Sunday, 13 November 2016

And some, I assume, are good people

Well, the Trumpocalypse didn't seem that likely back in September 2015, at least to me:
But if we want a meaningful measure of what a great wizard Oink Balloon is, we should define some goals beforehand. Here are three simple metrics to assess the success of Oink Balloon's alleged wizardry. In order of increasing improbability, 1. Oink Balloon becomes the Republican presidential candidate, 2. Oink Balloon is elected President, 3. Oink Balloon persuades the Mexican government to erect, at its own expense, a wall, chicken wire fence, or whatever, to stop its own citizens from trying to enter the Land of the Free and the Home of the Slightly Deranged (as it will be known, in the unlikely event that condition 2. is ever met). If Oink Balloon achieves any one of these, I'll concede that there's something here that requires explanation.
At least we're not short of explanations - there are almost too many. I'm mostly happy to go with the unoriginal theory that Trump happens when people realise they've been Fukuyama'd.

That's to say that Trumpism was an equal and opposite reaction to the self-congratulatory elite consensus that America had arrived at the End of History and discovered the best of all possible worlds, a proposition that probably didn't impress folk who hadn't seen a real wage rise in a generation and a half and were working harder, with less job security for their pittances, (assuming they were lucky enough to have a job, or the two or three jobs it takes many to make ends meet). In short, the left behind gave politics as usual a massive middle finger.

But that can't be the whole story. After all, it was Scott Adams who spent this election cycle telling us all that the tangerine huckster was a great and powerful wizard and Scott's had a very successful career, definitely not finding himself left behind (except by members of the reality-based community - he may have called the election, but Scott's Trump eulogies have had all the self-justifying craziness of The Donald's own 3am tweets). Scott, I think, falls partly into the entitled, mens' rights activist subset of Trump fandom, although there's a deeper level of psychological identification going on here, between a seriously needy guy, desperate to force the world to acknowledge his unique genius, and the alpha narcissist himself:
Finally the endless, orgiastically affirming victories (“The Master Persuader filter continues to predict with spooky accuracy”). Every time Trump wins, Adams wins, too—Trump is the giant crushing his rivals one by one; Adams is the genius who saw that he would do it.
Political correctness also played a part. Not the phony political correctness complained about by the various reactionary bigots who feel that they can't be truly free unless they're bullying and demeaning women/racial minorities/LGBT people/the disabled.

What I'm talking about is the actually existing form of political correctness in mainstream politics and the media, which defines what are - and aren't - "legitimate concerns." It is, apparently, "legitimate" to be concerned that foreigners are coming for your job, your job security, your services, your access to housing, or your culture. Your concerns, however, stop being legitimate as soon as you mention who's actually been hogging most of the pie in our increasingly unequal societies, while the rest of us have been scrabbling for crumbs - the super rich, the offshoring corporations and high net worth individuals who get to dodge paying tax, the bailed-out bankers, landlords, other rent-creamers and the rest. Start being concerned about what they've been up to and your concerns are delegitimised as whinging, or "the politics of envy."

Trump may have been spouting his toxic bigotry loud and proud, but it was the cynical mainstream press and politicos who handed him a loud hailer by framing such scapegoating as "legitimate concerns," just as they've done here in Brexit Britain.

The Trump/Brexit parallels are obvious and worrying but, before the polls, some people comforted themselves with the idea that America might not fall for the same bullshit, because it was a different place. Myself included - I re-posted the YouTube footage of Samantha Bee's horrified post-Brexit show, in which Samantha warned that it could happen in America but probably wouldn't, for two reasons that seemed plausible to me at the time:

  1. Because America is more racially diverse than Britain, the blacks and Hispanics would come out strongly against Trump's open racism (which, in the end, they did, but not by enough to defeat the white Trumpists).
  2. Because America, unlike Britain, has "a butt-ton of evangelical Christians" who couldn't possibly support anybody so horrifically incompatible with such core Christian values as humility and loving your neighbour as yourself.

OK, this second one seemed a bit counter-intuitive to me at first, given political Christians' past record of prioritising the preservation of America's traditional social norms over any of the sandal-wearing Nazarene's more hippyish notions about peace and love. But Samantha illustrated her point with a clip of a Southern Baptist preacher deftly brushing off a "ban the Muslims" bigot with the perfectly reasonable point that Christians should extend to others the same religious tolerance that they expect to enjoy themselves.

So I put aside my preconceptions and assumed that there really were a butt-ton of evangelicals who were way too nice to vote Trump, maybe socialised by the "religious, not spiritual" aspects of the church as family. I've got in-laws who've gone to an evangelical church for years and, though I don't share their beliefs, I know from first-hand experience that they're kind, generous, socially responsible people who have never shown the slightest hint of bigotry and put most of us to shame by any reasonable measure of good citizenship.

Sadly, the plural of anecdote is not data and when it came to the crunch, it seems as if over 80% of self-identified white evangelicals listened to every horrific word that proceeded out of the mouth of Trump and cried "Amen!" And some (around 16%), I assume, are good people.

Having failed to prophesy the coming of the Tangerine Antichrist, maybe I should quit while I'm behind here but, for what it's worth, here's my prediction about the remaining metric of Trump success. The useless wall may, or may not, get built now, but I'm still prepared to stick my neck out and say that Mexico won't be paying for it, at least in any sense of the word "paying" that a reasonable person would understand. That doesn't preclude the possibility that Trump will impose some wholly unrelated cost on Mexico - a Tequila tariff, or something - then turn round and boast "Look, I made them pay, just like I said I would!"