Shaming Decency

One episode from McKay Coppins’s recent profile on Stephen Miller has been haunting me since I read it. Early in Miller’s work with the Trump administration, he collaborated with Steve Bannon to craft the first version of the travel ban designed to prevent “travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries” (using Coppins’s description). I’ll quote Coppins from here:

The hastily written order contained no guidance on implementation, and soon after Trump signed it—on a Friday afternoon one week into his presidency—airports across the country were plunged into chaos. Hundreds of travelers were detained, civil-rights lawyers descended, and protesters swarmed. To many, the televised disarray was proof of failure. But according to Michael Wolff’s account of the Trump administration’s first year, Fire and Fury, the architects of the ban were tickled by the hysteria; Bannon (who was Wolff’s main source) boasted that they’d chosen to enact the disruptive measure on a weekend “so the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” They counted the anger on display as a political win.

What haunts me about this story is Bannon’s terrifying tactical brilliance in gaming what I’m going to call basic human decency. In the grand game of chess that is political discourse in the United States, Bannon (and Miller, who unlike Bannon still works in the White House) seem to me to have cannily outflanked people committed to the norms of civil discourse. I think it’s a commonplace at this point among people who oppose Trump to believe that his appeal lies largely in the frankness with which he expresses (or crassly manipulates) the id of his followers. But the travel ban episode suggests that Trump’s success also lies in playing the superegos of his opponents. All of the stuff that to us betokens civilization, which is to say, the very substance of any anti-Trump protest grounded in appeals to things like decency, democratic norms, basic Christianity, and the like—all of this leaves us perpetually a move behind the administration and its strategists, who stand ready to laugh the moment their provocation sends us to Twitter or to the streets, quaintly chattering about things like the place of persuasion in civil discourse.

People have been commenting for years about Trump’s imperviousness to shame. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth noting how centrally shame figures in the administration’s tactics. Even as the administration channels its supporters’ sense of having been shamed for decades by “coastal elites” and gaining energy from the resulting rage, its political response to this shame has simply been to turn the tables and use shame to delegitimate the other side’s values through the “snowflake” appellation, a professed taste for leftist tears, and so on.

I’m going to suggest that responding effectively to these tactics is less a matter of cerebral education than emotional intelligence. I think that the administration’s approach is impoverished on this front in a way that gives those of us who care about things like basic human decency an opening. Building here on Erinn Gilson’s excellent recent book, The Ethics of Vulnerability (I didn’t say we were leaving the cerebral behind…), we can think beyond the common understanding of vulnerability as susceptibility to harm and recognize that vulnerability also grounds our capacity for human connection. This shared, ontological, vulnerability connects me with the people currently suffering under the administration’s inhumane border policies, even as our politically conditioned, situated vulnerabilities differ markedly. Because our outrage over these policies (I say “our” advisedly, in light of recent comment threads on this blog) amounts to acknowledging vulnerability, it exposes us to the administration’s shaming tactics.

This looks like an argument for shutting down our vulnerability, but if vulnerability is indeed ontological, that turns out not to be possible. In this light, the administration’s use of shaming tactics and professed shamelessness emerges as a carefully constructed, but ultimately untenable, effort at attaining invulnerability. By laughing at decency, they are attempting to situate themselves outside the realm of political vulnerability as usually understood. As evidenced by Trump’s ability to survive scandal after scandal that would have destroyed any other politician’s career several times over, this strategy has been wildly effective so far.

The hard thing about countering this strategy is that verbal appeals to decency and the like aren’t enough. They may even be counterproductive, just more leftist tears to supply Reddit’s unquenchable thirst. The only effective response is actually becoming decent people, and holding onto that decency in the face of strong political incentives to abandon it. The mere political presentation of decency won’t do.

“Decency” is admittedly a fuzzy term, so let me clarify. I mean by it something like what Rowan Williams means by empathy: it’s not saying “I know what you feel,” but rather “I have no idea what you feel.” Breaking this down a bit, there’s a risk of appropriation at work in overidentifying with other people’s suffering (see: Rachel Dolezal). There’s also a counter-risk in failing to identify with their experience at all (see Judith Butler’s argument about which lives count as grievable). Gilson’s thought about vulnerability offers a way through this dilemma: if we all share ontological vulnerability, acknowledging as much affords us a meaningful human connection with others. Recognizing that situational vulnerabilities vary from person to person sets boundaries that protect everyone’s relative autonomy and make possible a kind of mutuality that incorporates real difference.

