Saturday, September 10, 2016

A tisket, a tasket

Assorted reactions to Clinton՚s “basket of deplorables” remark:
  • It managed to express something everybody knows but for some reason is never made explicit: politics is about labeling the other side as bad people. Rightwingers think leftists are bad, and vice versa. Just a simple fact. Politics is all about solidifying these sorts of moral/social judgements.

  • But we are in a democracy, which means that everyone, no matter how much of a scumbag they may be, is entitled to a voice and a measure of respect, or at least lip service to their basic goodness. Presidents and presidential candidates especially are supposed to maintain the fiction that we are a united country rather than a collection of mutually antagonistic groups. So this was an unusual eruption of real-talk into the discourse.

  • People are comparing it to Mitt Romney՚s remark that 47% of the populace were entitled moochers. They have a superficial resemblance, to be sure, in that they seem to cursorily dismiss a large fraction of the electorate. Of course the main difference is that Clinton՚s was largely accurate and Romney՚s was not, although that doesn՚t seem to be a big consideration.

  • It՚s a really awkward turn of phrase. “Deplorable” is not really a noun and people don՚t generally get organized in baskets. It also seems politically clueless. Here՚s some interesting theories as to where the phrase originated, although it doesn՚t explain the political motivation behind using it.

  • One assumes that anything out of Clinton՚s mouth has been carefully engineered, so what՚s going on? I've heard a theory that the weird phrasing was deliberate, something people could't help discuss and propagate, so now people are talking about the exact level of racism and other deplorable characteristics of Trump's supporters -- maybe it's half, or maybe just 20%, but that idea is now firmly lodged in the discourse.

All the above is kind of abstract, here՚s my concrete and personal reaction: Yes, I find Trump and most of his supporters deplorable, and I don՚t have any problem with making that judgement, or the idea that this particular political contest actually is a fight against a very real form of evil.

Trump has sort of done the country a service, because normally I wouldn՚t feel much solidarity with someone like Hillary Clinton, who I find awful in some ways, but her awfulness doesn՚t hold a candle to that of Trump. So he՚s brought the country – the decent parts of it – together.


Dain said...

I don't find my political opponents evil. Is it common on the left to believe the other side is actually EVIL? If so, it might explain why progressives are abandoning notions like free speech. I mean, of what value are abstract things like that in the face of the second coming of Hitler?

Nearly all of my friends are on the political left. It doesn't behoove me to consider them evil. I'd be pretty lonely. So maybe that's why this particular dude abides.

mtraven said...

In my experience people on the right are more likely to view people on the left as evil -- basically in league with Satan. Since the left doesn't have as strong a religious foundation, they are less likely to use that terminology, although reductio ad Hitlerum is common enough.

Rightists view leftist as murderers of unborn children, thieves of private property, and destroyers of civilization, so pretty evil. Since leftists don't believe in evil as an explanatory principle, they tend to view people on the right as fools who have been given over to bad ideas, rather than as evil per se.

So I view the forces Trump is unleashing as definitely evil, although individuals who subscribe to them are more likely driven by stupidity or assholery or fear, rather than explicit allegiance to evil. Trump himself is obviously a terrible human being, although "evil" is not the word I'd use.