This year’s presidential election hasn’t provided the catharsis that many on the left were awaiting. Instead of the hoped-for “Blue Wave,” we have a still-too-close-to-call presidential election, while Republicans picked up House seats and appear to have held on to the Senate.
One response might be self-criticism: to wonder how, after four years of single-mindedly trying to get rid of Trump and marginalize his followers, things didn’t go better. Instead, Democrats’ thinkers seem to be asking themselves variations on “How can I live in a country where half the people supported Donald Trump?”
According to the Campus Reform Web site, professors around America were expressing anger and claiming to feel “genuinely unsafe, given the sheer number of people willing to vote for Trump.” Some canceled classes for the rest of the week, apparently because of the emotional strain.
An article in The New Republic by Andrew Cohen asks: “What do we do with all these Trump supporters?” (Spoiler: “Learn to live with them and respect your differences” isn’t on the agenda.)
Instead, Cohen writes about “one of the most grievous if underappreciated wounds of the Trump era: the sad discovery for so many of us over the past four years that so many of our friends, neighbors, business partners and heroes are not who we thought they were.”
Cohen worries, “No one really has a good solution about how to strongly and honorably respond to the Trump supporter in our lives. Do we forgive and forget? Turn the other cheek after it’s been slapped?”
CNN’s Don Lemon offered one possible answer: He said on air that he “had to get rid” of friends who support Trump, because “they’re too far gone.”
In The Atlantic, meanwhile, Tom Nichols worries that “a large portion of the electorate chose the sociopath.”
“Sadly, the voters who said in 2016 that they chose Trump because they thought he was ‘just like them’ turned out to be right. Now, by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him: angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong. . . . It’s clear now that far too many of Trump’s voters don’t care about policy, decency or saving our democracy. They care about power.”
Well, to be fair, elections are about power. That’s certainly something that Democrats have traditionally understood. But then Nichols turns to racism, arguing that “although Trump appears to have received a small uptick in votes from black men and Latinos, the overwhelming share of his supporters are white.”
Well, to be fair, America is a majority-white country, so pretty much any mass movement — certainly including the progressive movement — is likely to be majority white. (Have you seen a Bernie Sanders rally?) But Nichols’ pivot to racism and talk of “the obsessions of white anxiety” provides a clue to what’s going on.
Moral superiority is an addictive drug, and perhaps the most unfortunate legacy of the Civil Rights era is that it got people on the left dependent on moral superiority for their self-esteem. It was easy to feel superior to the likes of Orval Faubus and Lester Maddox, and it felt good.
But once you become dependent on moral superiority, you need moral inferiors. Thus, every issue must become one of great moral urgency, in which the people who disagree with you are not simply wrong, but actually evil.
It’s even better if you can think of them as being stupid as well, since that lets you think of yourself as smart.
This was nicely encapsulated by photographer (and class-war expert) Chris Arnade. Asked “Why did anyone vote for Trump? Anyone?” Arnade replied: “Cheap answer is, some people are frustrated that a professor of philosophy makes three times what they do for cleaning their house, or making sure they are supplied with electricity, or keeping them safe from muggers, or cooking them Pad Thai, only to then be talked down to” and “scolded.”
People can tolerate differences in wealth and power. Sanctimonious scolding is less tolerable. And treating half the nation as moral lepers is itself a moral failing.
And, as Arnade suggests, bad politics as well.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.
Share this article:
Source: Read Full Article