In these terms, kindness means acting toward others in ways that draw on and appeal to our shared vulnerabilities, but that also require careful listening along the (never completed) path to understanding someone else’s situational vulnerabilities. Kindness means building the trust that enables us to navigate the balance between letting another person assume the leadership of her own life and telling her the truth when she doesn’t want to hear it. Kindness makes it possible for us to forgive each other and find reconciliation when we get these things wrong, as we inevitably will. Kindness empowers us to see each other as human beings, and to feel seen as such. Crucially, given shame’s current political power, kindness heals the effects of shame by acknowledging the fundamental worthiness of the other. It responds to the blind spot in Stephen Miller’s trollish political strategy by using our very susceptibility to shame as an opportunity to affirm each other’s humanity in ways that create the possibility for just and loving relationships that do not feed into the tragic cycle of shame, resentment, and rage.

As a political strategy, kindness is terribly unsatisfying. It’s a strategy to which winning elections (important as that is) may be tertiary at best. It’s impractical, it has no obvious bearing on the cut-and-thrust of policy debate, and it’s useless for winning arguments on the internet. On the other hand, given the way that the Trump administration and its acolytes have managed to structure our political culture, I think it’s all we have left.


  1. Excellent post, Jason. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Dickens, in Hard Times, when Gradgrind tells Sissy Jupe what a disappointment she has been to him in her education, how she has failed to understand political economy, mathematics, and the other things he has been trying so hard to teach her. And then he says, “You are an affectionate, earnest, good young woman—and—and we must make that do.”

    It the contemporary political arena, all we have left is kindness and decency. We must try to make that do

  2. Well said, Mike.

  3. I have had this dread realization that Trump is winning, and outrage is useless. I came to understand that I had only a limited sphere of influence, but that I ought to try and fill that sphere with kindness. I think that is what you are getting at. It is hard to do, and as you point out, not all that satisfying. But at the end of the day, if we can be “affectionate, earnest, good” people, that should help us to sleep at night and hope for a better future.

    We must, as Michael said, try to make that do.

  4. Here’s hoping, kevinf.

  5. Loursat says:

    Thanks, Jason.

    For millions of people, though not the majority, Trump has legitimized a way of speaking and thinking that takes pride in being shameless, indecent, and disrespectful toward others. Assuming that we manage to keep our form of government intact long enough to restore competent leadership, my greatest fear is that our politics will be permanently harmed by that change in the norms of discourse. The only way to cure that harm is by following Jason’s admonition. Have a spine of steel, but be kind. Always refuse to become the thing that we fight. Be the true followers of Christ.

  6. One of my lingering fears about what’s going on in this country is that the worst people are winning. Or, at least, the worst parts of people. So I have to realize that giving in to the worst parts of myself isn’t a good way to combat this.

    Man, it’s hard though. Really hard.

  7. Yes, it is hard. I wonder if literally every other option is easier.

  8. It’s the mocking and pointing of fingers of Lehi’s dream. We can’t afford to be ashamed because of the scoffing, and join the multitude entering that strange building. We’ll be lost if we do.

  9. Yes, Ardis. Exactly so.

  10. Amen Ardis. Well said!

  11. Although I disliked much of this talk, I liked the idea of Holland’s statement: “Christlike love…can change the world.” This quote from a reformed neo-Nazi really struck me: “What changed us was receiving compassion from the people we least deserved it from, when we least deserved it.” And I love the recent story of Sarah Silverman and the troll. And this line from the opinion piece “What Effective Protest Could Look Like” really, really struck me: “The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are. You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.”

    I’d love to hear people’s strategies for staying civil while engaging in debate. I struggle.

    One suggestion my husband got for dealing with racism as a minority was to respond with, “Why do you think/feel that [way]”? It’s a polite (depending on your tone, of course) way to get people to examine the reasons for their beliefs, and being given the chance to explain allows them to feel heard and respected, which is the first step (I feel) into breaking down their defenses. I have yet to remember to try this out, though.

