No, processing Donald Trump’s election victory is not like recovering from addiction
One of the more painful aspects of Donald Trump’s shock election victory, for me, has been having to watch journalists and commentators whom I have previously respected gradually lose all sense of perspective and become almost offensively hysterical in their overwrought catastrophisation of the election result.
This blog was also very much against a Trump victory, but much of the mainstream media commentary seems to have descended into a nationwide, mutually-reinforcing panic attack, like a group of young kids watching a scary movie at a sleepover and then seizing on every nighttime creak or rustle to convince one another that they are being haunted by the monster from the television.
Godwin’s Law is now being proved with such regularity – by supposedly serious journalists writing above the line, and not just the online commentators beneath it – that cataloguing individual instances of Donald Trump victory catastrophisation has become pointless.
And we are not just talking about the more sensationalist, web-based outlets here. One expects little better from the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed or the likes of Everyday Feminism. But now even the New York Times has fallen victim to the great national hysteria – star columnist Nicholas Kristof can presently be found comparing the forthcoming suffering of American leftists under the incoming Trump administration to the pain of people suffering from addiction and mental illness.
I’m not joking – Kristof has just published a column in which he outlines his own patented “twelve-step program” for coming to terms with a Donald Trump presidency.
Traumatized by the election results, many Americans are asking: What now? Here are steps that any of us can take that can make a difference at the margins. Onward!
Traumatised? Really? Isn’t that a word that might be better reserved for veterans who watched their friends killed in action or had their own limbs blown off by IEDs, or the victims of sexual assault and other violent crime? Do we really want to extend that term to encompass the tears and frustration of Hillary Clinton supporters as Donald Trump made a mockery of the opinion polls and won a four-year term as US president?
Some highlights from the Kristof 12-steps:
2. I WILL try to do small things in my own life, recognizing that they are inadequate but at least a start: I will sign up on the Council on American-Islamic Relations website, volunteering to fight Islamophobia. I’ll call a local mosque to offer support, or join an interfaith event. I will sign up for an “accompany my neighbor” list if one exists for my area, to be an escort for anyone who is now in fear.
Because in the blink of an eye and before Trump has even taken office, America has become such a seethingly dangerous place that minorities can no longer walk the streets unaccompanied? Has Nicholas Kristof given absolutely zero thought to how this alarmist, apocalyptic language might be contributing (or indeed be the largest contributor) to the fear which he describes?
3. I WILL avoid demonizing people who don’t agree with me about this election, recognizing that it’s as wrong to stereotype Trump supporters as anybody else. I will avoid Hitler metaphors, recognizing that they stop conversations and rarely persuade. I’ll remind myself that no side has a monopoly on truth and that many Trump supporters are good people who want the best for the country. The left already has gotten into trouble for condescending to working-class people, and insulting all Trump supporters as racists simply magnifies that problem.
Credit where it’s due. Kristof manages something close to magnanimity here, but his call for fellow progressives upset at the election to avoid demonising Donald Trump supporters would be all the more convincing if it didn’t come in the middle of a hysterical article comparing a Trump presidency to living with serious mental illness.
5. I WILL support groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center that fight hate groups, and back the center’s petition calling on Donald Trump to disavow bigotry. Depending on my interests, I’ll support an immigration rights group, the A.C.L.U. or Planned Parenthood. And I’ll subscribe to a newspaper as one way of resisting efforts to squelch the news media or preside over a post-fact landscape — and also to encourage journalists to be watchdogs, not lap dogs.
That would be the same Southern Poverty Law Center which has utterly capitulated to ideological leftist Islamism-deniers, and which has the nerve to place tireless fighters against extremism such as Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a list of supposed anti-Muslim bigots, in a desperate bid to placate and appeal to goodness knows who.
The ACLU of course does some vital work defending civil liberties, but it too has started to crumble under pressure from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, and is now just as zealous about protecting non-existent positive “human rights” as defending genuine civil liberties and Constitutional protections. One can still make an argument for joining the ACLU in an attempt to change it from within (it is less far gone than, say, the UK’s Liberty) but somehow I don’t think that this is what Kristof has in mind.
