The Politics of Contempt

It’s Entertaining, To Say the Least
Bret Stephens has written a piece in the NY Times entitled, Democrats and the Losing Politics of Contempt.  He was reflecting upon the recent by-election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.  The former incumbent, Tom Price had joined the Trump Administration.  The vacant seat needed to be filled: hence, the fresh election.

The Great White Hope for the Democrats lost to the Republican.  True, this was a strong Republican district.  It was mainly white and gentrified.  But the hope was that folk would be so off-put by the discombobulation of Trumpism that an electoral upset might be likely.  The Democrats certainly threw all but the kitchen sink at the challenge.  No dice.  Republican Karen Handel was duly elected.
Stephens’ analysis included a breath of cold caution to the Democratic Party.  Included was this:

Whatever else might be said about the race, Democrats didn’t lose for lack of political talent, campaign financing and organization or enthusiasm among their base. They lost because of their brand. . . . Contemporary liberalism now expresses itself chiefly in the language of self-affirmation and moral censure: of being the party of the higher-minded; of affixing the suffix “phobe” to millions of people who don’t appreciate being described as bigots.

It’s intolerable. It’s why so many well-educated Republicans who find nothing to admire in the president’s dyspeptic boorishness find even less to like in his opponents’ snickering censoriousness. It’s why a political strategy by Democrats that seeks to turn every local race into a referendum on Trump is likely to fail.

He also has a word of caution for the Democrats fixation on finding Trump guilty of being a Russian stool pigeon.

Democrats may also want to reconsider the wisdom of pursuing, and hyping, the investigation into Russia’s election meddling as a means of re-litigating last year’s election. Maybe Robert Mueller will uncover evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, or otherwise catch the president in a lie under oath.

But the longer the investigation proceeds without finding convincing evidence of malfeasance, the likelier Americans will draw the conclusion that Trump is right to call the investigation a witch hunt and begin to sympathize with him. Nobody likes a Javert. It happened for Bill Clinton in 1998 in his duel with Ken Starr. 

Herein lies a conundrum.  It is precisely the culture of self-righteous bigot-phobia which will not allow the Democrats to give up on insisting that Trump was, and is, an enemy of the state.   In sport this is what is known as “scoring an own-goal”.  Evidently this must have been Trump’s cunning plan all along.
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