  12. The one and only says:

    Let us not ignore what is happening in Europe.

  13. I really appreciate your comment Laurel. I struggle with this too. It also reminds me of Daryl Davis, a black man who befriended KKK members and who ended up collecting over 200 robes of members who walk away from the KKK after he spent time with them. Or the young woman who left the Westboro Baptist Church, losing much of her family in the process, because people engaged her on twitter over a long period of time despite the terrible things she believed in and said.

    This particular form of kindness is difficult because it opens you up to criticism from your own side – people who think you are betraying your shared values by being soft on someone who opposes those values. I don’t know if I can ever be a Daryl Davis, but I’m glad there are people like him out there.

  14. President Benson once counseled the saints to study carefully the part of the Book of Mormon prior to Christ’s visitation so that we could know how some people survived the destruction and were at the temple to meet Him.
    There is scripture in those pages which pinpointed the difference between those destroyed and those saved. They did not return railing for railing but were humble. Hard to do, but essential.

  15. Geoff - Aus says:

    Kindness might make you feel better, and even your friends, but trump types will only see it as weakness. Trump and co admire Putin, and now Kim, merciless dictators, I think he would see kindness as weak and foolish.

  16. Geoff, it isn’t Trump, Putin, or Kim — or their lieutenants, or maybe even the top 50 layers of their supporters — whom anyone hopes to reach directly. It’s our uncles, and quorum members, and kids’ schoolteachers, and neighbors, and friends-of-Facebook-friends we engage with on line, and opponents who try to shout us down in precinct meetings, that these tactics address.

  17. Geoff: you’re absolutely right. I acknowledge as much in the post. That likelihood is one of the things that makes kindness far less warm and fuzzy than it sounds.

  18. “Firmer and firmer in their humility.” The Book of Mormon teaches us. Remembering that humility is not weakness nor silence.

  19. I think to an extent the lds church uses shaming too. I’m a member but not always active. I would get members calling, asking me to come to this event or that but once in a while you’ll get members indirectly asking about how you spend your time and money beyond church doors. I don’t know if they are naturally nosey members or simply trying to obtain information to relay back to the bishopric. I really believe it’s the latter (no pun intended).

    My inactivity doesn’t come from mere disinterest in the faith, but because of personal medical issues and having to deal with an aging parent. When you suffer from fatigue a lot, the last thing you need is another calling. If you’re providing financially for a parent, you won’t have time to attend worship if your part time job in addition to your full time job is on the weekend. And if you’re caring for that parent trying to prevent them to go to a nursing home you’re simply not going to have money to tithe.

    The shaming starts when you can’t meet with the missionaries because you’re working multiple jobs. The missionaries shame you when you say “I’m sorry but I work two jobs”. I know they’re used to receiving rejection on a daily basis but when you a member are declining of their invite sends them into a haughty “well good luck then!” response- that’s shaming.

    Or when you ask the Bishop to see if you can get the sacrament issued to you at your home or if he knows of another ward that offers an alternative sacrament for working individuals and the bishop ignores your email- that’s shaming.

    Or you get the one member that calls you every so often asking you personal details of your life.. the same question over and over again in the hopes they will hear you slip up and say you bought an expensive gadget or slept with multiple persons at a bar- that’s shaming.

    Eventually this type of shaming makes people grow more inactive and angry with the church. In my case all the people inquiring about my whereabouts could have cared less about my aging parent who was not a member. They never asked me how she was doing. Or even if I told them my parent was in the ICU, I will get an invite a day or two later asking me to come to a church event. It disgusted and bewildered me (and that could be a lead into another posting on BCC).

    I think with the change of guard in how visiting and home teaching is done- might be helpful. But there is an element of college frat and sorority hazing to keeping inactives within the fold that backfires for the church. If they can’t shame you (they couldn’t shame me because my time and money was going to what I consider a special cause) then they are lost as to any other tactic. They’ll pause and then go through the rabid cycle of inviting, shaming, and ignoring. It be nice if they offered genuine understanding. The church left me, I wasn’t the one who left the church.