7. I WON’T let it slide if a friend makes degrading comments about a minority or women. Even if it’s over Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll push back and say something like: “Come on! You really think that?!” Similarly, I may not be able to prevent a sexual predator from reaching the White House, but at events I attend, I may be able to prevent a sexual predator from assaulting a drunken partygoer.
8. I WILL resist dwelling in an echo chamber. I will follow smart people on Twitter or Facebook with whom I disagree. I will also try to enlarge my social circle to include people with different views, recognizing that diversity is a wonderful thing — and that if I know only Clinton supporters, then I don’t have a clue about America.
Again, credit where credit is due. We should all have the courage to take a stand where we see overt racism or sexism occurring in front of us. Confronting these bad ideas and exposing them to the unforgiving light of public ridicule is one of the best means of defeating them. But Kristof has clearly attended one “rape culture” seminar too many, and would have us all patrol every party we attend with a pocket breathalyser, pouncing on amorous couples to ensure that no alcohol has been consumed and that the appropriate consent forms have been signed.
It is also laudable that Kristof encourages people to look beyond their own ideological echo chamber and acknowledge the legitimacy and fundamental decency of those Americans who hold sincere political differences. However, one gets the feeling that this “step” might be the stumbling block for many leftists, just as some recovering addicts pause when confronted with Steps 8 and 9 (making amends to those they have harmed). It does not come naturally to many people to expand their social circles to incorporate those with different viewpoints and values – indeed, many people assiduously prune their social circles to achieve the precise opposite in the quest for ideological homogeneity.
11. I WILL take on sexism and misogyny, which in forms like domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking affect women and girls across the country. Even today, Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together to get funding for women’s shelters or to prosecute pimps.
Even today? What is that supposed to mean? That however bad Donald Trump and Republicans may be, with the right outreach it may just still be possible to convince these heartless conservatives that sex slavery, rape and domestic violence are bad things? Well, I should hope so. This wouldn’t even need saying, were it not for the fact that many people who read Kristof’s column have been fed a steady diet of propaganda suggesting that Donald Trump is about to make his own unreconstructed attitude towards women compulsory for all men in the country.
12. I WILL not lose hope. I will keep reminding myself that politics zigs and zags, and that I can do more than shout in the wind. I can fight for my values even between elections, and even at the micro level I can mitigate the damage to my neighbors and attempt to heal a social fabric that has been rent.
“A social fabric that has been rent” – a nicely passive way of describing the division in America, as though the Kristof-reading American Left had absolutely nothing to do with the rending of America’s social fabric.
Look: the offensive thing here is not necessarily the content of Kristof’s article or the sentiments he expresses. As I have acknowledged, many of the points are actually very laudable calls for all of us to be better, more engaged citizens – something that this blog heartily approves of, and has long called for. What is really offensive is the fact that Kristof felt it in any way appropriate to compare the disappointment of losing an election with the torment of addiction, that he packaged this collection of decent advice and condescension in the guise of a 12-step program.
Imagine for a moment that Nicholas Kristof had written an article encouraging disappointed Clinton supporters to view the next four years as a painful course of chemotherapy. Imagine the outrage which would rightly be prompted by comparing the pain of electoral defeat with the ravages of cancer. But when it comes to addiction and mental health, apparently everything is fair game. It is perfectly acceptable for wealthy, pampered Manhattanites to compare their suffering to that of people suffering from mental illness.
Or imagine that the positions were reversed and a right-wing columnist had compared the suffering of conservatives under a Clinton administration to people trying to recover from addiction. Again, that columnist would immediately be hauled over the coals by the perpetually outraged Left.
This is another one of those occasions where the decadent metro-left grants itself a waiver from the outrage and opprobrium it would rain down on anybody of more conservative persuasion who dared to do the same thing. It’s fine for Nicholas Kristof to talk about processing a Democratic electoral defeat as though it is in any way similar to working through mental health issues, because he does it for the Greater Good of the leftist cause, but heaven forfend that anybody else speak too casually about a “traditionally marginalised group”.
Do these people have any conception of how hysterical and arrogant they sound?
Go back to Step 3 and do it right this time. Because this is NOT how America will knit back together after the election. Nicholas Kristof should be heartily ashamed of himself.
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