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    • Happy Thanksgiving
      Be happy and be well. Please be careful about Covid. Viral load matters for infection, spending hours in a house with people is a great way to get infected. Feel free to use comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. I’m doing my annual fundraiser. If you like my writing and can afford to, […]
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The world goes on without us

Sam Harris, neuroscientist and philosopher, sat down for a bit of an unusual interview with Preet Bharara on Thursday. I highly recommend this interview for any liberal or lefty people out there. Harris touches on a core truth about what is going on between the two halves of American culture right now but doesn’t quite connect the dots. Sooooo close though.

Skip the first hour if you’re not into meditation. It’s probably good for you but if you’re like me, he starts sounding like someone promoting veganism. Ok, great, you like it and get so much out of it but I don’t have time to check out and go to a meditation retreat, which is what it’s going to take. Pass me a porterhouse medium rare please.

It’s the second half where this interview really shines when he talks about how crazy making Trump supporters are. I can’t summarize it adequately. You really need to listen. He gets closer than anyone I’ve heard about why they drive us nuts. It’s that they know that Trump is an immoral, unethical, destructive, liar and they don’t care. Some of them even like it that he’s taking a wrecking ball to our governmental institutions. There’s a sick glee about it. He is their instrument, a bloated, incredibly stupid, walking, talking orange anger instrument.

I’ve been told that murdering someone with a knife is the ultimate act of rage. That’s what being with a Trump supporter feels like. It feels like their anger has been unleashed, it’s gory and they’re not going to stop until they turn us into a crime scene. Maybe they’ll wake up someday and have a McMichael father and son matching “oh f#%*, what happened last night, I drank way too much” look on the face. But in the meantime, they’re going to kill all of us just jogging around trying to live our lives.

To me, Trump is like a great white shark. A huge, extremely dangerous predator that is constantly moving, constantly hungry, unthinking and driven by an insatiable instinct for ripping the guts out of the next person just taking a nice dip in the ocean. There’s no meaning behind what he does. His eyes are cold. His destructiveness has no ultimate goal. I don’t know if that makes him a true fascist or not because he doesn’t have an ideology except for self-interest. It should be self limiting but he’s tearing through our institutions more quickly now like he’s in the grip of some kind of feeding frenzy. We can perhaps assume that there is an ideology present that finds his blank, idiotic vengefulness extremely convenient. That topic has been discussed elsewhere by others in greater detail, probably in The Atlantic or Slate. But I’ve got a feeling that some of those true fascists were behind much of what happened in 2008 at the collapse of the finance industry and that they quietly backed Obama.

Now, onto Obama.

I spent eight years resisting Obama. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a huge improvement over Trump if for no other reason than his propensity to wash his hands of any true action for the change he ran on is a much less destructive character flaw than Trump’s mindless, insatiable, ripping us to shreds. In this interview, I can see my own point of view expressed by Harris, and the prevailing consensus driven reality that is represented by Preet. It’s worth the time to try to unpack why Obama had an impact on the typical Trumper.

Harris says you are not a horrible person if you found Obama was not an immaculately conceived sinless human being. It is perfectly fine to criticize him and you shouldn’t be crucified for it or called a racist.

Preet takes the other position, which is what I think is what caused so many voters to give in to Obama. That is, sure, you can express a more critical opinion of Obama. But the fear of the real racists in our culture causes us to be more scrupulous and demanding of our own side. The reality is that for eight straight years, you couldn’t say anything critical of Obama without being accused of racism. Harris would say that’s unacceptable and would defend your right to rationally stick to your opinions. Preet advocates for a vigorous defense against racism even where it might not exist because otherwise the real racists win.

And that, my friends, partially explains what the now Trump supporters found so crazy making about the left. In a way, it couldn’t have been a more perfect exploitable opportunity for the Fox News programmers. Here was the “liberal” nominee weaponizing race to stifle genuine criticism because we Americans know that there are real racists out there. The Obama contingent knew what they were doing and they also didn’t care. It was much easier to pull this off when they made over the Clinton supporters as the “old coalition” of stupid, working class, uneducated voters who had no other reason to dislike him but the color of his skin. Neat trick to turn so many of us into such an unappealing caricature. Who says the left knows nothing about messaging?