  20. I’m sorry that you had to go through all of that. I agree 100% that we shouldn’t use shaming tactics to get people back to church. And you’re right that we often do: it’s almost our default mode. The only way is love.

  21. To Jason K

    No apologies needed. It wasn’t your act so no need to apologize on behalf of my ward, etc. To be fair, I think all religions probably use this tactic in some way or another. I just find the the LDS church utilizes it more than other mainstream Judeo Christian faith. Even then, each ward is different and may be more keen in knowing the struggles of its congregation and adopts their own policy that is more effective than others. I know the ward I first belonged to was more urban and in the center of town and the struggles of that congregation were different of my current suburbia ward.

    As far as Trump goes, he is an enigma that may be separate than the intentions and tactics of the people who work under his administration. You are right in having concerns of Trump’s “counter culture” pervading the mindset of the masses. However, I think the reality is that Americans are quite separated from the daily musings of the Presidency. In general, the Presidency is still the same as royalty for us and for the average American this is still a very distant and remote world.

    We know if we were to behave this way at work we would be fired and we wouldn’t want others to treat us the same way. Trump would never want to deal with a person who would treat him in the same manner as he treats others (as you have witnesses any opposition to his viewpoints by members of his cabinet these individuals seem to be pushed aside or “fired”). In the hopes of supporting my case, the British parliament is quite boorish group of folks who get together and fight a lot- but you don’t see that type of “enthusiasm” on the streets of its people. This example seems to give me hope that Americans will find a way to defend itself from bad behavior and bad politics and to not become completely infiltrated by such mongering- this is at least my hope!

  22. jaxjensen says:

    A post about “Trump’s imperviousness to shame” leads to comments about the church using shame as a tactic??? The irony of complaining that one man feels no shame leading to comments about how nobody should be made to feel shame isn’t lost on me… and I find it humorous.

  23. Years ago my father, who lived through the Great Depression and fought on the front lines in World War II, warned his children to be careful when people began looking for a political saviour to rescue them. At that time, they would choose a dictator, he told us.
    I believe we are at that time. We have chosen Trump, but Hillary would have done as well. We want wealth and ease and are willing to pretend there is no day of reckoning for our overspending and failure to honor God and His laws. We want the consequences of a righteous life but as a society we do not want to live righteous lives. We need to be humble and seek answers from God. No plan we can devise will be sufficient. The forces arrayed against us are too strong.

  24. jax,
    That isn’t equivalent.

  25. jaxjensen says:

    John C. It isn’t equivalent, but related and relevant. The argument being made is: “We can’t make this man feel shame by claims about his decency or lack thereof, we need to try something else.” And that turned into, “We shouldn’t be making people try to feel shame, because shaming people is a poor tactic.” Boiling all that down it turns into, “It’s disgusting that we can’t make his feel this thing that nobody should try to make somebody feel?” That’s irony.

  26. You’re misreading my post, Jax. The argument isn’t “we need to try something else.” It’s “maybe kindness has more going for it than we thought.” The argument was always that shaming people is a poor tactic.

  27. jaxjensen says:

    Jason K. I see how you lament the admin turning the tables and using shame as a tactic. But as I read your post, to me it seems that your comments about “appeals to decency” were related to your comments about shame. Meaning that you viewed the efforts to appeal to decency as a way to shame him or the admin into changes/action you prefer (because they aren’t acting like decent humans/Christians/whatever), but that his “imperviousness to shame” means something else (kindness) will hopefully work. Thus, you saying it isn’t working is because it is a poor tactic.

  28. The whole “angering snowflakes” and “tasting liberal tears” leads me with the belief that those who are like that don’t actually have a vision in mind for where they would like society to head. They just want the “other’s” to be upset. They don’t care how it’s done. They view half of their society as “other’s”, and since all else has failed the only good thing which can happen now is for those “other’s” to suffer in some manner. It’s really depressing to see so many people never mature past that.

