What does it mean
If a tree falls
In a forest
On a person
One makes a sound?
What does it mean
If a tree falls
In a forest
On a person
One makes a sound?
Camille Paglia has, it seems to me, a persistent issue with confirmation bias. In the linked article below, she once again arrives with a dubious thesis that she then (predictably) locates a few snippets of anecdotal evidence for, rarely (never?) considering contrary instances. And the cultural narratives she purveys are tidy just-so stories that coincidentally line up with the youthful glory days of her own biography: how much the young have missed by not being young when she was young! (They’re the outsiders, she’s the insider.) And she manages (surprise!) to see exactly what she wants to see. Her readings are creative and contrarian, but what relation to reality do they actually have? And why, after pumping Trump up against Hillary throughout the election season, has she now fallen silent on his election? She shows up in public again, at a moment of astonishing contemporary upheaval, to tell us her analysis of…the cultural magnitude of Elizabeth Taylor in 1961. Seriously.
I do like the Faye Dunaway image that accompanies the article, though.
I was stunned when I first saw this, thinking it the best “death of Cleopatra” themed sculpture I’d ever seen, then learned it was done by a 19th century woman I’d never heard of–Edmonia Lewis–who also happens to have been African American. So I post it as part of African American history month, 2017.
This is the wrong fight. Let him through. Let the Democratic senators express their concerns and make their points, but this is not the man to filibuster. Don’t behave like Republicans have over the past eight years, supporting left-leaning iterations on Ted Cruz. In the age of Trump, this guy is a win for liberals. Yes, for liberals. Why? Because Trump has much, much worse options for Supreme Court vacancies–political hacks who can pave the way for a deterioration of the separation of powers, the First Amendment, etc.
Gorsuch is not one of those. He can be reasoned with. He will protect the core values of the Republic and the Constitution that both (non-authoritarian) conservatives and liberals revere. He is not the pick we would expect from a non-ambivalent authoritarian; he’s not the sort of rubber stamp judge that, for instance, Putin would pick for a court appointment in Russia. Gorsuch will act independently. He knows what his job function is in a liberal and democratic Republic. If we want to get out the other side of the next four to eight years with our Republic and Constitution functioning and in tact, we better reward Trump when he doesn’t go with his worst impulses. Recall that Trump also didn’t appoint a torture proponent as Secy of Defense. When Trump gets it right, don’t pretend he didn’t. This is good for him and good for the country.
Steve Bannon’s chief goals are outlined in the link below to a recent Washington Post article. Among them is a large strategic vision grounded in national sovereignty. Bannon thinks that Western countries have surrendered ever increasing degrees of sovereignty to international agreements and that the United States should take the lead in showing nations how to recover their autonomy. Thus Steve Bannon wants to renegotiate trade agreements nation-by-nation, with each one having to pass through the Senate on votes, so that they get debated openly. Steve Bannon thinks this is what the founders of the Constitution would have wanted for the country, not international agreements that cede sovereignty. That sounds plausible, even rational. And Donald Trump seems to be exactly the sort of hard-nosed businessman who might do well with such a renegotiation task.
But the psychologically darker side of Steve Bannon’s vision is border-closing to immigrants. He thinks that the world will be more peaceful if nations get hold of their distinct racial and religious essences as nations, and that those differences come to be recognized and respected, not blithely ignored. No more intruding on each other’s national and cultural sovereignty. And he wants to halt the multicultural goal of urban elites (“the Davos crowd”) to transform their countries into mirrors of their largest urban centers, where they end up looking like a United Colors of Benetton ad. So there’s a decidedly racist and Christian nationalist component here; a Karl Schmidt component.
A second component on the dark side of this is a second Cold War, this time with Islamic and/or Confucian civilizations.
So this dual formula–retake sovereignty via newly negotiated trade agreements and closing borders to Muslims, Hispanics, and Chinese–also turns out to be the way, in the United States, for Republicans to pick the lock on rust belt states. Trump won the election: (1) by animating blue collar workers on the matter of trade and sovereignty (who doesn’t want to feel in control of their destiny?); and (2) by animating racists and evangelicals surrounding border-closing and religion.
