The Love – Hate Election

August 24, 2020 at 6:14 pm (Uncategorized)

National political conventions are all about marketing, making the sale. They are targeted to a mass audience, not to the rather small class of political junkies, micropundits, and activists. Therefore, they are pitched to the heart, not the head; branded by emotion, not by ideology or policy.

Most people glaze over or break out in hives when confronted with isms or wonkery. They will vote for candidates who make them and their loved ones feel good and who they believe will make their lives feel better. For example, they want simple, affordable, comprehensive health insurance and they need it yesterday; they don’t care whether it’s called Medicare For All or precisely how it’s paid for.

You can say we have an ill-informed populace, or you can say that’s just how people are and there’s a wisdom to it. A naïvété too, of course. Hearts can be hoodwinked, but heads can be irrelevant. They just talk to other heads.

So, crudely put, the Democrats branded their convention Love and the Republicans are branding theirs Hate. (That’s the label, not the contents. The main ingredient inside both is Desire To Win.) I started thinking about which will prove stronger, which has the best shot at prevailing over the other. First I’ll make the case for Hate, laid out in a string of tweets I posted this morning. This is not negativity, it’s superstition. The Jewish philosophy of life is “Expect the worst, you might be pleasantly surprised.” My ancestors were sure that blithe optimism attracts the Evil Eye.

Republicans will point out, correctly, that Democrat Love is chocolate sauce poured over hate of Trump. Democrats will point out, correctly, that Republican Hate is really fear of demographic change. It’s natural to hate what threatens what we love (channeling Polly Chase for a moment), and the parties’ constituencies are now defined by which America they love: the diverse one of the future, or the white one of the past. That future is coming, inexorably, and the only way to slow its advance is what it always has been, brutal oppression, but on a larger scale than ever before. The best and worst of America since its founding are now fully out in the open and heading for a showdown. To beat Trump is to win a battle, not the war. To lose to Trump is to lose the war.

The video of George Floyd’s murder, coming on top of seven years’ effort by Black Lives Matter, seems to have finally opened the eyes of a majority of white Americans to what nonwhite Americans have always known. Those newly awakened, if not woke, white people now tentatively love the vision of the Beloved Community presented by the Democratic convention, especially since it was married with an older style of all-American happy talk, just with varied accents and many-colored faces. (Advertising has been test-marketing this vision for a while, and a heartwarming prototype can be found in the Paul Mazursky / Robin Williams film Moscow on the Hudson, in which my husband had a cameo.) But as much as they might come to love this feelgood vision, they also hate violence and disorder that threatens them. That is why the urban “riots” and shootings are Trump’s ace in the hole right now—the same dynamic that brought us Richard Nixon.

Now as then, you can be very sure that right-wing provocateurs are a big part of the action. The left should let them have it all. Let the Proud Boys dress up as a handful of anarchists and riot by themselves. To attract mass support and expose the opposition, protests and demonstrations for Black Lives Matter should ideally be disciplined, nonviolent, and free of ideology. (Let me dream.) It’s an uncomfortable fact that if the initial George Floyd protests had been completely nonviolent, they might not have gotten much attention. But when violence wears on, the weathervane of attention soon swivels the other way. Instead of violence pointing at injustice, it becomes fear pointing at violence—and disgust, especially when small businesses are destroyed.

After centuries of oppression and corruption, hate may be justified and cathartic. But for now, let it be the Republicans’ brand. Only that can weaken it—by diluting its fuel of fear.

21 Comments

  1. Polly said,

    I understand that I could some day find out I was wrong, but I very much disagree that this is a contest between diversity and whiteness. I very much disagree that the typical Trump supporter, or Republican, is a white nationalist. That is a myth promoted by the Democrats.

    I understand how much we disagree about this. I could be convinced, but I have seen nothing convincing yet and I have looked.

    And the George Floyd killing did not provide any evidence of systemic racism, or any kind of racism. It should not have happened, but no one knows the motive and we might never. Maybe after the trial, but definitely not now.

    I watched the 18 minute leaked body cam video of the George Floyd killing. It showed Floyd giving the police a very hard time from the beginning almost to the end. He seemed to be delirious and on drugs. He fought everything they asked him to do, and the police were patient with him. Until the end, when Chauvin pinned him down and failed to notice that he was dying.

    There is no excuse for what Chauvin did. But nothing in the 2 videos showed what he was thinking. If a white person kills a black person it is not automatically racism. It makes no sense to read racism into everything.

    I believe that the current fanatical anti-racism is a big factor in tearing this country apart. Assuming that Republicans are generally racists destroys any possibility of understanding or communication between the two teams.

    Extreme political correctness and the cancel culture are not going to win the hearts of independents.

  2. Polly said,

    Nice to see J in that movie. Impressively handsome.

  3. Melinda Bruno said,

    In “1984,” they called it “The Two Minute Hate,” not the “Two Minute Love.”

  4. amba12 said,

    👍🏼 Orwell wrote the book.

  5. Polly said,

    And I didn’t say there are no racists or white supremacists. I said that racism is not what currently divides the two parties.

  6. Seth Chalmer said,

    Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” (A great poem and one of which I have thought a million times since 2016… https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43290/the-second-coming

    But we’ll see how the gyre turns.

  7. amba12 said,

    Many of us are right on that page with you.

  8. amba12 said,

    Polly Chase, the Republicans will use whatever builds their power, and racism and xenophobia out there are two of the factors they are happy to exploit. Others include homophobia and transphobia, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism, white working-class despair and rage, and resentment of insiders and haughty, hypocritical elites. Obviously their supporters can’t all be simple racists as a chunk of them voted for Obama.

  9. Polly said,

    Amba, we do not know how many Republicans are racist, xenophobic, etc. It is just an assumption that a majority of them are.

