B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Monthly Archives: September 2016

Political purity and absolutism is the driving force behind Trump

This past August was the second anniversary of GamerGate. For the vast majority of busy Americans, fortunately unaware, this social and political tremor was the biggest waste of time in the short history of social media.

What started as a 10,000-word breakup letter on a blog (a record-breaker until Bill Simmons gets divorced), turned into an internet culture war between the progressive left and gamers, who found their cause adopted by the alternative right. Social media, which was already viewed by many as inducing sickness in people, may be the possible end of fact and surely the end of truth as humankind has grasped these concepts. Women threatened and forced from homes; online media eschewing the few journalistic principles  it held; GamerGate had something for no one.

I researched GamerGate for an article, and to call the experience maddening is an understatement. The nature of the entire “event,” which is how I will describe it given the lack of originality and eloquence in “dumpster fire,” served more as a microcosm of the Internet and the Millennial culture, and the general over-importance 20 somethings across generations have placed in their own social lives, and others interests in them. Overdramatic, profane, nonsensical, filled with both narcissism and adequacy issues simultaneously; there are no facts, and there certainly isn’t truth.

And if these words, these descriptions ring familiar, but not quite on the tip of your tongue, let me write the words for you – the 2016 presidential election. The ultimate losers of GamerGate weren’t the derided gamers, or anyone researching it, but the political and cultural center. Because GamerGate was a preview of the 2016 election – an instance in which decidedly liberal gamers were shoved by the progressive online media, social justice activists on Twitter and the larger corporate media into the arms of the alternative right and Breitbart.com – because they were the only ones that would have them.

A year and a half ago I posited the rise of Donald Trump was as much the fault of the Democratic party as the Republican party. The Democrats system of identity politics had come to turn on the party’s best interest; just as purity, conservative media and the corporate fundraising machine that led Republicans to lead Congress and the White House had turned on itself in the interest of profit and true conservatives; where Arlen Spector was a traitorous RINO, then John Boehner, then the Bushes and coming soon, Ted Cruz.

The case is simple: The Democrats should be cleaning up working and middle class voters, but liberals in high culture and politics have sneered at them for such a sustained period, the white fly-over vote is willing to pull the lever for Trump out of spite.

  • As despicable a candidate Donald Trump may be (if Simon and Garfunkel were to string folk songs together in the 20-Teens, they may ask “Where have you gone John Kasich?” or “Political Class over Troubled Water”) Ross Douthat in the New York Times wrote a timely column on Hillary Clinton’s “Samantha Bee” problem as a root cause in Trump’s appeal. Clinton called a quarter of the electorate deplorable, racist, beyond the pale and unrepresentable, and she is still called conservative by half her partyThat says plenty about how much of higher culture views the middle and working class. Is Clinton necessarily wrong? No, Trump has a large following of racists, maniacs, white nationalists, but also has a large following of people so desperate for a candidate to address the economic madness they’ve been handed for 40 years, they’ll take a flyer on whether or not he’s qualified for office because no one else has paid them attention. Other than Elizabeth Warren, Trump is the only national politician (if you can call him that) to address core working class economic woes.
  • The beginning was the SCOTUS Obergefell v. Ohio gay marriage ruling, and the reaction to ‘religious freedom’ laws passed by states in its wake. (Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, made no effort to stem what will soon be the largest challenge to the separation of church and state since Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to Kennedy, this left a myriad of panicked states to pass laws protecting what they saw as basic religious rights, and to a fill the major hole in the decision. Media and gay rights groups attacked the laws as unconscionable and bigoted – basically businesses would have the right to discriminate against gay people for religious reasons. But as far as law and people, it’s not that simple -LGBT rights are protected by federal law (decided through legislation and the court to be protected by The Constitution) – religious rights are protected in the 1st Amendment of The Constitution. Given religious views of homosexuality, it will come to “live and let live” by the activists on the left or what will be decades of legislation and courtroom culture wars that will accomplish little more than give earlier retirements to lawyers and further split the country. Religious people run the gamut when it comes to gay rights, gay marriage. Religious interpretations of gay rights are numerous. The left’s loudest minority (the hot take online newssourze columnist and Twitter addict) saw any objection or protection for religious reasons as outright prejudice with no middle. If you objected, you were a racist or bigot. For a country that’s 80 percent Christian, that’s quite a number to alienate, even if over half (which was the case in polls last year) favor gay marriage.
  • A best-selling book “So You’ve been Publicly Shamed” is out by former admitted Twitter shamer Jon Ronson, chronicling people who violated politically correct tropes on Twitter, or made a bad or off-color or flat out stupid joke, or photographed themselves disrespecting Arlington National Ceremony, as one example. We hear and read of the mobs harassing feminists involved in fighting GamerGate, but Gawker and other similar sites gleefully lit torches and handed out pitchforks to shame private people on social media, some with fewer than a couple dozen followers. The shaming over anti-PC tweets isn’t coming from puritanical Protestants.
  • North Carolina passed a gender bathroom law. The NCAA, NBA and other sports organizations, who normally run from politics faster than Michael Phelps swims the medley, started banning events from the state. If you are in North Carolina and ambivalent at the most, this doesn’t qualify as fair.