  29. jaxjensen says:

    ” don’t actually have a vision in mind for where they would like society to head. They just want the “other’s” to be upset. They don’t care how it’s done. ” (See Bill Maher’s comments about recession despite it hurting people)

  30. jax,
    What does Bill Maher have to do with the price of tea in China? Are we asking you to answer for David Duke’s every utterance? Don’t bring up irrelevancies.

    As I understand it, Jason’s argument is that the administration is attempting to drive people from basic decency (or kindness) by acting as if that behavior is shameful. This is why the president is shameless, because he doesn’t know or care enough about decency to be shamed by its lack. While it is true that some people in the church feel that there is no shame in mistreating former members or non-members, that isn’t particularly relevant. I’ll give you that in both cases some people who should be ashamed are not, but Jason is only saying that we shouldn’t allow these indecent men to make us ashamed of the gospel of Christ (and the kindness therein).

  31. Thanks, John. I’ll add only that I’m advocating for kindness whether it is effective or not. We shouldn’t be kind because our utilitarian calculus tells us it’s the maximally effective tactic at the moment; we should be kind because we cannot afford to disclaim the vulnerability that we share with all people.

  32. jaxjensen says:

    John C, Maher’s quote perfectly matched the description Jader3rd gave of people only out to hurt others.

    Jason K… If you message was about the admin shaming us from decency then I missed it. It wasn’t a message clearly stated. You did use the phrase “By laughing at decency” once, that I guess should make that point, but that didn’t seem to the be ‘point’ of the OP to me. It was in the post, but not the focus of it.

    You can surely understand how I thought you were trying to use decency as a tactic because of “utilitarian calculus” when you also used phrases such as “I’m going to suggest that responding effectively to these tactics is …” and “The hard thing about countering this strategy is…” and “The only effective response is …” You did a good job of making the effectiveness of kindness seem like it was of primary concern. Even your concluding message, the summary of the post if you will, is about kindnesses effect “as a political strategy.” It concludes how it might be all you have left against the admin. The message of “be kind for kindness sake” was invisible compared to your discussion of kindness as a political tool.

  33. I guess you’re entitled to your reading of the post, Jax.

  34. Jax,
    I don’t know what Maher’s quote is, not do I care what it is because it doesn’t have anything to do with Jason’s post.

  35. I don’t think that Bill Maher’s quote does exactly fit the description. For starters, that’s one example; not the plethora of comments from random internet denizens that I’ve read over the last few years. Another point is that he would use the recession as a means to an end. He thinks that if there is a recession, enough people would stop supporting Trump. And in the quote he even says “I’m sorry”. The purpose behind the recession isn’t to upset people, just for the sake of upsetting them. Whereas the people I’m talking about seem to want things to happen, just for the sake of upsetting “snowflakes”.

  36. Jax, the title of the post is literally “shaming decency.” The response, “Let’s be kind anyway” is very simple and clearly stated. I mean, this is the internet, so go ahead and keep straining at gnats if you want. But it feels like you are deliberately trying to misunderstand this one.

  37. I think that part of the issue here arises from a tension between the practicalities of making an argument (i.e., discussion of tactics and their relative effectiveness) and the way that my particular argument is that we should be kind whether it’s effective or not. So I’m arguing for something that should need no argument, but nevertheless apparently does.

    But, putting all of that aside, and in the interest of clarity, “Be kind anyway” is an excellent summary of my post.

  38. jaxjensen says:

    Marian, nowhere in the post is “let’s be kind anyway” stated. The 2nd to last paragraph lists multiple great benefits of kindness that we should seek after, but rather that list them and say, “so let’s go be kind because of all these good things” he concludes with ‘kindness as a strategy is hard, but it might be all we have left against the admin.’ Stating it clearly and simply is easy… you did it just fine with only 4 words. Jason K wrote an entire post (I didn’t count the words) and never managed to state it. IF that was his main message, he sure did his best to disguise it.

    Jader3rd… It was an example, that is all. There are countless examples from all sides that demonstrate lack of decency and regard for others. I have many GOP friends who are examples, and DNC friends as well. I choose Maher solely because it was quite recent and from a well known person.

    John C. the quote from Maher is this: “”I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point. And by the way, I’m hoping for it. I think one (way) you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy. So please, bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people, but it’s either root for a recession or you lose your democracy.” It applied to Jader3rd’s comment because Maher doesn’t care what happens to society, he only wants Trump hurt/politically injured.