    I think the anti-semitism accusation is ridiculous — Trump’s daughter Ivanka married a Jew and converted to Judaism. And Trump and Ivanka are very close.

    There are all degrees of racism, homo-hating, trans-hating, feminism-hating. I personally have always hated some things about the feminist movement, and I currently hate some things about the transgender movement — the harmful drugs they are pushing on children, the awful surgery they get as adults. But we aren’t allowed to criticize any aspect of it. If I had a job now and said any of that publicly I could be fired and cancelled.

    Progressives/liberals have gone off the deep end. Completely. Even some progressive/liberals are saying it — for example Matt Taibbi.

    So it is not nearly as simple as you portray it. It is not simply kind and tolerant liberals vs narrow-minded bigoted conservatives.

    The conservatives I know are not racists and don’t hate gays or Jews. These things are just not constantly at the center of their consciousness. There are other things to think about.

    And lots of Jews are Republicans these days because the “left” now officially hates Israel.

  10. amba12 said,

    You are willfully misreading me. I didn’t say that most Republicans are racists or that they are anti-Semites. I said that racism and anti-Semitism are among the strains that are out there that they are willing to inflame and exploit.

  11. amba12 said,

    You’re putting words in my mouth to turn me into a straw man in your own personal argument. I am so far mostly refraining from doing the same to you. I never say, or think, that it’s “kind and tolerant liberals vs narrow-minded bigoted conservatives.”

  12. Polly said,

    Well there are the evangelical Christians who disapprove of homosexuality. And there are white nationalists who are also nationalists.

  13. Polly said,

    [I never say, or think, that it’s “kind and tolerant liberals vs narrow-minded bigoted conservatives.”]

    Oh sorry, I thought you thought that.

  14. Polly said,

    Trump’s main message is populist nationalism, and that can attract white nationalists and bigots. But it attracts other types also.

  15. Tom Strong said,

    Polly, you seem to adhere to a pretty narrow (and at this point, predominantly Republican) view of racism that it is mostly a matter of personal animus towards non-white people. You can believe that if you want, but as long as you do you’re going to have trouble communicating about racism with anyone who’s not a hardline conservative.

    Most liberals, and most moderates – and certainly most people of color – see racism as a system that underlies the functioning of most of our institutions. That’s why “systemic racism” has become such a buzzword, though the concept itself is very old. And it’s why an increasing number of white liberals have come to recognize their own complicity with racism, even if they disclaim it.

    The fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives on race is not that conservatives are bigots and liberals are not. It’s that liberals recognize that our institutions favor white people in numerous ways, large and small, and believe we should try to change that. Conservatives, by and large, think we should not.

  16. amba12 said,

    “Oh sorry, I thought you thought that.” We’ve had lots of conversations but apparently you haven’t heard me, or haven’t remembered.

  17. Polly said,

    “Polly, you seem to adhere to a pretty narrow (and at this point, predominantly Republican) view of racism that it is mostly a matter of personal animus towards non-white people.”

    THAT IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY. This is the insanity I am talking about. Every non-black person must be a racist.

    I AM NOT A REPUBLICAN. You have absolutely no understanding AT ALL of what I think about this.

    It is scary and dangerous these days, knowing everyone who is not a progressive leftist Democrat will be accused of racism. NO MATTER WHAT WE THINK. NO MATTER WHAT WE SAY. NO MATTER WHAT WE DO.

    Do I seem upset? Well that’s because I am. I have probably never hated anything as much as I hate this kind of insanity.

    We can’t win, we can’t say anything, we can’t try to be logical. If we aren’t anti-racist robots you will accuse and condemn us.

    I’ve had it with this.

  18. Polly said,

    “We’ve had lots of conversations but apparently you haven’t heard me, or haven’t remembered.”

    So I’m either stupid or demented. Thanks.

  19. amba12 said,

    Thanks for putting more words in my mouth. No, you are so immersed in your own inner argument that what other people actually say sometimes doesn’t register.

  20. Tom Strong said,

    Polly: THAT IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY.

    Thanks for making my point about communication so clear! I am not trying to attack you, and if it comes off that way I do apologize. I am, however, trying to say that you and amba are quite literally talking past one another.

    I am responding to statements you have made in these comments, e.g. “Amba, we do not know how many Republicans are racist, xenophobic, etc. It is just an assumption that a majority of them are.”

    That’s a statement about people’s individual animus, their individual psychology. That’s exactly where the trouble communicating I described comes into play. “Systemic racism” is not about what is in people’s hearts – it is about how our systems work.

    Does that affect people’s hearts, our psychology? Sure! That’s why so many of my fellow white liberals frequently engage in (sometimes performative) efforts to make amends for racist actions or beliefs.

    This is the insanity I am talking about. Every non-black person must be a racist

    Well, yes. In a system so shaped by racism, historical and current, we are all complicit in it to a greater or lesser degree. The question is what do we do about it now?

    I AM NOT A REPUBLICAN. You have absolutely no understanding AT ALL of what I think about this.

    I am not calling you a Republican. I’m not calling you a racist! But I am saying you are espousing one viewpoint that is predominantly associated with the Republican party at this time.

    I’m not even condemning that viewpoint! I happen to think it is wrong, but I understand many people think this way and I don’t see them as necessarily “worse” people than liberals – certainly not white liberals like myself who still do many things that prop up a racist system.

    Again, you seem to understand racism as predominantly being a result of people’s psyches. I understand racism as being a system, built into our laws and institutional norms, that affects us all – Black people most negatively. That, not “who is more racist,” is the primary difference on race between the two parties.

  21. amba12 said,

    This is apparently the moment when everyone goes crazy, each in their own way.

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