Decades ago, from reading reviews of books and movies I had read and seen, I formulated a proposition that runs something like this:
There is no work of art (book, film, painting, song) so universally admired that someone, somewhere, will not hate it, and think it the worst thing ever; conversely, there is no work of art (book, film, painting, song) so universally disdained that someone, somewhere, will not think it the greatest thing ever.
Some of this is about matters of taste; some negative judgments are irrelevant because they’re off the mark (Amazon reviewers complaining about the price, not the work); some of these are matters of ignorance (all works of art exist in cultural and historical contexts, easily overlooked or misunderstood); and some of this is about the range of human personalities that respond to the world around them in such different ways.
Now I’m thinking to modulate this proposition somewhat. It’s not just that *someone* out there is a contrarian, it’s that the consensus on any particular work of art, or about anything at all, is seldom more than a slight majority. It’s like the elections where a 60% support for one candidate is considered a landslide. I might have thought a landslide is more like 95%. But no matter of taste, in art, or in politics, ever reaches that proportion.
(Aside: this is why science is, to a large degree, to be trusted: it’s not a matter of taste, or opinion. There are always matters of dispute at the very fringes of new thought and new discoveries, but there is no widespread split of opinions about physics, chemistry, evolution, cosmology, and so on. When you keep hearing about how 97% of science studies support human-caused climate changed… it’s turns out the other 3% were methodologically flawed. The Achilles Heel of science is that bad results sometime get published and give the doubters an excuse to dismiss the entire enterprise, and then to use their smartphones — based on so much science and technology than you could believe — to spread the news to their credulous friends.)
But this brings us to politics. How is it, in the face of so many years of performance by our moron (I should have a stock of other adjectives at hand) president, with his obvious lies, with his obvious mismanaging of the pandemic, do something like 40% of the entire US population still support him?? How can they think this man is worthy of being President of the United States?
This isn’t just alarming, it’s puzzling. And part of this question is, as I’ve expressed before, Is this the best conservatives can do to achieve their goals?
But let’s look a couple three articles and essays that ask this very question.
Vox, Ezra Klein (whose book Why We’re Polarized I’m reading): Can anything change Americans’ minds about Donald Trump?. Subtitle: The eerie stability of Trump’s approval rating, explained.
“If you see Trump as ‘the protector of Western Civilization,’ as Charlie Kirk called him the other night at the RNC, or the protector of white America, as Desmond King and Rogers Smith have called him, defending cherished (white Christian) American values from atheist, left-wing socialists who want to take your guns and put Cory Booker in charge of diversifying your neighborhoods, then there’s almost nothing that would make you abandon him,” Tesler continues.
I think this is key: Trump stokes fear into white Christians who fear their world is coming to an end. But again, is that the best they can do? Are there not more competent, honorable men who could accomplish their goals? Do they not realize they are acting like members of a cult, whose leader can do no wrong?
The most gullible person for conspiracy theories is, apparently, Trump.
NYT: Trump Spread Multiple Conspiracy Theories on Monday. Here Are Their Roots. A handy list.
Are all his supporters simply not paying attention??
Washington Post: All the Trump books agree: He’s just as bad as you think.
For people who don’t follow publishing, or book reviews, or news, there have been two or three dozen such books.
But no president has been the subject of as many books by disgruntled, disgusted, and horrified former aides and associates as Donald Trump. And more are coming.
So Trump is obviously not a very good judge of character, if so many of his associates and hired keep quitting and writing nasty book about him. How do Trumpists explain this? (I suspect they are simply not paying attention; they don’t know about all these books; all they know is Fox News and Trump rallies.)
And then there’s this, about the evangelical movement’s support of Trump.
Salon, Michael Rea: How the evangelical movement became Trump’s “bitch” — and yes, I know what that word signifies. Subtitle: As an evangelical myself, I can see how far the movement has sunk — even to betraying its own ideal of masculinity.
Four years in, people are still struggling to understand the overwhelming support for Donald Trump that has come from what should have been its least likely source: American evangelicals. They belong to a socially conservative movement that embraces traditional Christian morality and family values. Their leaders have loudly insisted, especially during the Clinton years, that the moral character of our president deeply matters. They take as their highest infallible authority a Bible whose central themes include God’s love for the poor and the vulnerable, and a demand to love one’s neighbor — even one’s enemies — to the point of great personal sacrifice.
He, by contrast, is a man whose lifestyle displays little regard for Christian morality or family values. His dishonesty and infidelity have been almost daily news items since before he took office. His reputation for sexual predation, bullying, narcissism and a host of other sins and vices antithetical to Christianity has only continued to grow since he took office. His most notable advice for interacting with half the human population is “grab ’em by the pussy”. Who could have predicted such an alliance?
What evangelicals wanted, and found, in Trump was not just a (potentially) powerful ally, but a man of a certain sort — a political strongman whose brash and swaggering demeanor made it clear not only that, but how he would wield power on their behalf.
He was a man who would “tell it like it is” — code for something like “confront people and issues aggressively, without concern for the usual norms of tact, diplomacy, respect, and concern for the feelings of others.” He would “turn over the tables” — code for something like “deliberately upset or circumvent the usual rules and protocols for getting things done in Washington in order to push his own agenda and the agenda of supporters.” In displaying this demeanor while at the same time embracing a socially conservative and superficially Christian-friendly political platform, he sent a clear message. He would deal with evangelicalism’s “oppressors” and cultural enemies in the manner of a political John Wayne, James Bond or Jack Bauer. He would be a hypermasculine tough guy, a modern day Goliath, who would fight on their side in the culture wars.
I think all of this gives me pause about the prospect for the human race. Or at least American civilization. All cultures go down eventually.