  39. Ok, Jax: I get it. My post failed to convey what I meant it to convey. You’ve made your point. Can we move on?

  40. jaxjensen says:

    Let me say I wholly agree… Let’s be kind anyway. Let’s hope it can positively affect change in this admin, but let’s be kind and decent regardless.

  41. Jason,
    The problem wasn’t your post.

  42. Thanks, John. If I may, though, I’d like to name some of my struggle in this thread, because that is germane to the post. It is frustrating, to say the least, to have someone persist in telling me that my post doesn’t mean what I think it means. That said, I don’t really know how to respond to that with kindness. I know how to be nice, and I think I mostly managed that. In any case I refrained from the snark that came very readily to mind. But being nice and being kind are two different things. Because kindness rests on an acknowledgment of shared human vulnerability, it has to be oriented toward justice—by which I mean just relationality, and Margaret Farley’s book Just Love is a good starting point for thinking about that subject. Being nice, by contrast, often lets injustice continue rather than risk making anyone uncomfortable. I’m not sure that letting Jax go on ‘splaining is just, either to me or to him. I mean, it can’t be fun for him, in thread after thread, to have people always getting on him about missing the point. Or maybe he doesn’t mind—“I have no idea what you feel.” I want him to feel welcome at BCC, and ultimately his comments are fairly benign. So there’d be some injustice in overreacting. He’s no “leftist tears r tasty,” currently cooling his wildly ungrammatical heels in the mod queue.

    This is all to say that I can (sort of) write nice posts advocating for kindness, but figuring out how to live that is still a work in progress.

    By the way, I meant what I said about your being welcome here, Jax. Just maybe cool it with the ‘splaining a bit, ok?

  43. Kindness sounds good. Decency appeals to me. (Don’t try “nice.”) But what does that mean in practice?
    When it looks like my friend is voting one way on a single issue at enormous cost to other issues I think he cares about, do I say so? The nicely packaged “are you including these other things in your calculus?” is a thinly disguised “you idiot!”
    When another friend is disguising rampant racism in NIMBY talk, do I call her on it, or do I find a euphemism to match hers?
    When a falsehood is obviously knowing and intentional for effect, does decency call for something other than “that’s a lie”?
    When someone wants to be well thought of by me and by themselves while in fact spouting indecencies, do I support their ego needs?
    When the right thing to do — by my judgment and opinion — is to totally eliminate the power of certain leaders in Congress for far longer than their life expectancy, where do I find kindness in that?
    When I sense a backlash, can I celebrate just a little? Encourage just a mite?

    When I imagine a bully, I want to hit back. I don’t want to run. And I think the right thing to do is to stand up and be hit. Be hurt. Feel it. Over and over again. Perversely (or is it ultimately kindness?) I’m not going to be shamed into pretending I’m not hurt.

    And when the opportunity comes, banish the bully so far away that his person is forgotten and his name becomes a catchphrase for evil. I guess I’m not very nice that way.

  44. I think you ask a lot of good questions, Chris. With the bully situation, I do think that kindness definitely means not letting yourself be shamed into pretending you’re not hurt.

  45. jaxjensen says:

    Decency to me is saying “You’re wrong” instead of “You’re an F***ing liar.” We need to correct mistakes and intentional wrongs, but that doesn’t always require severity. When someone picks a fight (real or figurative), you fight back to win; but when you’ve won and your opponent is submitted, those extra punches/kicks/choking is not ‘kindness.’ When attacked, losing isn’t a moral high ground.

