Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Infernal Moron

"Sentimentality is a form of exploitation, a connivance with official lies. Hang sentimentality on the gallows of Emergency." (Lara Glenum)

Michelle Goldberg is onto something when she describes Hillary Clinton's concession speech as "heart-shredding". It was, indeed, pitiful. If I'm not mistaken, it is the most delayed concession speech in history, certainly in recent history. Only John Kerry's concession speech came later, but for the understandable reason that he had not yet conceded. Interestingly, the day before the election, Bloomberg had reported that Clinton had, in fact, prepared a concession speech. But it appears she wasn't quite as prepared to concede as she thought—nor to give Trump the last word on the election. You don't have to be Bill Burr to find this amusing.

The speech has been dutifully described as "gracious" by the press. But I'm not at all sure it was. It was clearly an attempt to make this election about herher struggle, and now her loss, not Trump's victory. Her supporters have picked up that sentiment. We have to understand "how we let this happen", it is said; we have to find a way "to explain this to our children". Like I say, it is pitiful. Clinton's concession, a few forced sentences notwithstanding, was, at bottom, an appeal to pity, and an invitation to her supporters to indulge in their no doubt sizable capacity for self-pity.

The timing of the speech, like I say, was an important part of it. It allowed her to avoid a difficult audience. It would have taken real character to stand in front of the rank and file of her entire campaign, under that "glass ceiling" she failed to finally shatter, and take responsibility for her mistakes and thank them for their hard work. It would have taken real character to explain to them that their worst fear has come true and that they now have to show their respect to a man she had been describing as unfit for the office. It was in front of her base of supporters, on the night of the defeat, not before a selected few hundred sober, rested and showered insiders, that she could have been truly gracious. She was not up to the task.

And whatever thread of graciousness there might have been in Clinton's otherwise shredded heart, her supporters can of course be counted on toss into the moronic inferno of left so-called liberal mass culture. Here Michelle Goldberg really comes into her own, helpfully explaining that "Donald Trump’s Victory Proves That America Hates Women". To be fair, in the article, she doesn't blame all of America, only American men and the (white) women who love them.

Men—joined by white women, a majority of whom voted for Trump—banded together to award the presidency to the most shamelessly misogynist candidate in modern history. They’ve given us a kakistrocracy because they couldn’t bear the sound of Clinton’s voice.

That's a truly dumb explanation. The idea that both Trump's support and Hillary's opposition are based mainly in misogyny perhaps makes sense to people who thought "I'm with her" is all the thinking they needed to do decide who should be president. It assumes that "white women" didn't form actual opinions about trade, immigration, guns, [healthcare] and taxes but just, as it were, "stood by their men". That explanation appeals to a very, very small group of, I'm sorry to say, primarily white middle-class women and the men who stand by them.

But it actually gets worse. Goldberg's analysis of why Clinton lost is not just empirically inadequate, it is emotionally unhinged. It is, to use a word I will define at the end of this post, sentimental. Here's a passage that drove this home to me:

Two weeks before the election, I went to a rally that Clinton and Michelle Obama held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They were introduced by women: former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross. “Little girls hear the ugly things that have been said about women in this campaign, and it makes them feel terrible and doubt themselves,” Clinton said, and it struck me as unusual for a politician to speak about little girls’ feelings as a matter of political significance. For one afternoon, the rally offered a vision of what political stagecraft might look like if it were practiced by women and for women. Looking around, I thought, Maybe this is how politics feel for men all the time. And then I thought, No wonder they don’t want to give it up.

Goldberg is unable to think seriously about politics because she is too busy feeling something. The truth is that politics doesn't feel that way for men at all, nor, it seems, for most women. Rather, (third-wave) feminism feels that way. A great many men and women who voted for Trump were simply tired of having to approach politics in terms of how it makes "little girls" feel. They certainly don't feel like politics is a "safe space" for little boys at the moment, nor do they want it to be. Rather, they want politics to stop being about feelings and outrage and become, again, about the way the country is governed. They want politics to be the uncomfortable confrontation of opposed political ideas, a long conversation about what is in the best interests of the people. They shed no tears for the collapse of comforting ideologies that conceal the particular interests of corruptible politicians.

"Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of people who have no sentiment," said Norman Mailer in his review of Lyndon Johnson's My Hope for America. Those who do have sentiment—those who have a little emotional discipline, a little precision in feeling, and therefore the spine to stand in front a disappointed crowd of supporters on the night of their greatest defeat—would not conclude that Trump's victory "proves" that America hates them. That is the reaction of imbeciles and children. As a Nobel laureate once said, they shouldn't take it so personal. Sooner or later, I hope (for America), one of us must know this.

PS (27/07/17): "It is the actions of men, not their sentiments, that make history," said Norman Mailer, as I pointed out in another context.

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