How successful is this likely to be as electoral strategy and policy in the long run? I suspect that, over the course of fifty years, such a vision cannot sustain itself. Demographers insist that, by the end of this century, 90% of humans will live in cities, and that doesn’t lend itself well to nostalgic and reactionary nationalist politics. Cities tend to be liberal places. And if sea level rise takes on the nature of crisis because of accelerated global warming, international agreements will have to be a key way to address it. Also, if the global economy begins to contract because free trade has become too difficult, the new nationalism will be seen as folly. But over the next decade, this sort of politics will be tried, and its limits for the 21st century tested. (I’m guessing Bannon would say that if individual countries negotiate trade agreements with one another, and that both sides are happy with the results, trade will grow, not be constrained. But I’ve got to wonder what happens if a country gets locked out of a larger trade pact and has to work something out individually with each country in that pact. The logic of trade pacts is strength in numbers, is it not? Or am I missing something?)
As we witness how this plays out, Calfornia will function as a counter-model to Bannon’s vision, with its large population of Muslims, Hispanics, and Chinese Americans–and its media and tech internationalists in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
The more people who peel off, the more dangerous it becomes for those remaining in the streets who resist. So this is hard for me to read. I post a link to the below article by Robert Young, not because I agree, but because I want to think about it some more. I’m wondering how his piece will read six months from now. Four years from now.
My first response is: stop pretending that scientists won’t have to resist what’s coming; that they can adopt an above-it-all neutrality that will be effective against a Putin-like authoritarian supported by sophisticated propaganda and the levers of the state. Before this is over, scientists are going to be arrested, lose jobs, and may even be killed (either by rogue enthusiasts for Trump, as with the Quebec shooter, or by the state itself). Scientists are going to have to fight alongside the rest of us, and take the slings and arrows of malicious accusations surrounding the so-called “politicization of science.” It comes with the territory of our growing crisis. The alternative is silence. Stop pretending neutrality is possible in this environment. Of course scientists will be on the side of the Anglo-French Enlightenment vision of humanity, the First Amendment, and reason. Of course.
And there’s a psychological passivity at work in adopting a neutral position that does Trump’s bidding, and perhaps serves an unconscious wish for Trump to prevail. It’s the same attitude that some (most?) in the military are taking at the moment. It’s how we ended up, after WWII, with the Nuremberg defense (“I was just obeying orders”). At some point people who pride themselves on being neutral professionals will have to join the rest of us in the streets–or see a dwindling resistance movement culturally isolated and ultimately mown down in the streets. We will hang together, or hang separately.
Fascism? What else do you call this? Six journalists–journalists–reporting on the inaugural protests have been roped into the felony charges brought against some of the property damaging protesters themselves. This should be extremely alarming for anybody who cares about the First Amendment. I would bring this right to the top of the post-inaugural “Holy Shit! It Really Can Happen Here!” pile.
If liberal democracy is to survive this time of testing, we’re all agreed that Trump needs to be, at minimum, checked, but in terms of how to do that effectively, well, that’s a very difficult question. So far, the complexity of resisting an authoritarian and illiberal nationalist like Trump has proven so difficult that opposition to him has been pushing and pulling against itself. Hopefully, this won’t be the pattern for four years–or eight–and we’ll figure out how to be effective against him, his movement, and the levers of power that will be at his disposal, which will be considerable. I don’t think the country will be the same out the other end if we can’t pick the lock on how to effectively resist him, and then hold smartly and bravely together.
I recall Schopenhauer once writing of Christianity that its most effective argument had always been the stake. That’s true of all anti-rational discourses, of course (Islam, Maoism, etc.). History suggests that whenever an alpha male spearheading an anti-rational discourse can reach the pinnacle of power–whether by hook or by crook, by democracy or palace coup–he stays there, not by recourse to reason, but by obfuscation and force. If you don’t have reason on your side to justify power, there’s always fog and coercion. We’ve seen the fog side of Trump all year. We are about to enter an era of fog and coercion. It’s going to cost something to resist Trump–maybe everything.