It was the equivalent of the left telling the non-Obama supporters that they were just hatin’ Never Obamaers and their opinions could be dismissed.

I was one of those people who was enraged by this because the left excused all kinds of gratuitous rule bending and primary voter disenfranchisement to get Obama the nomination. (Hello! California didn’t even cast its ballots at the convention in Denver in 2008.) We witnesses were told to get on the bandwagon or risk ostracism. When the dust settled and Jon Favreau types felt comfortable enough to be photographed groping the breast of a life sized cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton, we were told to get over it. It was just hard ball politics they said as they continued to poke us in the eye with sharp sticks. In other words, the bare knuckled fight for the 2008 nomination exposed our own crazy making cadre of people who know what they’re doing is destructive but they just didn’t care. And they used the threat of the accusation of racism to make the left not care either. For eight straight years, Obama could do no wrong, which in a way wasn’t so bad after all because he didn’t actually do much.

Lest you think I’m wrong about that, go say something critical about Obama on Twitter. Criticize the creaky awfulness of the ACA that pitted lower income people against each other, requiring some of them to jump through ever higher hoops for shitty health insurance policies they couldn’t afford. Or try to discuss how he left the finance industry foxes guarding the henhouse after 2008. Remind people about how he stood between the investment bankers and the pitchforks. Do you think he did that on behalf of the hardworking working class people in America? Go read the book Bailout by IG Neil Borofsky about how Obama gave control of the treasury to the companies that were too big to fail. Harris brings up Obama’s milquetoast response to the beginning of the exponentially destabilizing war in Syria. We could go on and on but don’t try to talk about it rationally with an Obama supporter. The man was a saint and could do no wrong. Put aside the fact that he lacked Trump’s stupidity or immorality. He deserved a lot more push back from his own side than he got but most Obama supporters either vigorously defended him while simultaneously dismissing the “old coalition” and silently went along with the eight years of hard ball tactics for fear of being called racists.

My point is that the left willingly blinded itself to the installation of Obama by equally mysterious forces (my guess is they were mostly soft right wing) carefully hiding their ideology behind a shield of racism accusations. The now Trump supporters, some of them former “old coalition” Democrats took a lesson from it. Trump is a different and more deadly form of awful and they should have been more careful. But the method behind their madness is the same. They are going to shove Trump down our throats, cram him down there until we’re gagging. Some of them might very well be racists. There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump is. But even the least racist among Trump’s supporters are more than happy to take revenge, spurred on by the extreme right wing messaging on the right. They now have a worldview constructed for them by the sympathetic news readers on Fox who told them they should be outraged and fan the flames at every opportunity no matter how strained or ridiculous.

Am I saying we deserved it? No. Some of us predicted that there would be unintended consequences to the way 2008 played out. But let’s not forget that Reagan and Newt and Tom DeLay planted the seeds for the gaping rift between left and right that we see today. The left just stupidly gave their upper hand away when they didn’t hold the Obama administration accountable for the unfeeling and uncaring way the working class was treated in the wake of the financial crisis.

I don’t excuse the Trump supporters. What they are doing and allowing to happen right now is horribly destructive for all of us. It is immoral and if they give into that impulse, they are participating in evil acts. I’m not afraid to say it, not that they care. I think that’s the “banality of evil” that Hannah Arendt referred to.

The world in turn is walking away from the crime scene that is the United States. We have lost our standing and reputation. That is something that a whole country full of fluttering flags and heartrending schlocky renditions of God Bless the USA will never atone for or remedy. We are not number one anymore. That’s not just a lefty expressing some common sentiment of my side. It’s the cold, honest, looking at it in the broad daylight reality.

Karma is biting the Trump supporter in the ass right now very hard. It’s going to get worse as our quality of life collapses and crime and corruption become our standard operating procedure. I find it maddening too that people who have exemplary personal values towards their families and friends can become callous, ugly, unhinged Gollum like creatures whenever you talk about Trump with them. Unlike Obama, Trump has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It would be difficult to find a less admirable human being running a first world nation today. At least Obama had a good family life and didn’t go out of his way to seek revenge or rip whole government departments to shreds. If Obama was in charge, his response to this pandemic would have been exponentially better than Trump’s even if it compromised too much and fell significantly short of what could have been if he’d just exercised his will. The country would be hurt but not anywhere near the degree that it is now or will be in the future. ANY president in our past with the possible exceptions of Buchanan, Harding and Hoover would be doing a better job without the extreme long lasting negative consequences coming our way than Donald Trump has done. Even George W. Bush.

