Saturday, June 23, 2018

Getting Old


Kind of like the old bowling league. In these days of crumbling social institutions, emptying churches, declining volunteer fire departments and reading groups, when things start to fall quiet among the breakfast crowd at the Sweet Pie 'n' Bye, you can sense the 2016 nostalgia, and somebody's bound to say, "Say, why don't we call up the New York Times and tell them we're still Republicans? Maybe they'll send down that nice young Jeremy Peters!"

LEESBURG, Va. — Gina Anders knows the feeling well by now. President Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. She doesn’t necessarily agree with how he handled the situation. She gets why people are upset.
But Ms. Anders, 46, a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe, is moved to defend him anyway.
“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities.
“It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.
What Peters didn't mention in his lede, or one of the things, as you might have heard by now, is that Ms. Anders and her husband, when they were living in West Virginia, were the founders of a Tea Party–type activist group, We the People of West Virginia-Jefferson County. He didn't think it was relevant:
That's a telling use of the word "source", the assumption that that's what people are complaining about, as if we're afraid she might give them a biased version of her own thoughts. What story does he think this is?

What story I think it's purporting to be is a kind of exurban anthropology, non-quantitative polling of the mood out there among the Trump voters, and the problem isn't that she used to support Rand Paul, but that she's no kind of typical voter but an insider (though Peters seems strangely unaware that Paul represents the Trumpiest of the standard Republicans, the most opposed to immigrants and unrestrained trade and military alliances, the most Putinist not to put too fine a point on it), not that he can't quote her as much as he likes, but that he should be letting us know, and it feels as if he's hiding it from us, not just by leaving out the Tea Party connection but also by emphasizing her lack of MAGA paraphernalia.

It also rouses the thought that the Times wants for some reason to be telling this story—about the Trump voters doubling down, not so much because they're in love with their man as because of these "overblown reactions" to things like herding small children into prison camps away from their parents and seemingly working to make the parents and children lose one another permanently—and goes looking for people to confirm it, not anthropological subjects to talk about how they feel but journalistic sources to yield up the narrative. I honestly can't understand why they would want to do that, tell me I'm just not cynical enough but I can't think of a cynical motivation that makes any sense to me.

Still, they keep doing it, and speaking of getting old, that's what this trick is doing.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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