E.J. Dionne is talking about the angry white men again. It seems every few years we find ourselves acknowledging the angry white men and analyzing what they’re angry about. He says,
No doubt some who despise Obama will see the judges in Norway as part of that latte-sipping crowd and will hold their esteem for the president against him. He can’t do much about this. What he can do — and perhaps then deserve the domestic equivalent of a peace prize — is reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances, and do so with an understanding that what matters to them is not status but simply a chance to make a decent living again.
To which I say, nuts. I think if E.J. were paying closer attention, he’d notice the white people (of both genders) who are really, really angry and who are so vocally opposing everything Barack Obama is trying to do are not, for the most part, the same people who are out of work and facing foreclosures. They’re people who still have jobs and homes and health insurance (or Medicare), and who somehow have been persuaded that Somebody — minorities, liberal elites, the government, whatever — wants to take those things away from them.
And it’s about time we acnowledged that the angry white men have always been with us. The seething resentments, the well-nurtured victimhood, the paranoia, the absolute intolerance for any point of view but theirs were also the hallmark of the antebellum southerners who drove us into the Civil War.
I mean, who else but a proto-wingnut could talk about the “War of Northern Aggression” when it was the South’s aggression that started the war? As Digby pointed out about mid-way through the Bush Administration, the last half of Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech could almost have been addressed to Bush supporters, especially if you substitute “opposition to slavery” with “liberalism.” For example, “The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of
opposition to slavery liberalism, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.”
Dionne suggests that we must acknowledge the angry white men have real grievances. Oh, please. What grievances do they have that the rest of us don’t have also? And, more to the point, what problems beset them that they didn’t help bring upon themselves?
The fact is, there’s been a big, fat stain of irrational paranoia that runs through American history and which has tripped us up over and over. And there is no placating it. You can give the irrational paranoids everything they want, cater to their every whim, and they will still hate you and blame you for every cloud in the sky. Why? Because it’s part of our culture. And ignorance and stupidity are factors, also.
I’m not sure what’s to be done about it, but I do know that you don’t make crazy go away by catering to it.