The failure or obstinacy of the Trump supporter to acknowledge that, dump Trump, and join us in defending our birthright is what is driving us crazy.

11 Responses

  1. Excellent post… should be required reading for everyone.

  2. You lost me at “Sam Harris”.

    IIRC, this asshole defended torture back in the “War on Terra” days.

    I need moral lessons from him like I need speech lessons from Elmer Fudd.

    However, you did make a legitimate point about Obama lowering himself to play dirty in the 2008 primaries. I was sufficiently pissed off about that to vote for the Green candidates in 2008 and 2012–although had I known in 2012 that Stein was an anti-vaxxer, I would have voted for Obama in 2012.

    Pigs will sprout wings and soar over the frozen plains of Hell before I vote for a Republican, and I’ve felt that way ever since I realized the “War on Terra” was a scam to try to steal the oil of Iraq. I also have an older, more personal grudge against the GOP, which would take too long to explain.

    • I don’t know about his torture comments. I do know that he says a lot of controversial things, some of which I agree with. Torture isn’t one of them.

  3. Off topic: Rock & roll pioneer Little Richard died this morning. He was 87. May he rest in peace in Raspberry Heaven.

    The article includes YT clips of some of his songs.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/little-richard-dead-48505/

  4. Thank you for this exceptionally good post.

  5. RD, what an excellent read, thank you!

    I reacted viscerally to your remarks about 2008 and Jon Favreau’s disgusting picture. I have muscle memory regarding that nightmare as I can vividly recall watching the DNC RBC literally shrug off voters’ intentions, handing Obama his primary win.

    He’s a somewhat decent guy, I guess. That’s all I can say about him.

    I still remember his “brush off” remarks about Hillary and, as I was one of her state delegates, saw Obama state delegates wearing shirts that read, “Bros before Hos.”

    The raging misogyny that was unearthed in that campaign, and coming from supposed solid, “woke” liberals, left its mark on me, that’s for sure.

    • “The raging misogyny that was unearthed in that campaign, and coming from supposed solid, “woke” liberals, left its mark on me, that’s for sure.”

      THIS. I am a hetero male, and the revealed misogyny shocked and angered me. I thought that was found only, or at least almost only, on the other side. I don’t think Obama is, or was, a misogynist himself, but apparently he lacked enough confidence in his own popularity to rebuke that faction of his supporters who were.

  6. To admittedly oversimplify, but with what I think is an accurate perception, the Right in America has devolved into a workable coalition of social darwinist billionaires, evangelical cultists, anti-abortion zealots, and people who cannot function without an enemy, and so devote their existence to “owning the libs.” The corporatists and their immense wealth were enough to win many elections for the Republicans from 1868-1900 and 1920-1931. After that, they needed a boost, so first lit upon calling the other side Communists. Then after still struggling, they came up with the Southern Strategy, which was to enlist Southern r____ts, along with evangelicals. So election of Republicans makes the wealthy even richer; it makes the r____ts feel gratified and emboldened; it comes ever closer to making abortion illegal everywhere, and making religious prayers in school mandatory. The poor people who are coerced to vote for Republicans stay poor, but they get the pleasure of seeing their enemies be upset and sad.

    On the other side of things, he Democrats were, since the immigrant waves of the latter 19th century, the party of the working class poor, eventually the middle class. That was always their paramount voting issue. . But inevitably those ranks fractured to some extent, enough to help the Republicans win national elections without winning the popular vote.