We are all subject to flawed reasoning. Any one of us may catastrophically misread the landscape we’re navigating, whether literal or metaphorical, causing us to arrive at false beliefs that end in our deaths. We may also be thwarted in our purposes by setting them too high or low. Someone might outmaneuver us. We may make all the wrong allies—and find ourselves with all the wrong enemies. There are so many ways, and at so many levels, our critical thinking can fail, and so it is that we bring questions to the claims that people bring to us for our consideration–questions like these: (1) Does this person have any real evidence for the things they believe—and what is the quality of that evidence? (2) Are there converging lines of evidence supporting these claims? (3) Is the person an expert on the matters in question, or do they rely on authorities and experts to support their claims—and how reliable are those authorities and experts, exactly? (4) If the person doesn’t have direct physical evidence or data to support their claims, do they at least have other good reasons for believing what they do? (5) Given the quantity and quality of the evidence and reasons available to them, how strongly should they actually hold their beliefs? (6) What indications are there that the person is actually competent to weigh evidence and arguments (do they apportion their beliefs to the evidence, for instance, or do they seem overconfident, believing things without sufficient warrant)? (7) Are their beliefs coherent with other things that are well-known and established (the things we think we already know about the universe and how it works)? (8) Has the person actively sought out disconfirming evidence and arguments? (9) Has the person weighed alternative beliefs or explanations and really come to the best beliefs or explanations on offer? (10) What roles are group belonging, self-identity and esteem, financial interest, temperament, and desire—desire of any sort—playing in this person’s conclusions? (11) Is this person under the spell of a narrative that they’re telling themselves and others about their claims—and are there other ways—better ways—to tell the story of this matter that might break the spell? (12) Why does this person start their stories and claims where they do, and why do they stop their stories and claims where they do? (13) Do the explanations for these starting and stopping points amount to, when push comes to shove, question begging (circular reasoning)? (14) Are the heuristics (the rules of thumb, models, maps, narratives) the person overlays onto reality too simple? Too complicated? Is this person open to reality testing them? (15) Is the person introducing any static into their arguments (things that are beside the point, emotional appeals, logical fallacies, etc.)? If so, why are they doing that? What’s the signal in the noise here?
The critical reasoner brings such skeptical questions, not just to others, but back upon the self. Skeptical questioning directed outward, toward others, but never back upon oneself, is not skepticism. Do you have the capacity, not just for bringing criticism to others, but for self criticism–and the hearing of criticism?
Pretty darn interesting. Bart Compolo, a former evangelical minister who evolved intellectually toward atheism, has discovered the world needs some of the same basic things that he did as a pastor, so he’s doing them in a low-key way at the University of Southern California, ministering (is that the right word?) to humanist students. It reminds me of Joseph Koerner’s book on art during the German Reformation (The Reformation of the Image, University of Chicago Press), in which Koerner notes numerous parallels between the Protestant pastor and congregation of the 16th century and the college professor and college class of today. Anyway, a life affirming article about what happens when a person does their level best to be true to themselves (exercising their temperamental gifts, their honest beliefs and interests, etc.) and stays honest with others. I wish there were more people who would simply risk telling the truth, living vulnerable in the world, admitting their honest doubts.
Here’s the link to Koerner’s book:
In the video below, what we’re seeing is civilizational colonization, not immigration. Muslim men in France are literally driving women out of public spaces. Imagine a suburb of France that was majority Calvinist asserting the authority of Calvin’s “Institutes” over the Enlightenment inspired French Constitution in this way. The Anglo-French Enlightenment constitutes a civilization, and one of the things our civilization means is women’s equality, which includes access to cafes and streets without harassment or intimidation. Blacks fought for a similar right in the American South in the 1950s and 60s. Immigrants who come from Islamic dominated parts of the world shouldn’t be able to abuse Anglo-French tolerance for freedom of religion to trump hard won individual rights. It can’t be allowed to simply take over a community in this way, leaving no room for non-Muslims to live freely, according to their own lights. If this is allowed, France will become essentially a balkanized country where women are free in some areas and not in others. If you seek to immigrate to a liberal democracy, then you’re breaking the social contract if you don’t respect individual autonomy and choice. It should be a condition of entry that you agree to respect women’s autonomy and the autonomy of people whose beliefs are not your own. Otherwise, you’re colonizing the host country, not assimilating to it. You’re exploiting the law to make of yourself, locally, the law.
Information. Physicist Brian Greene, in his book The Hidden Reality (Knopf 2011), gives a three word definition of information: “Information answers questions” (252). Curiously, in physics you can give a three word definition for entropy as well: entropy measures questions. (That is, entropy tells you how many logically possible questions the system being attended to can actually answer, and whether those questions have been answered.) Entropy is the measure of disorder in a system. If disorder is high, entropy is high. If disorder is low, entropy is low. So when you ask, “Where’s my pen?”, and you know exactly where it is, the entropy (disorder) in your life, at least surrounding pens, is probably low. You’ve got a system around your home that is ordered in such a way that you can answer your question. Entropy measures questions. Information answers questions.
But what exactly does entropy measures questions and information answers questions mean? Greene writes: “[T]he most useful measure of information content is the number of distinct yes-no questions the information can answer. […] A datum that can answer a single yes-no question is called a bit–a familiar computer-age term that is short for binary digit, meaning a 0 or 1, which you can think of as a numerical representation of yes or no.”
What Green is describing here can be illustrate by flipping a coin twice. If you ask, “What’s the result of the two flips?”, and I say, “Two heads,” your knowledge of what we might call the “two coin flip system” is 100%. It has four bits of information, and you know all of them. You know the order of the flips (heads, heads) and the content of the flips (heads, heads). But if I say, “Heads on the first coin, but I don’t know on the second,” then your knowledge of the system drops to 50%. You know two of the four bits of information. Like losing a pen, the system is getting chaotic for you. You want to know your relation to where and how things are.
The implication here is startling. When we’re talking about information, we’re talking about entropy. Information and entropy are one. If you want to know what maximum chaos is, enter a system where you have no information; where what you’re looking for could be in any logically possible place within the system; where all the information is hidden. Here’s Greene again: “[A] system’s entropy is the number of yes-no questions that its microscopic details have the capacity to answer, and so the entropy is a measure of the system’s hidden information content” (253).
Entropy. The relationship therefore between entropy and information is inverse: the more entropy (chaos) you are presented with, the less you can definitively say at that moment about the system; the less you can map; the less you can control. There are lots of logically possible ways a system can be—that constitutes its hidden information content—but there’s only one way that a system is in reality. That’s its actual configuration of answers to your yes-no questions. Your mission, should you accept it, is to find out the way the world is by asking it questions. (Where’s your pen, again, exactly?)
Think of fog and ice. When you know little, you are in the fog of a highly entropic information system. But once you acquire definite information, and get some control over it, such as in a physical system when fog turns into ice (a much less entropic form of water because it takes on a definite shape), entropy comes down, at least for you locally. You get definite answers to your yes-no questions (that molecule of ice belongs to that snowflake, it’s not just anywhere in a fog, etc.). Your intellectual fog thus congeals into something more certain, akin to ice crystals. There are now definite bits of information that you can link-up with your other bits of information. (The philosopher David Hume would call your discovery of ice and your interpretation, experience and inference. The data you have access to and the connections you make out of it constitute your interpretation.)
Thoreau and Hume. Henry David Thoreau in Walden quotes Confucius as saying the following: “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” That’s also true information. Hume, skeptical of a priori reasoning (armchair reasoning absent investigation), put it this way in his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding:
The existence […] of any being can only be proved by arguments…founded entirely on experience. If we reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun; or the wish of a man control the planets in their orbits.
In other words, when asking a question of the cosmos, trying to derive a bit of information from it (“Can a man’s wish effect the orbit of a planet?”), lots of things may be logically possible, but only one thing is true. Don’t presume to know what that thing is before you really do; before you have a basis for induction (inference) from experience; before you bring down the entropy.
Below is a clip of the future Secretary of State on climate change. His argumentative maneuvers in the attached clip are predictably glib: (1) climate models possess a wide range of uncertainty; (2) the problems look manageable to him; and (3) we can adapt.
Translation: if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate: (1) maybe things won’t be as bad as some models predict; (2) if they are that bad, we’ll adapt; and we’ll do so by (3) engineering (which means moving our harbors and cities deeper inland, which translates into passing the costs, in the trillions, of our global warming, to future generations).
Simple. I feel so much better.
This election is hopelessly tainted. Trump won by just 80,000 votes spread across three swing states–and lost the general election tally by a full 2% (three million votes). Hillary got 48%, Trump 46%, and Stein/Johnson basically the remainder–which means 54% of American voters didn’t want Trump–yet here we are with Trump. And Russia’s interference almost certainly achieved far more than that 80,000 vote swing, so we’ve literally been hacked as a democracy, getting the president that Putin wanted, not the American voters. And now we learn that the head of Exxon-Mobile, with deep ties to Russia, is Trump’s most likely pick for Secretary of State.
So what can be done at this point? It’s like a storm. Hunker down and hope the Republic and planet survives in tact the next four to eight years. But I’ve never felt so despondent about the prospects for the Anglo-French Enlightenment, liberal democracy, and ecology. Trump seems to be setting the clock back, not to the 1990s, say, but the 1890s (a period of nationalism that culminated in two world wars). And he’ll have the nuclear codes, let’s never forget that. Any day over the next four years we could wake up and learn Trump has decided to arrest the conspirators in a conspiracy he has “uncovered,” or used a nuclear weapon to “solve” a problem somewhere on the pretense of some crisis. What Reichstag fire awaits us? It’s really a hostage situation.
