More from Vann R. Newkirk II:
Trump’s rise came as a preacher of the prosperity gospel. His promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with just about nothing in particular relied as much on dissatisfaction with the current law as it did the delirious optimism of prosperity, and the idea that the real way to better America was to make life better for healthy and wealthy people, and to further link the two.
Will coal miners, unemployed auto workers, and small farmers in Appalachia fare better under the AHCA? Almost certainly not now. But if they work hard enough and have enough virtue, maybe. And at the end of the tunnel of aspiration is the favor that the AHCA’s brazen regressive health tax provides for the healthy and wealthy. It’s a moral restructuring of the health economy.
As Newkirk says elsewhere in his article, most Republicans aren’t as
intellectually honest accidentally truthful as Brooks. They argue that their ideas of health care are somehow will make life better for the poor and the sick. I have no doubt that some Republicans have even persuaded themselves that this is, indeed, the case. “To be fair,” Brooks himself says in the unedited interview, “…I think our society under those circumstances”–that is, people being sick “through no fault of their own”– “needs to help.” He probably thinks that the AHCA is helping. Bless his shriveled little heart.
Mo Brooks made a Kinsley gaffe, which is to say that he fully comprehends what he’s talking about and inadvertently demonstrated his competence to a public that should be properly horrified at the prospect that he meant what he said and has the power to do something about it. Democrats seem to think that the AHCA is a major political blunder. I’m not convinced. Voters were willing to support a House Speaker who baldly proclaims that wealth = freedom and a president who espouses, according to the very same House Speaker, the “textbook definition of racism.” The only question facing low-income Republican voters with pre-existing conditions, I suspect, is which scapegoat is going to bear the blame next for the consequences of their own political choices. I guess we’ll find out.
It was hardly the first time Full Frontal had gone, guns blazing, after the sick or the meek. During the campaign, Bee dispatched a correspondent to go shoot fish in a barrel at something called the Western Conservative Summit, which the reporter described as “an annual Denver gathering popular with hard-right Christian conservatives.” He interviewed an earnest young boy who talked about going to church on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays, and about his hope to start a group called Children for Trump. For this, the boy—who spoke with the unguarded openness of a child who has assumed goodwill on the part of an adult—was described as “Jerry Falwell in blond, larval form.” Trump and Bee are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values, which have now moved to the very center of our national discourse. Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless. Both consider self-restraint, once the hallmark of the admirable, to be for chumps.[…]
I thought about the moment her producer approached the child’s mother to sign a release so that the woman’s young son could be humiliated on television. Was it a satisfying moment, or was it accompanied by a small glint of recognition that embarrassing children is a crappy way to make a living? I thought about the boy waiting eagerly to see himself on television, feeling a surge of pride that he’d talked about church and Bible study. And I thought about the moment when he realized that it had all been a trick—that the grown-up who had seemed so nice had only wanted to hurt him.
–Caitlin Flanagan, How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump
In a still-influential paper from 1937 titled “The Nature of the Firm,” the economist and Nobel laureate Ronald Coase established himself as an early observer and theorist of corporate concerns. He described the employment contract not as a document that handed the employer unaccountable powers, but as one that circumscribed those powers. In signing a contract, the employee “agrees to obey the directions of an entrepreneur within certain limits,” he emphasized. But such characterizations, as Anderson notes, do not reflect reality; most workers agree to employment without any negotiation or even communication about their employer’s power or its limits. The exceptions to this rule are few and notable: top professional athletes, celebrity entertainers, superstar academics, and the (increasingly small) groups of workers who are able to bargain collectively.
Yet because employment contracts create the illusion that workers and companies have arrived at a mutually satisfying agreement, the increasingly onerous restrictions placed on modern employees are often presented as “best practices” and “industry standards,” framing all sorts of behaviors and outcomes as things that ought to be intrinsically desired by workers themselves. Who, after all, would not want to work on something in the “best” way? Beyond employment contracts, companies also rely on social pressure to foster obedience: If everyone in the office regularly stays until seven o’clock every night, who would risk departing at five, even if it’s technically allowed? Such social prods exist alongside more rigid behavioral codes that dictate everything from how visible an employee’s tattoo can be to when and how long workers can break for lunch.
–Miya Tokumitsu, The United States of Work
For the next shot he pulls on an ill-fitting suit and too-long tie, and he watches as that same wig is placed on his enormous, groomed head, and he mangles his eyes and pushes out his lips, this tired man made beautiful made ugly. It’s an unsettling transformation to watch. It’s almost as though Alec Baldwin, before he can become Donald Trump, must first become the best version of Alec Baldwin, and then ruin him. […]
Maybe it’s not that he has to ruin the best Alec Baldwin to play Donald Trump. Maybe inhabiting Trump reminds him of the ugly man he is capable of being and the man he would prefer to be. Maybe by playing a person who yearns so deeply for a chorus of praise he will never receive, Baldwin has found the resolve to be his best.
