A basic fact of this presidential cycle: When Donald Trump walked through the door, he burst off the jambs and made the opening bigger and more jagged, forever. Now almost anyone can walk through.
Last weekend there was the video of a pregnant Chelsea Clinton being accosted by an New York University student who screamed at her and waved her finger in her face. It reminded me of a struggle session, but the student herself, in her certitude, self-righteousness and chic, also reminded me of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her friends in Congress.
I think we all know where this started, the political brutishness, the ignoring of traditions and norms. Donald Trump is both origin and rationale.
The mean girls of Congress have learned at his knee. They have taken their tactics from him. They claim to be his reluctant imitators but I think they admire his ferocity. They have a taste for it, and a talent.
They are good at being the thing they supposedly despise. They are not the antidote to the current brutality but an iteration of it.
They are his natural children.
Peggy Noonan, Congress’s Mean Girls Are Trump’s Offspring.
Noonan’s phrase “where this started, the political brutishness, the ignoring of traditions and norms” strikes me as ambiguous, because a few paragraphs earlier she wrote of a perennial tendency:
There is always a great temptation among the young in politics, and especially of the left, to see common respect as an admission of insincerity in opposing injustice. If you were sincere you’d be passionate—fierce and rude. They see courtesy as acceding to bourgeois political norms, when they are certain the bourgeoise (sic) established those norms so they’d never be called out and forced to admit their culpability.
They believe that to be enraged is to demonstrate seriousness. It is to show that you understand the urgency of the moment, even if others don’t. To behave in a way that shows respect for the humanity of others is to concede too much. After all, if they were truly human they’d be just as enraged as you are.
You must be crude to show the authenticity of your contempt for injustice ….
I believe, first-hand, that this is true. The Vietnam War era is when I cultivated a tactical potty-mouth, which quickly became the habitual, besetting sin my Priest must be tired of hearing about. I “understood the urgency of the moment” and thought a few unexpected epithets would raise the consciousness of my auditors (proto-wokeness — “woke” isn’t new under the sun even if the coinage is).
That’s well before Donald Trump walked through the door. But yes, Donald Trump, the ever-adolescent narcissist, brought it shamelessly into the public square. We can hope that Noonan’s wrong about “forever.”
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