No, this is not a joke. This is real. Donald Trump’s national security adviser is going to be Michael Flynn.
“Michael Flynn is a crackpot,” claims Paul Waldman, a senior writer at The American Spectator. He also observes that Flynn is credulous about conspiracy theories.
So we’re basically in the realm of Dr. Strangelove here.
Waldman also writes this: “For a President Trump’s unique combination of ignorance, inexperience, and impulsiveness, it’s particularly vital to have a national security adviser who can encourage calm and thoughtfulness, and not be distracted by what’s irrelevant or downright false.”
That’s not what we’re getting. Let that sink in.
If an international incident of Cuban Missile Crisis proportions presents itself at any point during the course of the Trump administration, two crackpots, at minimum, are going to be in the Oval Office debating among themselves what to do next: Micheal Flynn and Donald Trump.
We’re in a hostage crisis. And a fog.
What I think those of us who are white males haven’t absorbed yet about this election is that there’s no being a “citizen,” male or female, second-class or otherwise, in a liberal democratic republic anymore.
We all lost the country this year. All of us. Including those Trump voters who thought they were voting to defend the Constitution.
If you’re now feeling a twinge of apprehension in having voted for Trump, or are a white Clinton voter feeling sorry for Muslim Americans–or wondering what it might feel like to be black in Trump’s America–I’ve got news for you. You’re now a rolling stone as well. If you think the Bob Dylan song is a romantic fancy, listen to the lyrics closely at the dawn of the Age of Trump, and weep.
We’ve lost the country, not in a partisan sense, but in the literal sense. There are no second-class American citizens now, male or female, patriot or hippie, Muslim or non-Muslim, because there are no American citizens.
I’m trying to describe the situation. This is Donald Trump’s America. We just live here. Going forward, we’ll all become increasingly aware that we’re moving about in this country, not because the law protects us, or because we’re citizens and this country is ours, but because we are at his sufferance. He’s going to be tolerating us being here–and he’ll be revoking that tolerance if we cross him in a way that threatens his grip on power. His loyalty is not to democracy, the rule of law, and its institutions, but to himself. He owns us.
This is a daddy-child and master-slave situation, not a citizenry to public servant situation. We have seen nothing all year in his character that suggests he can exercise self restraint, and in two months, he’ll be the boss, and he’ll believe the law won’t apply to him. There will be no effective balance of powers to check him because he’ll be ignoring them, and if anybody tries to resist him, he’s going to crush them (first with soft power, but with hard if that becomes necessary). And in four years, he’s not leaving office, even were he to lose an election. (“It was rigged, it was totally unfair.”) In four years, if he’s gathered sufficient power to himself, and can figure out a way not to, he may not even hold an election.
If you resist, and you persist in your insolence, rising above the radar into his attention, expect to be deemed an enemy of the state. There will be no normal avenues effective against him now.
That’s where we are. Washington to Obama. That was America’s Republic. We’re now dealing with a completely different animal. The veneer of the old laws and the old Republic will be cloaking a lawless authoritarian attempting to grab all the power he can get, dangerous to ourselves and the rest of the world, propped up by a system of mass propaganda, popular will, and force. This veil of the old, but dead, Republic, with its forms and laws, by cloaking this new thing that has come into existence, is going to make it very difficult to think clearly about what’s really going on. It’s the emperor’s new clothes, and we’re going to have to see through them to the truth of our situation.
How will Trump consolidate power? What will be his modus operandi? The same as we’ve witnessed all year. He’ll defame and threaten, ramping up crisis after crisis, and won’t budge–and people will relent because he’ll simply make it too hot for them if they don’t. Watch Paul Ryan buckle again and again. Watch yourself. There will be lots of rationalizing. You’ll be doing it as well. You’re not going to be witness to many profiles in courage in this age we might properly call The Fog of Trump, and you’re not likely to be one yourself.
How does it feel?
Well, I’m searching for something that reflects accurately the emotion evoked in me by this election result. When the past year was ongoing, it was the ending of Hitchcock’s The Birds that seemed the apt metaphor for what I was witnessing, and the emotional alienation it evoked: creatures I thought I knew (not birds, in this case, but Americans), I didn’t know at all. I also found myself turning for understanding to Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay on Ur-Fascism (Eco grew up in Mussolini’s Italy).