“I wonder if this is the guy we need to see ourselves clearly,” he says.
–Chris Jones, Alec Baldwin Gets Under Trump’s Skin
What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.
But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.
His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain – maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.
–Josh Marshall, Trump and the Problem of Militant Ignorance
It’s worth asking the question: aren’t Trump voters just as ignorant as he is or as prone to projecting their own ignorance onto others? When Trump says, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” it’s easy to retort, “Everybody knew that health care was that complicated.” And you might even think that this is true. Who doesn’t know how nightmarishly complicated health care in America is? But I wonder.
When Trump projects his ignorance onto everyone else, it rankles those of us who already knew what he now knows. It’s vaguely offensive, and for many of the reasons Marshall describes. I mean, I know that I’m vastly too ignorant to be president of the United States, and it is a bit disconcerting to be offered daily evidence that I seem to know my history better than the man currently wielding the Tomahawk missiles. But then, I take seriously what William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The only history Donald Trump cares about is his Twitter timeline.
In my experience, people who aren’t innately curious only educate themselves if they’re externally compelled to do so. A great many of them justify their ignorance by saying that whatever knowledge they don’t possess simply doesn’t matter in their own daily lives.
So I don’t think it’s entirely unfair for him to project ignorance onto others. The people who flocked to his rallies rewarded him for his ignorant expectorations with applause; the people who voted for him didn’t think his ignorance sufficient reason to disqualify him from the job that, thanks to them, he now holds. In other words, the people who made Donald Trump president are either as ignorant as he is or they don’t care terribly much about his militant ignorance. These are the people, I presume, of whom Trump speaks when he says things like, “But it’s not what you think.”
This isn’t “broad spectrum derp.” It actually makes intuitive sense. Why would the duly-elected president of the United States assume that the people who put him in office were more knowledgeable than he was? After all: if they knew better, why on earth would they have voted for him?
Anthropocene describes what we are doing to our environment, while posthuman is largely phenomenological, a condensed articulation of what it’s like to live in a world where we are constantly making and remaking ourselves, especially via biotechnology. And surely there is some truth in these points, but I want to suggest that the apparent disjunction obscures a deeper unity. A world in which we remake our environment and ourselves is a world that does not feel human to us. We do not know how to play the role of gods, and on some level perceive that to act as gods is to betray our nature.
–Alan Jacobs, Anthropocene theology
Jennifer Bryson, a pro-life Catholic who works at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, has found herself increasingly isolated in Christian conservative circles. In 2008, the conservative Witherspoon Institute, where she then worked, included Muslims in a project on the “Social Costs of Pornography.” Today, she fears, “it would be much harder to include Muslims as partners. So many supporters, including donors, would object that it would be viewed as more trouble as it’s worth.”
Bryson regularly participates in the annual March for Life on the National Mall. But “In past few years when people have found out about my work [with Muslims] it has become increasingly unpleasant and increasingly unbearable. When I’m at these events there are several people who will launch into tirades about Islam.” One of the anti-abortion publications she used to read is lifesitenews.com, which was created by a Canadian group called Campaign Life. But the site is now so infused with hostility to Muslims and Islam that she no longer reads it.
There are two ironies here. First, much of the Christian right’s influence rests on its success in building alliances between religious groups—evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Orthodox Jews—that were once bitterly hostile. Second, Christian conservatives have grown less sympathetic to Muslim religious freedom at exactly the moment that their rhetoric on behalf of religious freedom has grown more thunderous.
— Peter Beinart, “When Conservatives Oppose ‘Religious Freedom'”
Fandom is an especially fertile lens through which to view such questions, because fandom is premised on shared passion, and that shared passion creates tribal affinities and emotional attachments that obliterate rational thought. (If you want to analyze digging-in-your-heels, against-all-evidence self-justification, look at fan behavior.) We can see the real-world consequences of fandom when we turn to politics. Much of the vomitorious 2016 U.S. election was a clash of fandoms: Bernie fans versus Hillary fans versus Donnie fans. The U.S. is so besotted with celebrity culture that we’ve handed our fate over to perceptions of politics that are the intellectual equivalent of liking or disliking a Kardashian. Fascism doesn’t need the leader principle anymore; it thrives much better in the politics of style and image.
–Matthew Cheney, The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge