Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You cannot shame the shameless

What if you were suddenly whisked back to elementary school, and you found yourself face-to-face with a bully threatening to beat you up. Now let's say you told him that surely his actions would exhibit a break from norms and that he would feel hypocritical because he would probably once have been victimized by someone. You would, in all likelihood, get beaten to a pulp.
Anyone who went to an average middle school understands how this plays out – which is why it is all the more bewildering that leftists, centrists, and guardians of the genteel status quo seem to think this approach will work with Trump after it failed to work with the Republican Party for at least a generation.

What Congressional Democrats do not understand is that being reasonable with Republicans colleagues has not worked for decades – and will not work now. Trump's team is a hammer, and every problem, including you, is a nail. They have no sympathy for anyone. Empathy is foreign to them.

Like a lot of bad ideas, this all started with a misunderstanding: an article of faith among the left that people vote against their own self-interests and tolerate political chicanery because they do not understand economics or history or good governance or what popular conservative demagogues like Reagan said or did 30 years ago. They think that all one has to do is explain how things really are – just lay out the facts. But these people are in a hardened cloud of fantasy and alternate "facts" and will scorn what you have to say.

This misreading also fuels the bottomless liberal faith in the power of political comedy. The Daily Show and its descendants run on hypocrisy. No one should be surprised that this kind of comedy took off. With eight years of George W. Bush's wars, followed by eight years of spectacularly cynical Republican obstructionism with which President Obama did not understand how to handle, you could circle the globe three times over with comedic one-liners alone. 

Moreover, the prospect of massively successful viral clips that explain events to casual voters is practically irresistible. These popular political comedians will take one appalling statement from some malicious clown today, then run file video of that same clown saying the opposite under the previous administration. Now, morally, said person in power should have no choice but to dissolve in a puddle of shame – except that he doesn't. The only problem is that it doesn't work!  The target of your video feels no shame – he is incapable of it.

A pathological liar who acts as the setup for at least a dozen political comedy punch lines by saying outrageous, politically incorrect statements just got elected president in spite of audio/video evidence of him bragging about committing a sexual offense. Even when comedy speaks truth to power, it doesn't work because it fundamentally misunderstands the message and appeal of conservatism – which is shame and punishment. There again is the hammer, pounding anything that perverts a phantom American utopia – you know, the good old days when every boy under 18 had a buzz cut haircut.

Democrats seemed to spend half of their time whenever they have a Democratic president and congressional majority wasting time and energy trying to figure out which move would upset the least number of people. But Republicans do not do this. Even before Trump was sworn in the GOP announced a forthcoming repeal of Obamacare (the ACA) and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. They attempted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, and they will spend the next two weeks tongue-bathing a roster of cabinet members who are ludicrous and ethically compromised. They do not heed polite norms, because polite norms are things that Mama's boys obey.

Against this, the left and social media has normalized the conservative "I got mine, you get your own economy" with false equivalencies of how dare you, sir of the electorate and even louder lamentations about America, heartbreak, and loss. Apart from being almost wholly ineffective on its own terms, all it does is vindicate the conservative message. They gloat because they gotcha.

Every malignant troll – 95 percent of the time, it is a he – who changed his Twitter username to "Deplorable @#$%^&" to "piss off the libtards" feeds off impotent moral outrage and public despair. These nut jobs and their leaders are people who feel so disempowered by women's equality and the perception of minorities as full human beings that they brought on the reign of a world-historical virulent non-Christian Narcissist and psychopathic liar to fight the changing culture. They would not care if he were the devil incarnate.

Logging onto social media to announce that you feel terrified and heartsick just vindicates these people. Your fearfulness tells them that it is working. Friends on your side of the ideological fence see your feelings of hopelessness and feel a pang of empathy. But any attempt at broader entreaty to the people inspiring this feeling is founded on a mistake.

You cannot shame the shameless; you cannot appeal to an inborn trait that you have but he doesn't have.

"When they go low, we go high" is something you can say when someone has agreed to sit at the table with you, but Trump and the people who revel in his omni-directional crass abusiveness and opportunism refuse to sit at the table. (We won, we will do what we want.) They do not care who gets hurt. Their resentment and bullying will always find the lowest elevation. When they go low, just stand back and let them – like the bully who eventually trips on the playground, it makes it easier for everyone in the rest of the class to see how small his size, how few his number, how low his road, and how everyone, together, can defeat his agenda. 

Stand back. Do not negotiate with them.

Let them hang themselves!