Sax von Stroheim writes:
Sorry you’re feeling so freaked out this week. Hopefully, the initial shock is starting to wear off and you’re in a better place where you can start thinking about the future without that same sense of impending doom that overcame to you on Wednesday morning. I’d like to help chip away at any of that doom that still lingers.
To start with, there are actually quite a few reasons why progressives should be happy, if not for a Trump win then at least for a Clinton loss. Clinton represented the most right-leaning, hawkish side of the her party: as a Senator, she used her clout as a Democrat to help get all the country lined up behind the Iraq invasion, and never met a foreign intervention she didn’t like while she was Secretary of State. She was the candidate vastly preferred by the 1% and Wall Street, mainly because they were completely certain that it would be business as usual for them if she were elected. This election represented a repudiation of the neoliberal and neoconservative worldviews, and a triumph of localism over globalism. You must be as happy as I am that the neoconservatives, rats who jumped onto a sinking ship, are likely history.
But for many of you, this isn’t really about foreign policy — it’s personal. I know Trump’s crudeness, sexism, and vulgarity really triggers you, but the White House, and our country, has weathered that before. In fact, some of your favorite presidents have been guilty of being kind of crude. JFK and Bill Clinton were both sexist womanizers — and they kept up their womanizing while in the White House. I think the argument that Trump’s sexism somehow will send a message to children that it’s “OK” to be sexist just doesn’t hold up. (Or, if you were being consistent about it, you’d also be working overtime to tear down JFK and Bill Clinton’s reputation and you wouldn’t have shouted “Move On” so loudly when the Republicans went after Bill for his indiscretions.) But really, if there’s a decline in morality and decorum in this country, then who we choose for president is much more of a symptom than a cause.
As for vulgarity, Harry S. Truman and LBJ were both as foul-mouthed as Trump. LBJ was arguably even cruder: his well-known habit of continuing his conversations with people while to people he was on the toilet may even verge from being crude to being outright gross. But somehow in hindsight, that habit of LBJ’s takes on a kind of folksy charm. I’d go farther in making a connection between Trump and LBJ: people categorize Trump’s anti-PC speech and Tweets as him being undisciplined, but, in reality, Trump’s vulgar speech works like LBJ’s vulgar conversational gambits. They both serve to keep people off guard: a great skill for any kind of good negotiator. Right now, we’re seeing a Trump who has spent almost the entire election season trying to keep his opponents off guard, and we haven’t yet seen him use some of his other negotiating skills — the ones that involve compromise — but a quick review of his career in the real estate business shows that he knows when he needs to play nice. He’s started already, with his gracious acceptance speech.
You probably don’t believe in any of the positive messages in his acceptance speech, but that’s OK. It’s still early. And, really, who am I to blame you? You’ve been hearing for over a year now from the media that Trump is a true monster, a horrible combination of Hitler and Jabba the Hutt who threatens the Republic, Democracy, and the True Meaning of America. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve kind of been gaslighted. Trump isn’t perfect, sure, but the mainstream media has worked overtime to paint him in the worst possible light. In fact, I kind of blame your horrible mood this week on them: you wouldn’t be freaking out so much if the media hadn’t whipped you all up into a frenzy of hate and fear and violence. Check out Keith Preston’s analysis of Trump, which takes a more nuanced, hysteria free look at his political character. Preston sees Trump as being in the mold of liberal, Northeastern Republicans, like Nelson Rockefeller (albeit one who was savvy enough to realize that this was an election year favoring more populist positions) and argues that he was the more liberal of the two candidates this year.
I’m glad that a lot of you are thinking about positive changes you can make and political actions you can take to keep the progressive fight alive. Before you do that though, I’d gently recommend that you take a little bit of time to reflect on not only why Trump won, but, more importantly, why you were surprised that he won. By relying on the mainstream media you’ve tuned out a whole bunch of smart, interesting, unorthodox voices, many of whom were saying things that turned out to be a lot closer to reality than anything on NPR. Try taking a look at, say, Scott Adams’ blog. Adams has a unique take on the election, and, big props to him, he called it for Trump a long, long time ago. And I remain convinced that it’s impossible to understand what has been going on in America over the last year if you haven’t been reading Steve Sailer everyday.
Now, you might be saying, isn’t Adams supposed to be some kind of sexist creep? And isn’t Sailer a racist? Well, you know, sorry to have to break this to you, but that’s part of your problem: dismissing people who are able to make sense of the world better than the approved opinion-makers in the NY Times or the Washington Post just because they’re not PC or have some deplorable views is a big part of the reason you’re in the mess you’re in right now. If you’re serious about being a progressive, you can’t tune this stuff out anymore — or shout it down by saying “sexist” and “racist” as loudly as you can. You need to, if not agree with folks like Adams and Sailer, and least engage with their ideas in good faith. To at least allow for the possibility that they aren’t evil, but are rather just reasonable guys trying to make sense of the world as best they can, and are courageous enough to let that making-sense process lead them to thoughts and ideas that have been declared verboten by the mainstream media and cultural establishment. (And if you’re really adventurous, maybe you should take some time to get a better sense of what that “media and cultural establishment” really consists of by reading Moldbug: here’s a good place to start).
And one last thing to reflect on, before you pick up the good fight again. You’ve probably dismissed all the chatter about Clinton’s e-mails and corruption as nothing more than the latest part of the vast right wing conspiracy designed to undermine her candidacy, but I’d recommend taking a look at those leaked e-mails to really get a good sense of how corrupt she really was. How heartbreaking it must be for you to realize that Bernie — a genuine progressive and a candidate who could have much more easily have ridden the wave of populist support that Trump caught — was sabotaged by Clinton and her corrupt allies. Not that this should be about assigning blame, but Clinton did more to ensure Trump’s election than anyone but Trump himself.
So, I hope some of this makes you feel better, or, at least, less worse. And I guarantee that if you take the time to read through some dissenting, unorthodox views from people like Preston, Adams, and Sailer you’ll be, if not more resigned to, then at least less wrong about and less surprised by the way a post-Brexit, post-Trump world works.
All my best,
Sax von Stroheim
- Paleo Retiree has some thoughts about how the MSM missed the boat bigly and is collecting some interesting election-reaction links.
- More links from Eddie.
- Of course, the punchline is that I don’t actually have any progressive friends who are open-minded enough to respond to this with anything but frothing hatred, so I won’t actually be sharing this with them — at least for a while.