leveraged this bigoted base in support of various anti-gay measures, and simultaneously acted outraged at all suggestions that their base was bigoted. (Sample: some writing I did at Family Scholars Blog awhile back on civility in the context of same-sex marriage debates).

With Supreme Court doctrine articulating that animus toward homosexuality could no longer be an acceptable basis for law, it was incumbent upon professional marriage defenders to gaslight LGB people about the very real bigotry we experience.  And, these marriage defense think-tankers often did so while pulling down six-figure salaries, book deals, and speaking gigs themselves.

You know what else they did? Convinced their poor- and middle-class bigots that same-sex marriage was going to doom the country.

Hmmm, we have marriage equality now so what happened to all that?

I think many people are realizing that same-sex marriage has had little, if any, tangible impact on the lives of most of its opponents, other than that people now live in a society that is more accepting of it. So what benefits, if any, did the marriage defense establishment tangibly provide for its base, in the long run?

So, coming back to the present.

In a similar vein, Republicans have long articulated deplorable beliefs in subtle, dog-whistle ways, knowing that their base has various bigotries. Racism. White supremacy. Anti-Muslim sentiment. Misogyny. Transphobia. The Republican establishment has leveraged these bigotries for their own benefit, giving cover to a base that holds more explicitly deplorable views, while also doing very little for this base. They've effectively stoked rage and, because they've done nothing to assuage it, have also created the conditions for anti-establishment sentiment. 

Republicans and conservatives now seek to distance themselves from Trump. As David Brooks does, they fantasize that Donald Trump is perhaps an uncommon, rogue, lone wolf not representative of the base they've long catered to.

Yet, he's exactly who Republicans have enabled to become the leader of their raging pack.

And, if/when he loses, the Republican establishment may abandon Trump to his incompetent, man-child misery.  It seems doubtful, however, that Trump's millions of supporters and fans will also do so.

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