Among classes of the white, religious, conservative, working class, middle class – there was already angst, and while the righteousness of that angst varies, identity politics has beget an angry electorate that has reasons for being angry at both parties. Whether it was shipping their jobs overseas, labeled bigots for religious beliefs, or repeatedly being pushed aside for organized finance, corporate or political interest. If you feel elections don’t matter, they are all the same, things can’t get worse, why not vote for the toupee? Why not vote for the one person the smirking elite can’t stand on any level? What better way to get back at millionaire actors who think you are a backwoods hick for having a shotgun and a Bible. Bitter and clingy? If you watch TV and hear what the so-called liberals with their interests at heart say in private, they have reason.

A vote for Donald angers the correct people. What’s to lose? Nobody could be more insider-DC than Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders was a socialist, but a few dots connected here, and Clinton is a serial email deleter, ordered the terrorists to attack the Benghazi embassy, did a Goodfellas herself on Vince Foster and whatever is dreamed up. Not that the motivation is needed. Just go on Twitter and suggest poor people probably wouldn’t benefit much from free 100 GB internet from Google (yes, this was controversial).

And Democrat or Republican, they deserve it.

Is this real? Gamers largely were liberal – still are. 4chan, the merry pranksters of the internet, found itself on the opposite side of its own politics during GamerGate. Why? Because they were pushed away. The way Ted Cruz ate John Boehner who ate Arlen Specter, it’s the way Obama and Clinton are being eaten by the Bernie-istas and social justice Twitter. 4chan is leading the troll army for Trump and Trump appreciates it.

President Obama, the Clintons and Democrats as a whole understood the nature of national politics, the forgotten vast middle of the electorate, but the fringes of their party are now in danger of putting them in the same position as the Republicans. How did this work for the GOP? A constant purity contest, which is good for talk show hosts, pundits selling books and websites selling outrage – but it made the party unelectable to anyone outside its core base, or anyone differing on a single issue.

Right now the progressive movement isn’t pushing, but shoving, mainstream white voters to Trump. It’s not that social activists don’t have points or aren’t right in many cases, but there has to be room to agree to disagree, and there isn’t. Each leg of the identity stool is fighting the other. This is why, when The Atlantic printed a report that white American middle-aged men are the only group in the world with a rising mortality rate, liberal writer Joan Walsh jumped on Twitter to dispute the fact and said it was in fact white middle-aged women who were the victims of shortening lifespans – as if cities of working-class families had one gender in the relationship outliving the others (subsequent reporting showed working class middle-aged women and men are both facing higher mortality rates in the U.S., this trend will soon spread to rural citizens as a whole). Dying is now a political contest.

Trump is not a flash in the pan. Ross Perot’s third-party bid was a populist insurgency – it happens from time to time. Trump’s insurgency was more vast and changed the electoral map in ways Democrats and poll junkies have yet to decipher or understand.

He’s not an exception or even a symptom, but a reckoning on one hand an logical eventuality on the other. Whatever he is, both parties are responsible.