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August 13, 2015

Shapiro v. Geraghty on How to Argue With Trump Supporters

Shapiro argues that one must avoid bashing the actual supporter.

Critics of Donald Trumpís rise in the Republican polls have now turned on large swaths of the Republican base in a fit of pique and frustration.

Unable to understand how a man without pronounced conservative political positions, a man who has never held elected office, a man who routinely drops vulgar and demeaning language has skyrocketed to reportedly triple his next contender in the latest polls, these commentators have turned to name-calling themselves. This time, they target not Trump himself, but his followers.

David Brooks of the New York Times labels Trump's supporters "low-information voters... classically the kind of people who don't vote in primaries." Matt Walsh of The Blaze says, "The real problem with the Trump Squad is that they donít take the fate of this nation seriously...Beneath the frivolous rage is a gross immaturity." On Twitter, the anger is palpable, with many conservatives raging about Trump's rise and raging against the dying of various other presidential campaigns.

I believe this is half-right, and I have urged for people on the right to similarly reduce the intramural heat.

However, Shapiro goes on to note...

Trump's supporters look at the SmartFolks (TM) and see a bunch of Frank Luntz focus-grouped, Karl Rove-strategized faux geniuses more focused on fighting the base than fighting Hillary Clinton....


Trump supporters see their political opposition as convenient conservatives, laying down loyalty oaths while happily dumping on their political allies at upper crust cocktail parties....

See here's the problem: You can chide the Establishment types for insulting what I'll call here the "grassroots," but you can't claim that what I'm calling (for this moment only, for convenience) the grassroots isn't insulting the Establishment in equally pungent terms.

It is simply a form of special pleading to claim that the "GOPe," the Polite Company Conservatives, the RINOs, the Cocktail-Circuit Fake Conservatives, are not permitted to say anything negative about their opponents -- and yet their opponents can and should routinely insult the GOPe with that list of insults I just traced out (not to mention edgier ones, like "cuckservative" or worse).

This is its own form of political correctness, just of a conservative special-pleading stripe. I would never agree to the proposition that, say, a leftist black activist could go to town on me with disrepectful insults and yet I were barred by some hard-to-state-rule from treating him with similar disrespect.

And so I cannot imagine from where people might derive the idea that one cannot insult those who are insulting the Establishment, RINO-y types.

Well, I actually know what accounts for both: It is the usually-unstated premise that the party which cannot be jibed at is more "authentic" and just plain old better than the party which can be insulted, and the party which can be insulted "should just know" they have committed a series of historical injustices against the privileged party which results in them having, at the current moment, a greater obligation to defer to their opponents and a more limited menu of speech options.

Which is bullshit.

I know what Shapiro means, and I daily give flack to Establishment types for heaping scorn on what I'm calling -- inaccurately; for convenience -- the "grassroots," but one cannot lay down this forbiddance without also calling upon the "grassroots" to chill out with the name-calling themselves.

This idea that some people just have "more rights" to speak freely, and "more rights" to not be offended, than other people, simply owning to their identity and that identity's alleged authenticity, virtue, and long-sufferingness is way out of line and does not belong in any creed that even pretends to derive from Enlightenment values.

It is, rather, a simple form of tribal supremacism, whatever tribe that might be, whether based on ethnic identity or adherence to ideological purity, and is rightly categorized with the uglier strains of politics that most of the world has always embraced.

Geraghty makes this point about anger:

There was a time when relatively-cheerful conservatives scoffed at the Daily Kos crowd and their widespread descriptions of stopping speaking to family members over political disagreements. They seemed furiously angry, all the time, about everything. It made them insufferable and repellent. Today it's impossible to contend that only one side of the ideological spectrum is gripped by anger. Peter Woodís A Bee in the Mouth offered a good, detailed look at Americanís changing attitude towards anger and public expressions of it; how something once seen as immature and hot-headed became seen as mainstream, even healthy.

