A story in a bunch of tweets from last week:
I keep seeing all these bewildered reactions whenever some massive Trump scandal or screwup or conspiracy is exposed. Why doesn’t this “stick?” Why doesn’t this change anyone’s mind? He’s going to let Paul Ryan gut their Medicare. Why doesn’t that matter? He’s hiring the entirety of the financial crisis and letting it run the economy. Why aren’t Trump voters feeling betrayed? Why isn’t THIS or THIS or THIS the breaking point for anyone who voted for him? Because none of that interferes with the central reason they voted for him. They keep telling you. They voted for him to give a big middle finger to women, black people, libtards, intellectuals, bureaucrats, feminazis, protesters, immigrants legal and otherwise, politicians generally and anything else that bugged them.
And he may be betraying every campaign promise but he’s not breaking the only one they cared about: The one to make them feel like they mattered again.
It’s performative. It’s the entire Republican thing, from before George W. Bush probably, and we keep wanting to make it make sense. Performances don’t make sense. You can’t argue me out of putting green and gold on and tromping up the stairs to Lambeau in 13 degree weather to watch my quarterback throw four interceptions while his receivers treat every oncoming football like it’s made out of bees. You can’t do it. I want to be a Packer fan. These people want to be FOR TRUMP.
And FOR TRUMP means they get to feel powerful. FOR TRUMP means they get to bully right back. FOR TRUMP means they get to tell their liberal sister-in-law that she’s a stupid bitch. FOR TRUMP means instead of respecting a black or brown person, they get to call that person names. FOR TRUMP means they get to turn off that nagging instinct, nurtured by the churches they say mean so much to them, that maybe they should help the big scary world that’s burning down outside their windows. FOR TRUMP means they get to feel like being mad is enough.
(Do some of them have genuine economic problems that could have been addressed by Democratic policies had Democrats not been sucking off every investment banker they saw? OF COURSE. That doesn’t address the reflexive FUCK YOU that is the response to anything Trump does now.)
It’s part and parcel of the performative aspect of politics generally. Try telling a movement pro-lifer that the best way to raise abortion rates is to outlaw abortion. They’re not going to argue the facts with you. They’re going to BE AGAINST abortion. They’re going to wear the T-shirt and they’re going to vote because they want to keep that part of the character they invented and put on like a suit. You can’t talk them out of their clothes, God’s sakes.
We used to say, all us internet grandparents who were around during the early days post-9/11, that this had given a lot of the population the excuse to be the assholes they’d always wanted to be. A lot of the bewilderment from well-meaning white progressives right now is the inability to accept that the simmering anti-lib dad anger, quiet nice-lady racism and selfishness of their parents and their parents’ friends wasn’t all that different from the white supremacists screaming in the street. When you get right down to it, they both always voted the same way. The former might be more dangerous, in the long run.
So what do you DO, a couple of people asked on Twitter. If facts don’t matter and arguments don’t matter and scandals don’t matter, do you just give up on these people? And my immediate reaction was yes, and with a couple of days to think about it I still think, kind of?
Kind of means you start treating them like the addicts they are. They’re high as kites on talk-radio distortions and you don’t sit down with a cokehead and calmly debate the merits of smoking up some pure clean LIFE instead. You get that cokehead into rehab if you can, but for God’s sake you stop giving him money. You stop feeding the beast with empathetic articles and moving to the right on social issues and other useless mollifications that I’m sure many highly paid consultants in DC are advising right now.
You find ways to save the people being hurt by the person all this performance put in power. You rally for the immigrants and you call your congressmen and you write to your senators and you volunteer at the shelter and you do what you can to save as many as you can. That’s where you put your energy. You take care of the person the rage-addicts hurt.
Maybe some of them will come around. When they do, when they get woke, you treat them gently, like newborns to the world of sense, and you give them work to do too. You don’t give them a medal for showing up but you give them a job. The more people have to do, the less time they’ll have to stew on the ways in which the world has wronged them.
And when comes the time to vote again? When that comes around? You make sure you and yours are THERE. Because there are more good people than bad, even if there are more quiet people than loud. You vote this shit down and out, you watch it die, and you move on.