We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under

20 08 2019

I want to move off a bit from naming, and on to claiming.

Claiming is a related concept to naming, but one which emphasizes belonging: I claim this as mine. (This is the positive part of Carl Schmitt’s dictum that “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motive can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” Friends belong; enemies, who are of course negative, must be excluded.)

I’ve stated in the past that a politics reduced to the friends/enemies distinction is a bad one, but in a well-rounded and healthy politics, the notion of us-vs-them isn’t terrible. If you define your side solely by who you oppose, well, that ain’t productive, but also by it? That’s fine.

Anyway, the words aren’t coming tonight, but I did want to get to Elizabeth’s Bruenig’s piece in the Washington Post on white evangelical support for Trump. The short version is that those evangelicals who like Trump like him because he recognizes them, claims them. Many don’t go so far as to return that claim back—they don’t necessarily see him as a Christian—but they are ardently glad that he sees them as his.

And, most importantly, they are glad they stand together against Them (ie, folks like me). He doesn’t have to make things better; he just has to keep my kind from making things worse.

Scholar Lydia Bean notes that “Basically, it’s like a fortress mentality, where it’s like — the best we can do is lock up the gates and just pour boiling oil over the gates at the libs.”

So it’s that Schmittian amalgamation of GO US! with FUCK YOU!; they feel positively toward Trump because he’s willing to fuck over leftists/libs/SJWs/etc on their behalf. They don’t even have to believe that he believes in their deeper or long-term agenda, just that he congratulates them for being on the right side.

Trump, Bob Collins said, “has done something no other politician has done: He’s circumvented the press. The press has a problem now. … I wish he would not do the personal attacks, but he needs to get the message out, even if it’s a blunt, brute-force message.” For them, the message was a welcome one. “We’re deplorables,” the Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” Barber added. “Even though Donald Trump is different than me, the Donald Trump White House tries to move toward evangelicals like me.”

And whatever their qualms, two mentioned that they prefer Trump to a more godly man:

At first, there were murmurs about the possibility of Vice President Pence. But then Maria Ivy warned that Pence is soft compared with Trump, too decent and mannerly to take on the job. Bob Collins agreed: “The president is having to deal with a den of vipers,” he said. “I’m not sure Pence could do that.” “It’s spiritual warfare,” Dale Ivy added, emphasizing that Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.

There’s a lot more there, but I want to focus on this exchange between a father and son:

“Basically,” Joe argued, “Trump is everyone, without the filters. I’m sure at some time you’ve thought some horrible things, but you had a filter there to keep you from saying it.”

“But is that a defense?” Daniel asked.

“No, that’s just —”

“A fact to you?”

“Just an explanation of why. I mean, he is a raw personality with all filters removed. . . . I think he pretty much exemplifies this sin that we all carry with us. He just doesn’t know how to repress it.”

Daniel nodded, and pressed: “But it would seem like a natural question would be, you just sounded like you just described some pretty good reasons not to support the man.”

I don’t want to attribute this sentiment to every Trump supporter, but I’ve heard variations of this over the years: Trump is who we all really are, deep down.

Which is a pretty grim view of us. I don’t hold what I think is an elevated opinion of our species, but, jesus, this holds that we are all, at root, terrible.

It also means, as not a few others have noticed before, that they like him because he’s terrible: he liberates them.

~~~

Once again, I don’t know what to do with this. It points to a sense among Trump’s supporters that they’re being pushed out of . . . the culture, the country, the mainstream—some place in society they value, and he’s saying No, no, you’re at the center, here with me.

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3 responses

20 08 2019
dmf

yes the old “silent” majority, beleaguered and maligned keepers of the true flame and really a bit of evil-genius political engineering.
have you read the Dewey vs Lippmann debate?

22 08 2019
absurdbeats

Oh, man, I think I read it—or maybe just about it—in a grad-school class (wherein I was introduced to the works of Stuart Hall). It was around then that I started reading Dewey, who I liked quite a bit but thought was a terrible writer.

23 08 2019
dmf

ha yeah Dewey is of another generation, Stuart Hall is definitely an easier read for us, Dewey and Lippmann were arguing over whether or not the masses were fit for democracy and what the role of elites/experts should be, good stuff still to this day.

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