Maybe Geraghty's not angry; I imagine he actually is angry. The only thing I'd say here is what I've said before: While the "grassroots" anger tends to be expressed in an aggressive-aggressive way, many on the Establishment side of things express the same anger and contempt, but in a passive-aggresssive way.

I'm not saying Gerahty's doing that; I'm saying that it's hard for me to look at my Twitter timeline and see all the bombs being dropped by the Establishment on the "grassroots" and come to the conclusion that the Establishment isn't similarly possessed by anger at the grassroots.

If Geraghty is angry, but is trying to restrain it: Good for him, it's what we all should do.

There is no sin in disguising one's anger or hiding it or suppressing it. We do not need to know the precise emotional state of every stranger we encounter in the cybernetic streets at every moment.

I will say this about anger: It is corrosive. I flinch from these intramural fights -- which are no longer mere squabbles, but full bloodfeuds -- because they are ugly and upsetting.

There is more to life than politics, and there is certainly more to it than anger and team raging.

We are all human beings, and so too are our rivals, whether Establishment or "grassroots." (Again, apologies for the poorly chosen term.)

We were not built -- whether it was by God or by Einstein's conception of the "Old Man," the elemental forces of the universe -- to do nothing but sting and claw each other like scorpions in an increasingly dark and bloody bottle.

I'm not even talking about politics here. I'm not even talking "This is the way to beat Hillary Clinton."

I am talking about something much more important: I am talking about "This is the way to live a better, happier, more tranquil, and more God-blessed life."

Again, for whatever conception of god you might subscribe to.

I would say we are better than this, but I don't believe that, and that's not meant as an insult. None of us are in our ugliest places better than this; we are also built for conflict, to hunt, to kill, to battle, to shame, to degrade, to humiliate.

That is part of our coding. We all have that.

But certainly we have it in us to be better than this, if we choose to be.

And we should choose to be, for the simplest, most selfish reason of all:

Because it's good for us.

Yes, we are having an intense political struggle, and yes, as I've admitted, there is a lot on the line and these long-papered-over divisions should be discussed and had out.

But they should be had out as pleasantly as possible.

Conan the Barbarian observed that barbarian cultures were more polite than so-called "civilized," decadent cultures, because the possibility that a man might cleave your head in twain with an axe tended to impose a certain decorum on relations between strangers.

Many are not behaving like the polite, and actually well-civilized and socialized barbarians of Conan's tribe; many are acting more like the decadent, "civilized" men, for whom words are weapons.

Conan's people do not believe words are weapons. Conan's folk know that weapons are weapons -- something the soft-bellied but hard-tongued "civilized" men have largely forgotten.

We all need (including me) to take it down not one notch by six or seven, and we all need to ask ourselves if we're actually acting like the Heroes we imagine ourselves to be when we conjure up a somewhat idealized vision of ourselves, or if we're acting more like the Villains we see all around us.

Important Distinction I Didn't Make: I should have been clear about this:

When I say you shouldn't insult "the Establishment," I don't mean you shouldn't insult Rove, Boenner, or McConnell.

I mean, look, there is not getting around the fact that they are political leaders and therefore they draw the lightning for their decisions and lies.

I am not talking about speaking sweetly about them.

You must be free to insult political leaders in any kind of democracy, and i mean "free of social inhibition" on that, too.

I don't mean that, and I should have been more clear.

Rather, I am talking about not insulting some Establishment-leaning everyday Joe, just like you but with a different political leaning, that you meet in the comments.

I am talking about civility for civilians.

I suppose we could all also afford to be less insulting towards leaders, but... Well, look: Look at any of my Obama and Hillary headlines. I can't make that kind of claim, and I wouldn't want to.

No, I mean treating our equals -- just our everyday online peers -- with more politeness.

I mean that arguments had with them should be polite-- even if you call McConnell a cynical sell-out while doing so.


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posted by Ace at 03:44 PM

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