Friday, August 26, 2016

All Trite

Pretty maids all in a row. Traditional costume, Corbi, via Pure-Romania.
I can't believe Hillary used the word "dog whistle" in that speech (she had nearly as hard a time saying "alt-right" as Trump does saying, "LGT...................BQ" or "African................American", but that's OK). That's almost as great as it would be if Obama advised everybody to pay more attention to the thinking outside the Village. I'm also enthusiastic about the new way she's using the mic, trusting it to carry her voice and speaking actually somewhat softly, intimately, which can make you work a little to listen to her.

Not that I'm one of those who criticize her for bellowing in those primary rallies on the ground that women sound "shrill". I really don't like that style from men, either, even if it's Teddy Kennedy or Howard Dean. Especially if it's Teddy, come to think of it, because as everybody knows Dean couldn't do it right, but Teddy sounded like an authentic authoritarian, even when he was preaching love between my brothers and my sisters a-a-all over this land.

Rather, I'd say one of the unexpected little benefits of finally having a woman reach this stage of the campaign is that she can experiment with these stupid conventions. When she lowers her voice to tell you, in effect, "I realize what clowns these people are and at the same time I'm telling you they're seriously dangerous," and you understand it's for real.

Some people will be a little annoyed at the line she draws between the villainous monarchist reactionary alt-right or All Trite (remember Douthat touting them for us just a few months ago? For their ideas, you know, which "are not always vindicated. But sometimes? Yes, sometimes. Often? Maybe even often") and the everyday Republican who keeps his racism and misogyny under a mask of genteel manners, but not me. That's why she's a politician and not an intellectual: as Marx says, "the point is to change it," not to win the argument about it, and what she is doing in this very carefully assembled speech, it seems to me, is aimed at those surface-nice Republicans just as sure as Trump's "what the hell have you got to lose?" (though Trump was rhetorically apostrophizing all the black people who weren't in his audience, it was the audience he was trying to persuade of something).

Each was offering those Republicans a kind of permission not to think of themselves as racist.

Trump did it in his usual fashion by focusing the thinking on himself, and explaining that he certainly wasn't a racist, with his recognition of the misery and despair in which all black people languish because he is not yet president, since he definitely intends to make them great again too when he gets a chance, so all the white people in the audience can be confident that they're not racists either, or they wouldn't be voting for him, obviously, if that worked, which seems unlikely.

Clinton did it by laying out in quite a bit of detail what the alt-right vermin are like, as with her list of Breitbart headlines:
"Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy."
"Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?"
"Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield"
"Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage."
With the implicit corollary that nobody in the audience (a community college in Reno) was likely to be a wingnut in that repulsive degree, and then when she got on to Trump's history of personal racism—
When Trump was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants.
Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed.
The pattern continued through the decades.
State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turn-over rate for his minority employees was way above average.
—they knew they'd never done any of that stuff. Well, not on that scale anyhow. And it's not just bluster and "political incorrectness", but practice, racism in action to make people's lives worse, which he hopes to implement from the White House:
Now, some people will say that his bluster and bigotry is just over-heated campaign rhetoric – an outrageous person saying outrageous things for attention.
But look at the policies Trump has proposed. They would put prejudice into practice.
It's very in line, in fact, with her Methodism, and its traditional emphasis on the theology of action as opposed to essence, as in James 2:14-17,
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
We always think about this in the positive sense, directed at the idea that it's not enough to be touched be grace, the faithful need to do grace, but it really operates in a negative sense as well, to tell people that it's not so bad to be sinful, everybody's that, as to do sinful.

So when she calls up the ghosts of past Republicans who were not like Trump, she doesn't talk about their souls but focuses on their taking a stand at a crucial moment:
Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the Party to get out.
The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims "love America just as much as I do."
That they did it is more important than any arguments about whether they were "sincere" or not, and the same goes for this year's Republican voters, who are called not necessarily to be born again, but just to take a stand and vote for what's right. Instead of asking them to feel guilty, she's giving them the opportunity to feel less racist.

(Or as Lemieux puts it,
I also agree with Jeet Heer that what appeared to be conciliatory language towards Republicans was actually more like “if you support Trump, explicitly or passively you own him.”)
It's worth noting, since nobody seems to want to say it openly, that Trump the businessman continues to act racism in the middle of the campaign, as we learn indirectly from a recent report in BuzzFeed, noting that while more than 100 Palm Beach County resorts and hotels have been recruiting local workers in a series of job fairs this summer, the Trump organization's Mar-a-Lago club and Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter are still claiming they can't find any Americans and applying for 78 special H-2 visas for imported waitstaff, housekeepers, and cooks:
But officials at CareerSource Palm Beach County, a workforce development agency chartered by the state of Florida, say Trump’s companies have failed to avail themselves of free recruitment efforts that might help them find qualified American workers who want the jobs.
Imported from where? BuzzFeed doesn't mention it, but we know it's mainly Romania. And what kind of American workers come to those job fairs? Something tells me there's a certain element Trump's high-end clients don't like, just as at the Atlantic City casinos.

2015 job fair. Photos by Gary Coronado via Palm Beach Post.

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