Tag Archives: hatred

The Fundamental Disconnect

The headline on this post isn’t intended as a double-entendre; fundamentalism is, admittedly, disconnected from reality, empiricism, science and (often) common sense, but the disconnect I’m referring to is the one highlighted in that recent roundtable published by the New York Times that I’ve been referencing.

The discussion centered on the takeover of the Republican Party by its fringiest elements, and it began by considering the vast difference between Democratic and Republican strategic foundations. The Democrats–according to the Opinion writers participating in the Roundtable–are operating on the belief that political success means trying to enact widely popular policies and then running on that basis. As the moderator noted, that certainly isn’t the Republicans tactic.

The thing that strikes me about these Republican bills is that they’re staking ground on some things that are not necessarily popular with the majority of voters. That would seem to suggest to me that there’s political risk in doing them, but instead these laws have been copied from G.O.P. statehouse to G.O.P. statehouse. Why do you think that’s happening, in your view?

To which Ezra Klein responded, I think accurately:

So I think there are a couple of levels you can think about these bills on. One is to think about what you might imagine as the modal Republican strategy for a year like this. Every Republican could spend the next couple of months just saying, “Huh, gas prices are pretty high, aren’t they?” And that would be it. They would win the midterms. It would be done.

And instead, the Republican Party, in part due to the incentives of modern media, in part due to the example offered by Donald Trump and how he shot to prominence and then ultimately to the presidency, has become extraordinarily attention-hungry among its rank-and-file legislators. And so if you can create the next culture-war kernel by passing a really brutal piece of legislation — and these are brutal pieces of legislation that will hurt a lot of very just ordinary kids who need some help — then you can catapult to the center of the national debate.

So I don’t think Mitch McConnell wants to be having this conversation. I don’t think Kevin McCarthy wants to be having this conversation. I think they want to talk about how Joe Biden is a failure. But the Republican Party doesn’t have that kind of control over its own structure and its own institutional members now. And so at a time when there’s a lot of tailwinds for them, they are nevertheless pulled along by the more extreme and attention-driven members of their own caucus.

Pete, who often comments on this platform, has pointed to the powerful role of entertainment in American politics and governance, and the “attention” hypothesis would seem to confirm his observations. As Jamelle Bouie observed, it’s a strategy supported by the huge media infrastructure of the Right–not just Fox, but as he says, ” a broad constellation of outlets and different modes of delivery that allow them to, if not shape a message from its inception, then shape how its supporters receive any given message or any given piece of information.”

I used to tell my Law and Policy students that most of what I learned in law school could be reduced to a single axiom: He who frames the issue wins the debate.

Implicit in the above Roundtable analysis is a big question: can Republicans’ hysterical attention-getting frame and win the midterm debate? It’s hard to disagree with Klein and others when they say that running on policy–no matter how popular–no longer works, if it ever did.

So what should  those of us horrified by these unhinged people do?

I live in a bubble populated mostly by thoughtful, sane people. We have our policy disagreements, but if–and it is admittedly a big if–the people in my bubble represent majority opinion in America, perhaps Democrats should accept the GOP’s framing, and run against that. After all, look at what the GOP stands for in 2022: pushing gays back into the closet, forcing births, banning books, rejecting accurate history, racism (insulting  and maligning an eminently qualified Black female jurist and preventing Black folks from voting)….basically, today’s GOP stands for the embrace of QAnon conspiracies, rejection of science, and strengthening the hegemony of fundamentalist White Christian males.

If the folks in my bubble are representative of the majority of Americans–and survey research says they are–let’s accept the challenge. Let’s fight the midterm battle on the grounds the attention-getters have staked out. For once, the bottom-feeders who have framed this debate are unlikely to win.

If I’m wrong about that, we’ve really lost America.




Immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, Jews..

So who do you hate? Who do you consider to be “lesser,” unworthy to be included in that tribe we call Americans?

Whoever it is, isn’t it comforting to know that “political correctness” no longer restrains you from letting everyone know, from “telling it like it is”? It was so silly to disapprove of name-calling, race-baiting, and other forthright communications…

That’s the ugly genie that Donald Trump’s repulsive campaign has let out of the lamp, and I am very doubtful that even his (hopefully significant) loss will allow us to put it back in.

It’s bad enough that the so-called “alt-right”–the NeoNazis, the white supremacists, the Klansmen–have come out from under their rocks to enthusiastically endorse a vile and semi-sentient candidate who channels their fevered hatreds. What is worse–far worse–is that Trump has normalized a dramatically coarsened discourse and made expressions of raw bigotry acceptable in venues where they were previously muted.

A recent post at Washington Monthly by a Jewish commentator is just one example. He writes,

I often get rough messages from people who disagree with me in the thrust and parry of presidential politics and the politics of health reform. It wasn’t always pleasant. It comes with the territory.

None of this prepared me for 2016.

I and many others who write for fairly broad audiences are being deluged with antisemitic messages from Trump supporters. They come mostly on Twitter, but on private emails and blogs, too. Many alt-right messages bracket our names like so: (((haroldpollack))), to indicate that we are Jewish….

Many include four-letter words and colorful vocabulary that is quite familiar to me from my experience working on public health interventions for high-risk adolescents and adults. I block everyone who sends me these messages. For all I know, there are hundreds more.

Pollack shared one long, rambling diatribe, and it was, as he labeled it, hateful and sick. He says he usually doesn’t share such messages–why give them more air–but he does make an observation worth considering:

In a strange way, I’m almost–almost–glad that these anti-Semitic messages are out there. They remind many of us on the receiving end of a few basic realities that hang over our contested, pluralist democracy. They should remind us of what many others are facing, who have so very much more to lose if our nation jumps off the political cliff this November.

I would quibble with only one point: it isn’t only “many others” who stand to lose if this wave of tribal venom and ignorance persists. We all stand to lose something very precious: the ideal and promise of  America.

Granted, we’ve never lived up to that promise, but most of us, at least, have tried. And over the years, we have improved. We’ve become fairer, more inclusive, less intolerant. More adult. We’ve recognized that we’re all in this together (whatever “this” is), and thousands–millions–of us have worked hard to bend that arc of history toward justice.

Those efforts are  what made America great.  Not saber-rattling or bluster or domination of some by others.

It’s those efforts, those ideals, that Trump and his sneering enablers are attacking when they call Mexicans rapists, call blacks thugs, call women fat slobs. That’s the America–our America– that they want to erase.