The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Non-Deferential Candidate

In a fascinating op ed in The Wall Street Journal, Shelby Steel discusses the culture of "deference" that has driven American politics since the 1960s.  Steel suggests that our collective national guilt over slavery and the subjugation of woman and minorities during our nation's early history has resulted in "the idea of America as a victimizing nation. And then came the inevitable corollary: the nation’s moral indebtedness to its former victims: blacks especially but all other put-upon peoples as well."

This election is prima fascie evidence of how effectively the Democratic party uses "deference" as a political bludgeon. Steel writes:
Since the ’60s the Democratic Party, and liberalism generally, have thrived on the power of deference. When Hillary Clinton speaks of a “basket of deplorables,“ she follows with a basket of isms and phobias—racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Each ism and phobia is an opportunity for her to show deference toward a victimized group and to cast herself as America’s redeemer. And, by implication, conservatism is bereft of deference. Donald Trump supporters are cast as small grudging people, as haters who blindly love America and long for its exclusionary past. Against this she is the very archetype of American redemption. The term “progressive” is code for redemption from a hate-driven America.

So deference is a power to muscle with. And it works by stigmatization, by threatening to label people as regressive bigots. Mrs. Clinton, Democrats and liberals generally practice combat by stigma. And they have been fairly successful in this so that many conservatives are at least a little embarrassed to “come out” as it were. Conservatism is an insurgent point of view, while liberalism is mainstream. And this is oppressive for conservatives because it puts them in the position of being a bit embarrassed by who they really are and what they really believe.

Deference has been codified in American life as political correctness. And political correctness functions like a despotic regime. It is an oppressiveness that spreads its edicts further and further into the crevices of everyday life. We resent it, yet for the most part we at least tolerate its demands. But it means that we live in a society that is ever willing to cast judgment on us, to shame us in the name of a politics we don’t really believe in. It means our decency requires a degree of self-betrayal.
With the probable election of Hillary Clinton today, political correctness will become even more entrenched. The totalitarian PC insanity that we see at American colleges and universities will slowly seep into the mainstream—people who do not show deference will be shouted down or in the extreme, excluded from public discourse. Language will be even more carefully controlled. And worst of all, policy decisions will be driven by deference (PC) not by what is in the best interests of the country and its people.

The Democrats have successfully demonized Donald Trump (he has done much to help them accomplish this). But yet, his message resonates among tens of millions of voters. Are they all "deplorables?" Are they all "irredeemable?" Do they all have a "dark" vision of "hate" that pervades their thinking? There are many progressives who would answer those questions affirmatively, but in that answer they exhibit a profound ignorance.

Steel talks about Trump:
And into all this steps Mr. Trump, a fundamentally limited man but a man with overwhelming charisma, a man impossible to ignore. The moment he entered the presidential contest America’s long simmering culture war rose to full boil. Mr. Trump was a non-deferential candidate. He seemed at odds with every code of decency. He invoked every possible stigma, and screechingly argued against them all. He did much of the dirty work that millions of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do.

Thus Mr. Trump’s extraordinary charisma has been far more about what he represents than what he might actually do as the president. He stands to alter the culture of deference itself. After all, the problem with deference is that it is never more than superficial. We are polite. We don’t offend. But we don’t ever transform people either. Out of deference we refuse to ask those we seek to help to be primarily responsible for their own advancement. Yet only this level of responsibility transforms people, no matter past or even present injustice. Some 3,000 shootings in Chicago this year alone is the result of deference camouflaging a lapse of personal responsibility with empty claims of systemic racism.

As a society we are so captive to our historical shame that we thoughtlessly rush to deference simply to relieve the pressure. And yet every deferential gesture—the war on poverty, affirmative action, ObamaCare, every kind of “diversity” scheme—only weakens those who still suffer the legacy of our shameful history. Deference is now the great enemy of those toward whom it gushes compassion.
Maybe that's why the elites react so violently to Donald Trump. The political class and the media (and increasingly, the business world) have used deference as a weapon to get what they want, not what is necessarily best for the "victims" who they purport to champion.

In the end, political correctness wins out almost every time because the weapons available against those who push back are so powerful. The Democrats know this and use those weapons to their fullest. The result is that they win. Sadly, at least some of the supposed victims—the poor, the blue collar middle class—often lose.