So now, what seems right for this post-election moment? I sincerely hope to be utterly wrong about this, and that Trump makes for a normal, if eccentric, American president, but I fear that the ending of the Trump era is going to culminate in something like this: the head-shaking, sobering conclusion to the 1968 version of The Planet of the Apes. Immediately prior to this scene in the film, Dr Zeus, just before Taylor heads by horse into a forbidden desert, is warned off with the words, “Don’t do it, Taylor. You won’t like what you find.”
Let’s pray for no Cuban Missile Crisis on Trump’s watch–but it’s difficult not to expect one. After the irrationality that brought us to this point, what makes us think it will stop here, and go no further?
Don’t kid yourself. This is still tight. Trump’s bet is on the same demographic Hitler made his bet on in 1933: the non-college educated who live outside of the cities. In places like Berlin, you had many highly educated people embracing modernism. They lived in a mental universe that was worlds apart from those living beyond the cities. Most of the educated couldn’t imagine voting for Hitler. But when you got out of the cities, it was a different story. One of the perplexities that intellectuals wrestled with after World War II, which ended just a dozen years after Hitler rose to power, was how the country of Einstein and Goethe could have succumbed to so ludicrous a charlatan and psychopath as Hitler. How different the history of Germany and the world would have been without him! If Trump wins, then sometime around 2028, a dozen years from now, after the ruin of our Republic’s institutions and perhaps a nuclear weapons usage incident, intellectuals–if there are any left–will be asking how the land of Silicon Valley and Thomas Jefferson went mad for so very, very little. One thing this election has brought home to me is how fragile the separation of powers are in this country–and how vulnerable the country is to a well-financed authoritarian takeover. It’s scary and it’s close. And it’s scary because it’s close.
This quote captures for me a lot of the pre-election feel of this weekend: “Asked earlier Friday aboard Air Force One en route to North Carolina what the president makes of a country that has not more clearly rejected Trump, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Trump’s rhetoric has been disturbing, but said he’d wait to see Tuesday’s results before speaking to why or how much that rhetoric has resonated.”
In other words, it’s quiet now, the winds aren’t discernible, and we’re all bracing for the news: did the weather threatening just offshore actually reach land–or drift safely out to sea?
It recalls for me an Emily Dickinson poem. I suppose it’s the poem for this election.
I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –
And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands –
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – opon the Sands –
But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Boddice – too –
And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –
And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –
Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –
Misogyny. One of the saddest moments for me in the run-up to Tuesday’s election is reading this morning of a joke that John Sununu–a 77-year-old Trump surrogate, former governor of New Hampshire, former chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, and a member of Mensa (!)–delivered to a gathering of New Hampshire Republicans, in which he said (grotesquely) that when Bill Clinton declared he “did not have sex with that woman,” he was talking, not about Monica, but Hillary.
Who cracks a joke like that at a gathering of men and women together–and the women not leave the room? That’s not Hillary hatred, that’s woman hatred. And yet nobody left the room, male or female. If that joke had been made by a manager in a workplace among a gathering of men and women, that manager would (rightly) be removed from a position of responsibility.
Yet this is a Trump surrogate in 2016–and Trump himself almost certainly won’t even be bothered to comment on it, nor will he be asked about it. It’s just one more thing to shrug at, apparently, as if to say, “The voters will decide Tuesday.”
But the Sununu incident really brought to the fore for me exactly how proudly and brazenly misogynistic Republicans have become in this election cycle–literally daring voters to abandon them for their expressions of disrespect, indifference, and hatred toward women–all the while showing themselves to be supremely confident that women won’t.
There’s something deeply, deeply wrong with our country if the women living here do not decisively vote this down at the polls on Tuesday. If Republicans are rewarded with all three branches of the federal government after all that has gone on this year, I don’t understand the country. And yet the most recent New York Times poll has white women splitting their votes 50-50 between Hillary and Trump.
How can this be?
It recalls what Umberto Eco, who grew up in Mussolini’s Italy, wrote in 1995 as one of the characteristics of what he coins Ur-Fascism (base fascism; the fascism that has ebbed and flowed throughout the ages). Eco observes that, in Ur-Fascism, machismo extends not just to “war and heroism,” but to a “will to power” in “sexual matters,” a “disdain for women,” and a playing “with weapons…[as] an ersatz phallic exercise.”
A majority of white American men have made their preference clear as noon that they’re just fine with a revival of this sort of fascist-style machismo in America, and for Trump to be its standard bearer, translating it from culture into politics. But are there really not enough white women in the country to join women of color to block this? Will Hillary really just pull half of the votes of white women this year–and perhaps lose the election because of it?
I would never have believed it a year ago. I’m wondering now.