  46. I believe most of the progressive left does not understand the Trump followers because the left has shown no empathy for the concerns of the right for so long that the right, now in power themselves, are treating this as a turnabout is fair play situation. The liberal progressives saw their policies as the only way thinking people could believe so did not address the real concerns of the right, that the loss of their blue collar or back office jobs counted, that the utter contempt for religious beliefs was unacceptable, that parents rights to determine what and how sexual morality is taught their children mattered, and that liberal progressives do not possess some infinite wisdom as to how society should be shaped. There is an arrogance about the left, a sense of “We know better than you so just get off the stage and let us handle it.” Hillary Clinton has displayed this clearly to the world in her never ending speeches since her election loss, bemoaning how all the forward looking, enlightened people backed her and Trump only got the votes of the uneducated simpletons. The Trump voters backed him because they were tired of being condescended to and having their opinions just dismissed as uneducated, unimportant, or ridiculous.
    Yes, Bannon and Trump and many in the administration are crass and show little concern for decency. But how tired and desparate do you think people were to have chosen him? The Clinton’s were the worst sort of politicians, using Hillary’s position as Secretary of State and expected ascent to the presidency to fund a foundation with contributions from Russia and other dictators. I think they are little short of the Mafia, only seeking first for power, then for money.
    So please do not try to convince me that the current administration is shaming decency, as if Hillary Clinton’s administration would somehow have led us to nirvana. The Clintons shamed decency for years and somehow that did not matter here at bcc.

  47. Um, there’s not even the tiniest scrap of pro-Clinton argument in this post, which is explicitly advocating an approach (kindness) of questionable political efficacy.

    The question of condescension is an interesting one, though, and it cuts both ways. Sarah Smarsh, a working-class Kansan journalist, has done some compelling work to show that most working-class folks were in fact smart enough not to vote for Trump, who doesn’t represent their interests, and they know it. Trump support, she shows, tends to come from lower-middle-class whites. It arguably has more to do with race than economics, and the Democrats blew that one in 1965. Smarsh has a new book out, which I haven’t read, but her reportage is very good.

    I get that it sounds condescending to insist that we as a country work through the systematic injustices we’ve forced on black and brown people for centuries. I get that it’s scary to lose the cultural comfort of a predominantly white society. But this isn’t just about Trump voters’ feelings, because their feelings have disastrous material consequences for people of color. This is why “nice” is different than “kind”: nice tends to preserve the status quo, even if it’s unjustly harming people, whereas kindness insists on justice for all. That’s why kindness was hard.

    And, just for the record, I think that Bill Clinton’s presidency was disastrous for racial justice in the United States. We’ll never know what kind of president Hillary Clinton would have been, so speculation on that point is useless.

  48. Henry,
    This thread isn’t the place for it, but I’m really curious about these policies to help blue-collar workers from conservative sources that you mention. To my eyes, those seem really scarce at present, but I’m willing to be persuaded.

  49. I really believe that Laurel is correct in that: “The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are. You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.” There is no doubt in my mind that this would be an effective strategy. Unfortunately, it is an impossible one given the current political climate in the USA. Donald Trump is not the instigator of the politics of shamelessness and hyperbole, he is merely the champion of the political right in reacting to and fighting back against the existing climate of the same.
    In this context, the above comments about Bill Maher are certainly germane to the discussion. Unless the political climate leads to a great reduction in the use of these types of rhetoric and tactics, any individual orderly and proper protests will be drowned out (in public) by the Mahers, Trumps, and other shrill partisans. When seen as a reaction to the even crazier lefties seen all over on TV, Trump appears rational and effective, for the most part.

  50. For the record, I’ve never supported Bill Maher’s general approach to cultural criticism. I don’t mean this to detract from the point that such tactics are a problem on both sides, but I do want to avoid being lumped with a left for which Maher is metonymic.

  51. John C.,
    I will help you out on the blue collar friendly policies: tax cuts and deregulation. Look at the current unemployment rate versus 4 or 8 years ago and you must conclude that something good is happening.

  52. el oso,
    I don’t find either of those to be particularly blue-collar friendly policies, but let’s not debate it now. Same for whether or not Mr. Trump is benefitting from an Obama economic bump. Mayhap I’ll put up a post later this week where we can actually have that debate without being a distraction from the thread.

  53. chompers says:

    I recognise the inherent issues with a flawed two-party political system, but any LDS who voted for Trump ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  54. jaxjensen says:

    Chompers, I whole heartedly agree. I’ll add that anyone who voted for Clinton should be equally ashamed as well. If enough of us feel the shame deserve for voting for either of two degenerates then perhaps the flawed two-party system will open to more appropriate people. (You won’t find me holding my breath though).

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