|"Remember Uncle August, the Unhappy Inventor", by Georg Grosz, 1919. Via this Michael Lewis article.|
Bret Stephens betrays an interesting facet of his own urbane fascism ("Democrats and the Losing Politics of Contempt"):
Democrats may think the brand is all about diversity, inclusion and fairness. But for millions of Americans, the brand is also about contempt — intellectual contempt of the kind Nimzowitsch exuded for his opponent (the grandmaster Fritz Sämisch, who, in fairness, was no slouch); moral contempt of the sort Hillary Clinton felt for Trump (never more evident than last year when Hillary Clinton wondered, “Why aren’t I fifty points ahead?”).I really misread this on first glance as accusing Clinton of contempt for voters, which would of course be dead wrong: a classic liberal, Clinton was assuming ordinary folk are possessed of some common wisdom. The majority may not have time to devote to the arcana of policy, but they surely have enough American goodness and plain sense not to vote for an obviously deeply ignorant and psychopathic clown for the highest office in the land. (I actually continue to believe this, as I imagine she may too, in spite of the November results, in my case because I always count the nonvoters; they were wrong in my view, whether too susceptible to the propaganda or just too cynical, but not contemptible. Those abased enough to vote for Trump, on the other hand, make up just a quarter or so of the electorate, and I do allow myself to feel a certain contempt for them.)
But on second reading I see Stephens isn't talking about that at all; he's on her disrespect for that same ignorant and psychopathic clown.
That's the Bret Stephens who wrote, in 2015,
Or in 2016, as things got a tad more serious,
Donald Trump is a demagogue. Period. The fervor of his crowds recalls Nasser’s Egypt. His convictions are illiberal. His manners are disgusting. His temper is frightening. It ought to have been the job of thoughtful conservatives in this season to point this out, time and again.What is it about Trump that doesn't rouse his moral contempt now? Not exactly anything he cares to say—maybe, indeed, it's the voters after all:
Whatever their misgivings about Trump, those Republicans [in the GA-06 Congressional contest] weren’t about to give Nancy Pelosi the satisfaction of a national victory. Contemporary liberalism now expresses itself chiefly in the language of self-affirmation and moral censure: of being the party of the higher-minded; of affixing the suffix “phobe” to millions of people who don’t appreciate being described as bigots.
It’s intolerable. It’s why so many well-educated Republicans who find nothing to admire in the president’s dyspeptic boorishness find even less to like in his opponents’ snickering censoriousness.The very same voters of whom, speaking of snickering censoriousness, Bret Stephens was writing just last week,
I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.... So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future.So it's really a puzzlement. Maybe it's all just IOKIYAR, after all; contempt is Stephens's native idiom and he's comfortable with it, and he's on the side of contempt politically, the Tory disdain for the plebes. Maybe it's just disquieting to him when he thinks liberals are horning in on his rhetorical territory, even kind of disgusting, like (back in the day, I don't suppose this is true any more) hearing one's mother-in-law using "fuck" and "shit". Liberals are supposed to be nice—wimpy and kind.
But I think there is a difference between Trump 2016 and 2017 that doesn't stop Stephens from referring to Trump's "dyspeptic boorishness", but that he feels we peasants should be more careful about—power. He's impressed in spite of his own contempt, by all the winning, so much winning we're tired of winning, and he doesn't like that attytood on the part of his inferiors.
Have I mentioned that I really don't like Bret Stephens? Steve has a lot more.