Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, August 25th, 2015.


The Monster That Lee Atwater and Karl Rove Made

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Bad Hair, Republican Party

Frank Luntz got some Trump supporters together for a focus group. I believe this is what’s called a “cult of personality.”

Many sounded like relations of an ill patient, furious that all the previous doctors have botched a test or fumbled the scalpel. To them, Trump actually is the real-deal fixer-upper, and he is going to make America great again.

“We know his goal is to make America great again,” a woman said. “It’s on his hat. And we see it every time it’s on TV. Everything that he’s doing, there’s no doubt why he’s doing it: it’s to make America great again.”

The focus group watched taped instances on a television of Trump’s apparent misogyny, political flip flops and awe-inspiring braggadocio. They watched the Donald say Rosie O’Donnell has a “fat, ugly face.” They saw that Trump once supported a single-payer health system, and they heard him say, “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created.” But the group—which included 23 white people, 3 African-Americans and three Hispanics and consisted of a plurality of college-educated, financially comfortably Donald devotees—was undeterred.

At the end of the session, the vast majority said they liked Trump more than when they walked in.

“You guys understand how significant this is?” Luntz asked the press breathlessly when he came back into the room behind the glass. “This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking.”

It’s easy to psychoanalyze this crew and call them authoritarians, but it’s also the case that they’re really disgusted with other Republicans.

Much of Trump’s support in the room seemed to stem from a weakness in the Republican party. The 2014 midterms did not usher in the conservative renaissance Republicans expected. Obamacare has still not been repealed, Congress is looking less likely to override a veto on the Iran deal, and there are still 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

The group of 29 went around the room, each supplying a single adjective for the legislative body that let them down after the 2014 elections. Congress “does nothing.” It’s “too old.” “Useless.” “Lame.” “Inept.” “Wrong party.” “Cocktail party.” “Gridlock.” “Costly.” “Sold out.” “Sucks.” “Douchebags.”

Then, the group did the same for Trump. This time: “Tough.” “Businessman.” “Great.” “Successful.” “Not afraid.” “Leader.” “Has guts.” “Charismatic.” “A true American.” “Kicks ass and takes names.”

And again, we can assume this crew is not exactly cracking the IQ ceiling. But lo … Josh Marshall tells us it is possible that Trump really could end up with the Republican nomination. With such a divided field, just 25 to 30 percent of the primary vote could get Trump into the general election.

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Winks

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Social Issues

You might have heard about the juvenile frat boys who were disciplined by Old Dominion University for this:

Freshman women at Old Dominion University were given a very special welcome last week when they arrived on campus: Large banners that read “Rowdy and fun/Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop off mom too.” Photos of the helpful offers to fornicate with women across multiple generations in the university community have since gone viral.

The banners were widely condemned by the university and other students, and the fraternity has been suspended pending further investigation. Note that it’s possible the fraternity itself wasn’t behind this and that the perps were just some stupid little boys who thought they were being clever.

My first reaction was to feel vindicated in my long-standing view that most young men ought to spend a couple of years keeping silence in a monastery somewhere before they’re allowed out into the world — I’m not picky about what sort of monastery, mind you. But apparently some on the Right think we’re making a big deal about nothing.

Hit and Run — It was protected speech and not really that offensive.

Comment at Daily Caller — “Good Lord, will people please get the sticks out of their behinds and find their sense of humor again! Yes, it’s not right, yes, it’s borderline sick, but still darkly funny, and the more people who thumb their noses at the PC police, the better.”

Comment at Fox News — “When you see the way FEMALE students behave on Spring break, especially in florida, Arizona or Mexico,  to claim that one female student “even considered going back home” is the joke of the day.

PJ Tattler — Reaction is just over-the-top hysteria. “You have to be out of your mind to believe that the banner-hangers had sexual assault or dating violence in mind when they put them up.

Comment at PJ Tattler — “I am so glad our sons are out of college. Young males can’t do anything today without the ridiculous females crying they are “hurt”.

I assume that last commenter doesn’t have daughters. Also there was a lot of nostalgia for “Animal House.”

Granted, stuff like this happened when I was in college (1969-1973) and was shrugged off. Boys will be boys, you know. But here are a couple of paragraphs from Rethinking Religion

Also, as Hannah Arendt observed of Adolf Eichmann, sometimes “evil” people are those who mirror the values of their peers and culture, without self-reflection or thought of consequence. When we read about teenage boys brutalizing a girl and bragging about it on Twitter, for example, that’s what we’re seeing. And when other people try to cover up or trivialize the brutality, or blame the victim, that’s what we’re seeing. Because such acts are an expression of social and cultural values, and approved by peers, they don’t feel evil to those committing them.

And later, when the brutality has been exposed to the light of day, we want so very much to believe that the perpetrators are somehow abnormal, or monsters, or possessed of some aberrant quality that caused them to be brutal. But most of the time, in truth, there is nothing measurably abnormal about them at all. That’s why cultural values — not just the ones we pay lip service to, but the ones we wink at — have real-world consequences, also.

The fact is, whether we admit to it or not, popular culture still thinks it’s cool to objectify and sexually exploit women, and as long as that’s true there will always be soft-headed young men who will act out that behavior. And a few of those young men will end up with rape convictions, and then people will wring their hands and either wonder how he could have been such a monster, or isn’t it a shame his life is being ruined. And I’m proposing that the university is absolutely right for not winking at this stuff any more. And this is not just for the sake of the young women on campus, but also for the sake of young men — and also young women — who don’t have the sense God gave eggplant.

Whether there is or is not a rape crisis on campus, any more than there was when I was on campus, is a matter to argue over. However, it’s not outrageous or new for universities to have codes for how students should behave. Letting it be known that this behavior is not acceptable is a step in the right direction. And then maybe, eventually, as a culture we’ll stop winking.

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