Throughout the campaign, during the primaries, we kept hearing pundits ask whether the GOP’s lead candidate could pivot towards the general election campaign (code: can a vulgar ignoramus hide that simple fact of his ignorance and vulgarity). Once the nomination was won, surely he would “pivot”, i.e., conform to the norms of decency and basic dignity that one would want in a president. But the pivot was not yet forthcoming. Well, surely after the convention then. No. Well, then, maybe as the fall campaign really starts to gain a head of steam. Again: No.
But after the election, surely, surely the pivot will come. And it did. From People, from Bill Maher, from the New York Times, from college administrators. You can see it in slow motion over the past week. They are moving to normalize this.
Jason Stanley, a philosopher from Yale, had a fine essay in the New York Times about this. The authoritarian personality creates a new reality and a befuddled populace accepts it, no matter how ludicrous. (Stanley cites Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism in his article). They (i.e., strongmen) “convey power by defining reality”, the reality is a simple one, and “offered with the goal of switching voters’ value system to the authoritarian value system of the leader”.
Only it is not the values of voters that this regime is shifting. It’s the values of the media, the people that need to keep their eyes on this stuff so that it can be opposed with the ferocity and tenacity that it demands. Instead, our most liberal of institutions are normalizing the least liberal of values. And this is not just something for the Left to care about; in the end it will come back to bite the Right in the ass because both sides have an interest in social, economic, and global stability. The networks just have an interest in ratings.
And if you do not believe me that the press is moving towards normalization of the grotesque, here are just a couple of examples (I am not including the vile “come to Jesus” moments that the msm and their ilk will doubtless have on television). The Washington Post this morning referred to the president elect’s new senior counselor and chief West Wing political strategist Steve Bannon as “combative”, and Breitbart News, of which he was in charge, “incendiary”. There is no reference to his KKK ties. No terms like “racist”, or “conspiracy monger”, which is what he is and what his site is. No reference to the Neo-Nazi ties and the simple fact that there is no daylight, none, between Bannon and David Duke, Grand Wizard of the KKK. The New York Times described Breitbart like this: “Some [referring to grassroots activists connected to Breitbart] of them have long traded in conspiracy theories and the sometimes racist message of Breitbart news”. Some? Why not just say Bannon’s name? And why no historical context? Why not just say this is the first time since Reconstruction to boast an actively allied member of the KKK in its administration, and hell, possibly ever.
We will need to nail our 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenburg church every day and remember that apart from the sheer horrors of what might well happen to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the environment, women’s right to choose, mass deportation which is tantamount to a crime against humanity, the following:
- A white supremest is in the White House.
- A game show host now occupies the seat of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.
- He has close links to the KKK.
- He has close links to Neo-Nazis.
- He consorts with and accommodates the Mob.
- He is by admission a sexual predator.
- He has incited his supporters to violence.
- He is a patent misogynist.
- He advocates for crimes against humanity.
- He wants to create a national registry for Muslims.
- He mocks the disabled.
- He mocks Gold Star families and questions their sacrifice.
- He questions the first amendment.
- He has threatened press freedoms.
- He ran a fake university and cheated people out of their money in the process.
- He degraded democracy by threatening to prosecute his opponent, a threat he may well carry out.
- He degraded democracy by threatening not to accept the results of the election if he lost – which he did by the way.
- He degraded democracy by race baiting and shredding the social contract.
- He degraded democracy by frankly introducing some of the most immature name-calling ever to be injected into our political discourse.
- He is a deeply, willfully ignorant man, and utterly incurious.
- He consorts with conspiracy theorists who have shilled patent, provable lies about his political opponent.
- He hates LGBTQ people.
- He called for the execution of six innocent men in a full page ad in prominent New York papers in 1987.
- He accommodates anti-Semites and himself may well be one.
- He has not paid his fair share in taxes for well over two decades, possibly longer, but we will never know because he will never release his returns.
And this is just off the top of my head.
The media is now about to start its pivot, and the end will be that most of the country will be Gas-lighted, and it may be too late, because look . . .
Nixon was a horrible man and criminal who deserved what he got but he and the Right set out to rehabilitate his reputation to make him look like an elder statesman. Let me assure you he was not, despite the current comparanda that will soon occupy the Oval Office. Iran Contra was horrific – heads should have rolled, Reagan been impeached, end of report. Then we had Dan Quayle foisted on us – surely this would be the Nadir? But no, they double-downed. We got George W. Bush with his illegal invasion of Iraq, the normalization of torture, and attack on civil liberties, particularly the Fourth Amendment (and I haven’t even mentioned the economic collapse of ’08). Maybe we could repair this? Maybe the country can learn from making some really bad decisions. Then John McCain foists upon us Sarah Palin, an unforgivably ignorant specimen, who, by the way, also delights in some abominably cruel hunting practices (and no, I am not against hunting, but she sometimes shoots from a helicopter often only injuring the animal and allowing it to suffer needlessly). And I am not saying that the opposition hasn’t contributed to the dumbing down, and worst of all, the normalizing of such deep and vulgar corruption that enabled this and brought us here: cronyism, venality, crude behavior – the GOP doesn’t have a lock on it (God knows Clinton was horrible), they are just the top 1% who own most of it. We have normalized this sort of stuff for the last four decades to the point where both national and global stability are at risk. We gave Gaius Caligula the nuclear codes because we were worried HRC had a private email server in her house (and mutter mutter Benghazi and mutter mutter mutter Foundation mutter mutter conflict of interests mutter mutter and insert unprovable meme or rumor here). I keep saying it but no one believes me: democracies can be really shitty at risk assessment.
My point is, if someone as comparatively benign as Nixon was not normal and we could all decide, including his own party, that yes, he should pay a price, how much more so the very embodiment of corruption that now holds the highest office? This is not normal and we must not accept it as such. My pique, because it’s the environment I’m in, is particularly at college administrators, who under the guise of “respecting diversity of opinion” will coddle like a viper in their bosom an ideology that is utterly odious.
So maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in the months or years ahead if you start to think you are out of touch, or maybe your whole world view that rejected some of the key ingredients of Nazism are wrong, contact me, and I will be happy to slap you and throw a pitcher of cold water on your face. You will need to keep a clear head about you and realize that you are not crazy, because sometimes the world just goes mad, like in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Sometimes humanity faces apocalypse, like in 1180 BC or AD 476. And sometimes you’re just screwed. But that doesn’t mean you lose your sanity or, more importantly, your values and with that, yourself.
It is now the duty of all good Jews, Muslims, Christians, and any other people of faith – even if that faith is a science based Atheism – to keep a clear head to help our brothers and sisters that sinister forces now have in the cross-hairs. That includes above all, defending ourselves against being drawn in by any who talk about unity and respect for that which is intolerable, indeed, the very toleration of which may turn on and consume its parasitic host from the halls of academe to newsrooms all over what is left of this once fair country.