Stupid People Will Always Be Stupid
Why do we shame Trump supporters? Why feel shame at shaming them? Why are we (by “we” I mean “us NYT reading folk,”) so flummoxed on how to treat the racist, xenophobic segment of the population that just elected a moldy tangerine to the world’s (formerly) highest office?
Since the words President Trump became fact, we’ve whipped back in an effort to understand how thoroughly we were whupped in the fall. First we were devastated, crying in fear as our worst nightmares came true. Why were the polls wrong? Why were we wrong? Fuck we were wrong. We hate being wrong. And I understand the sentiment -- last Tuesday I got hammered.
Then we got angry -- lashing out at every single thing that could get lashed (media, Facebook, Clinton, Debbie Medusa-man Shultz, black people, white people, white people Facebook, old people, young people, women, latinos, Paul Ryan, Michigan, Russia, etc.). We played the blame game and then predictably got self-reflexive about playing the blame game. We’re liberals, after all, and self-reflexivity is what we do. So we started pretending like there was no one to blame, or that we were to blame. All the while neglecting, at least in print and media, to blame the 25% who actually voted for him. The only group we won’t place blame on, the only group who we actively discourage blaming, are the actual dumbasses who voted for him.
But we can’t call them dumbass anymore. That, after all, would be far too shaming and cruel. It’s not only shameful, some people argue, it’s probably the reason why they voted for Trump in the first place. There is a growing leftist self-flagellation that our distaste for the racist masses is what made them racist in the first place.
Seriously? There may be growing evidence that calling someone a racist doesn’t make them less racist, but pretending that they aren’t racist is the most surefire way to ensure elections like these keeps happening. And let’s not pretend this is a war on conservatives, or that we lack empathy for conservative thought, as some people have suggested. Trump didn’t win on conservative thought. Trump is barely a conservative.
Who we’re really attacking are the uneducated piles of Confederate flags that voted for Trump, not conservative thought. The problem is that we do it by omission and rhetorical sleight of hand instead of just saying what we mean. Our empathy for Trump supporters, painfully elaborated on in long-form essays and undercover journalism like it was some sort of open-mindedness beauty contest, was never real empathy. All of this “compassion” for Trump supporters is predicated on the some variation of, “we know our readers think they’re all xenophobic, uneducated, backwards-ass titwads, but in reality, they are _________.” And people wonder why the right hates us. It’s not because we’re calling them a bunch of illiterate black-lunged pigs -- it’s because we’re doing it and pretending we’re not.
Which is a problem the other side has never had. The right’s hatred of the left has always been front and center -- their criticism loud-mouthed and fully-formed from backroom bars to whatever sinkhole Rush Limbaugh lives in. Their insults are hurled with glee and to great effect, their anti-left hatred a banner under which the entire “conservative” movement can rally when their lack of substantive policy becomes too divisive. And liberals, though they often claim the high ground, have actually just been doing a poor-man’s impression of the same schtick. Mocking while claiming not to mock, deriding while pretending to care. It’s obvious that both sides hate each other -- but only one side is pretending it doesn’t.
Furthermore, this lets us conveniently forget the idea that these people are legitimately uneducated. They are backwards, post-industrial wastoids hooked on Fox & Friends. And in the modern internet era there is no excuse for this. These aren’t the days of Martin Van Beuren, when the only way to fact-check a politician was to convince one of his slaves to tell you what really happened behind closed doors. That was a backwards era. And yet 60 million people voted like routine lying never mattered -- that Trump could fib millions of times and still be worth supporting. Hillary Clinton’s own transgressions are irrelevant here: this man mocked a disabled reporter and lied about it while the very same video played in front of him. A man who has repeatedly praised and complimented Putin yet claimed never to have known him, all in front of evidence to the contrary. Oxford decided that the word of the year was “post-truth,” because the facts no longer matter to at least 60 million. And you want to stop making fun of these people? I say it’s time to pile it on.
These people are dumb. It’s not their fault that they’re dumb (I don’t believe anything is anyone’s fault, really; it’s just a combination of culture and upbringing that shapes people’s opinions), but they are dumb. Most tried and true Trump supporters couldn’t beat a boulder in a game of Rock Paper Scissors. And the more we decide that their feelings need to be protected, the further we get from ripping them out of the stone age.
(The almost-enjoyable irony in all this is that in demanding the end of PC culture, the white-right movement actually turned itself into the one group PC culture truly protects, which I would consider brilliant if it wasn’t the self-reflexive left’s own doing).
Our education system is broken, and it leads to broken politics. Blame the media all you want, but the media shouldn’t be raising children. And people shouldn’t be children until they are 35. But they are, and the way you fix it isn’t by demanding the media become more accountable, it’s to train the people to keep the media more accountable. News in any form (whether “feed” or “channel”) will cater to its audience. It will try to make profit. So if you don’t have consumers who demand a more intelligent product, news companies will never make one. If we taught people how to source news, how to parse facts, how to interpret bias, it would be a lot harder to get away with.
Trump “loves the poorly educated.” It was one of his best lines of the campaign -- genius in it’s branding and yet terrifying in its implications. Republicans have always loved the poorly educated, and we spent years laughing at them behind their backs for it. Stupidity will never win, we convinced ourselves not two seconds after George “The Decider” Bush left office. We did, and still do, look down upon these people, and only now do we realize how badly we fucked up by keeping that distaste a secret instead of using it to change the world they live in.
And so now we’re trying public empathy. Or at least pretending to try it. Perhaps by looking at the systems that made these people unleaded-airheads instead blaming the voters we will find ways to educate them. Perhaps this is the first step towards bringing them into the 21st Century so they don’t vote for a Blue Collar TV stand-up routine gone wrong ever again.
But I think that our supposed liberal empathy, like always, will be a front for inaction and self-congratulations. It’s hard to build bridges with one hand patting your back the whole time. And so the people we’re extending our hands to will know that we’re still smug, elitist tools who despise every single one of them. That our calls for empathy are really just the fear of not knowing what to do. It is the empathy of a loser rolling over for the winners, a Nietzschean re-evaluation of morals where it is weak to be strong.
But why are we scared to be elitist? If we were talking anything else but politics, we’d be stoked to be lead by the elites. That’s why we consider them the “elite,” the best of the best, the ones who deserve to be leading us. Even when we love a “down-to-earth everyman” like Steph Curry, we really like him because he’s an elite athlete. When Emma Stone and Anna Kendrick become loveable, relatable sweethearts, there real fame is because they are elite entertainers. It’s the populist masquerade that we really admire, not the actual down-home populists. No one knows your name if you’re not an elite. But in politics, somehow, we let the uneducated masses make intelligent people feel bad about being intelligent. They’ve made the liberal intelligentsia apologize for being intelligent.
And so the Trumpkins, bemoaning the sudden lack of American exceptionalism, elected the only President that could make the liberals bemoan the same thing.
So bring back the name-calling, I say. Call a spade a spade, no matter how stupid that spade is nor how many guns it owns. Instead of pretending we don’t look down upon these Trump supporters, let’s continue to look down. Let’s acknowledge that they are behind the rest of the country, and the rest of the world. Let’s admit that, even if they are not individually racist or xenophobic, that they are both of those things when viewed as a whole. It is only by actively acknowledging them -- feelings and PC culture be damned -- that we can actually fix them. Donald Trump loves the poorly educated. Let’s not make the same mistake.