Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Paul Krugman writes today:
A funny thing is happening on the American scene: a powerful upwelling of decency. Suddenly, it seems as if the worst lack all conviction, while the best are filled with a passionate intensity....

You can see the abrupt turn toward decency in the rise of the #MeToo movement; in a matter of months ground that had seemed immovable shifted, and powerful sexual predators started facing career-ending consequences.

You can see it in the reactions to the Parkland school massacre. For now, at least, the usual reaction to mass killings — a day or two of headlines, then a sort of collective shrug by the political class and a return to its normal obeisance to the gun lobby — isn’t playing out. Instead, the story is staying at the top of the news, and associating with the N.R.A. is starting to look like the political and business poison it should have been all along.

And I’d argue that you can see it at the ballot box, where hard-right politicians in usually reliable Republican districts keep being defeated thanks to surging activism by ordinary citizens.

... I think it’s all one surge. The #MeToo movement, the refusal to shrug off the Parkland massacre, the new political activism of outraged citizens (many of them women) all stem from a common perception: namely, that it’s not just about ideology, but that far too much power rests in the hands of men who are simply bad people.
Krugman doesn't ask the question, but I will: Does this mean that Susan Sarandon had a point in March 2016 when she told Chris Hayes, "Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode"?

To some extent, I think she did have -- but not enough to justify Hillary Clinton's defeat and Trump's election.

On the subject of #MeToo, I know it's been argued -- most prominently by Maureen Dowd -- that the Weinstein revelations might never have surfaced if Clinton had won. ("If Hillary were in the Oval, would some women have failed to summon the courage to tell their Weinstein horror stories because the producer was also a power behind the Clinton throne?" Dowd wrote last fall.) I don't buy it. We know that The New York Times and Ronan Farrow were pursuing the Weinstein story long before the 2016 election -- sooner or later, one of them would have had enough to publish. We know that Weinstein had less success in Hollywood in the period leading up to the stories' publication -- it's much more likely that his declining clout, rather than any worries about his status as a Democratic donor, made victims more willing to speak out. And he was still seen as a big man in Democratic circles after the Clinton defeat, yet the articles appeared. I think he would have been exposed anyway.

Would there have been more pushback with Clinton in the White House? I think the details in those stories were so appalling that it would have been suicidal for Clinton to push back. Democrats would have abandoned him no matter what.

As for Trump, I think he would have been a presence even in defeat. It matters a lot that a confessed sex criminal is in the White House, but in defeat he'd have tried to become Clinton's top tormentor, undoubtedly returning to his regular perch on Fox and Friends to attack the president and deny her legitimacy. His rise to power gave the #MeToo movement fuel it wouldn't have had otherwise, but I think he'd still be on the scene, a shameless groper, and I think that would have inspired anger.

Parkland? It may just be that the circumstances were right. We like fresh faces in America; the activist survivors are young, well-spoken, unbowed, and determined to use their grief to make change right now, while we still can't turn away. America's gun lust aimed at the wrong target population. That could have happened even if Hillary Clinton were president, because the gun laws of America would still mostly be dictated by Republicans and the NRA.

The Parkland kids, of course, are mostly white -- let's not forget that Black Lives Matter started (under President Obama) with a very similar determination to use grief for social change. Immigrants, minimum-wage workers, and the the LGBT community also stepped up their activism during the Obama years. You don't need a right-wing monster in the White House to fight against injustice, and even to make that fight central to the American political conversation, and because those kids would have a real instinct for striking while the iron was hot.

I think the Trump presidency made America more responsive to politcized anger -- although maybe what I mean to say is that it made straight white non-conservative older people responsive in ways they weren't. But is it worth it? Trump is launching so many attacks on so many fronts -- immigration, climate change, business regulation, the social safety net -- that the increases in activism probably can't counter all the damage he'll do.

I'm happy that more people are engaged, and maybe it's partly Trump's doing. But I'd still rather have slightly less activism and no Trump.

No comments: