Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016--Normalization

Yesterday, the following sub-headline appeared on the first page of the New York Times website--

"Critics lamented what they said was a frightening normalization of the fringe views that Mr. Bannon promoted as chairman of Breitbart News."

The Times went on to say that by president-elect Trump appointing Stephen Bannon chief presidential strategist--responsible for generating ideas that will animate his administration--as one of the founders of the white supremacist alt-right, this designation contributes to legitimatizing racist, homophobic, nationalistic, and anti-Semetic views and behavior. And, of course, will make these kinds of reprehensible thoughts welcome in the White House.

On a very different scale, I have been accused of contributing to the normalization of Donald Trump.

I have been writing here and elsewhere for a year and a half about the unexpected political rise of Donald Trump. And after he won the Republican nomination, in spite of his outrageous words and behavior, I continued to write about him, taking him seriously while most of the others on the left continued to mock and disregard the seriousness and potency of his candidacy.

Almost all of what I wrote through the many months was asserted by me to be an attempt to understand the Trump phenomenon, particularly why he was appealing to so many. Enough eventually to elect him.

My view was and is that we must come to understand why so many white men regardless of educational evil and economic status supported him enthusiastically, why so many Hispanics (close to a third of those who turned out) cast ballots for him, and particularly why more than half of white women (again across the demographic spectrum) chose him to be our next president.

I was criticized widely for not simply condemning Trump's racism and sexism and that, by writing about him and his followers with an dispassionate mind, I was contributing to taking him seriously, rather than treating him as dismissively, and, again, by so doing I helped normalize him.

Perhaps I did not do a good enough job of making the distinction between this effort to understand and what might be viewed as unintended implicit support.  

In other words, I was lectured by many, Trump did not deserve to be taken seriously and by continuing stubbornly to do so I was inadvertently--or perhaps subliminally--endorsing his candidacy.

I can understand the angst and rage and fear that his election is causing many to feel--I as well feel his election has the potential to turn out to be a national tragedy--but I do not understand why simply dismissing him was and is the preferred way to defeat his ideas and reduce his reach.

My view is that just the opposite is true.

We need to gain a nuanced and accurate understanding of Trump's appeal and a clear sense of what is motivating and mobilizing his followers if we are to have a chance to overcome appeals of his kind and the political and culture power that is responsible for the most perversely remarkable presidential election in our history.

Calling that effort normalization misses the point. One has to take the risk of taking Trump seriously (which is different than a show of support) in order to figure out what is seething in the middle of America.

Those who continue to believe that he is evil and that his supporters in one way or another are deplorable, and thereby not worth thinking about seriously, are the ones from the progressive end of the political spectrum who also contributed to his election.

Stephen Bannon

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home