    Some Democrats locked themselves into a role on the intransigent Left, voting for Nader, Stein, or Sanders, or just spitefully staying home.
    Then there is what many hate to hear called “identify politics,” but which sometimes actually turns out to be. People who absolutely demand a woman vice president, or a Black one, or both. Those who got angry at Clinton in his first month in office because they thought he sold out on “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” A few Black pundits who get on TV news every day and evince their still remaining contempt for Hillary. People who feel compelled to give Tara Reade every opportunity to tell what is almost certainly a wholly concocted story, because if they don’t, they risk harming the “ME TOO movement,” which has so far cost the country Franken, and may well cost Biden enough to re-elect Trump. Sixty years go, this would not happen; Democrats would mostly dedicate their vote to helping their own working class brethren. But now there are a variety of people who demand various adherences to identity or purity, and apparently would rather lose than give any of it up. This may all have been socially inevitable, but just in terms of winning elections, it is not advantageous, particularly when the other side manages to subordinate everything to just holding power.

    Obama was sort of a culmination of 35 years of mourning the tragic death of JFK; and of the Left, who actually didn’t like JFK much, either, hating all of the other Democratic candidates who actually had a chance to win or did win. Obama, who is of mixed ancestry, but chose to identify as Black, somehow seemed like the reincarnation of JFK and MLK, a mythical figure who would transcend race and ideology. So enough of them turned their backs on the Clintons, who certainly were not ideologically perfect, and in Bill’s case, not always morally admirable, in favor of someone they imagined was perfect, their fantasies come to pass. And it is very difficult to ague or run against an idealization. And so we had the cult of Obama. Do you remember the slogan where people were supposed to write about their “coming to Obama moment?” The Hope and Change bumper stickers?

    Obama was supposed to usher in this era where all the disparate elements which had become unwoven in the Democratic Party would thread together again But of course Obama was only human, had very little governing experience; capitulated too much, as he seemed to want to avoid partisan rancor above all; and the counterrevolution to him was the Republicans wining virtually every other office in the country, taking over the statehouses, cementing impregnable majorities, and ultimately nailing down the Supreme Court, right over the unaccountably passive frame of Obama himself.

    So as it is now, unless the Democrats win, the unholy coalition of Republican evil triumphs/ And the Democrats are still locked in what seem like unending battles between various internal groups, something Republicans and their Russian handlers salivate over and exploit. Democrats still are searching for another Idealized figure, and continue to hold up Obama as that template. The Clintons, who are much more politically savvy,, and much more dedicated to Democrats winning in downballot elections, have mostly been ostracized from any role as wise elders or strategists. All the party could come up with this time is the person who was the VP to the still idealized Obama, a decent man of average intelligence who does not seem to have a sweeping grasp of issues or world affairs, and who will almost surely only run for one four-year term. Actually, a Clinton dynasty would have done great things for this country; but Democrats chose the less fruitful path, though it made them feel highly virtuous to choose the racial minority candidate. i am not saying that being attuned to diversity, and giving all people a seat at the table, is not of moral importance, but that the unending battles about gender and race are pretty easily exploited to drive the Democratic Party apart enough to allow the Republican Party of Evil to keep power. And Hillary was clearly the best candidate for America in 2008, she would have won handily served two terms,, and the country and the world would have been far better off.

  7. Great comment. Sadly very true. To me the only thing Obama issued in was tRump, his blank slate turned out to be blank… who would have thought it… oh yeah, simply a majority of the primary voters in 2008

  8. My Only disagreement with your post…” There’s no meaning behind what he does…” and “His destructiveness has no ultimate goal.”.
    There is meaning and there are goals they are rigid and fixed he could not act in any other manner; he is the walking example of an extremely mentally ill being. And it can be mapped and predicted it is absolutely not random behavior, same over and over and over and over.

    Malignant narcissism is a psychological. syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism.[1] Grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate. Wikipedia

    Major risk on the horizon again, Biden is slipping into the St. Mr. and Mrs. Obama trappings, Hillary IMV made the same mistake. Or could be Biden really wants the country to believe, with the presses help, this would be the THIRD Obama term. Check it we have more Mr. and Mrs. Obama articles this last week then Biden news article, same as the last month of Hillary’s campaign. Also any female VP needs to be the most electable qualified female out there not just an identity, learn from the fall of the Women’s March coalition.

  9. I’m still a PUMA. Clinton should’ve been POTUS in 08. A galaxy of tribulation could have been avoided if she had been elected. But no, the Puritans and the bigots had to have their way, so now, a decade later, the world suffers from the Orange Leprosy encrusting us all.

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