Friday, May 06, 2022


Gawker's John Ganz writes about "The Scourge of Sentimentality Politics," but I don't think he really understands the problem:
... while the conservative movement has pumped out loyal foot soldiers who understood that the cause was the main thing, liberals have gotten caught up in the hagiography of their leading functionaries, making everyone involved forget that they are part of a larger movement and not the ends in themselves.

A perfect example of this is the pathetic and embarrassing cult of Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the “Notorious RBG” T-shirts, the inane interest in the details of her workout regimen, the literal votive candles — part of that political tribe’s tendency to worship bureaucrats and officials as saviors, a process replicated in Comeyism (his trashing of Clinton’s electoral chances was quickly forgotten after he became a vocal Trump critic), Muellerism, and Faucism.

Liberals started to get everything backwards: women’s rights existed to produce a woman Supreme Court Justice who could be feted rather than a woman on the Supreme Court being there to guarantee women’s fundamental rights. When people called for Bader Ginsberg to step down, the sentiment was labeled “sexist:” “She doesn’t owe you anything,” the idiotic refrain went. Even after her death during Trump’s presidency, when the catastrophic reality of her decision was clear, her supporters vocally still insisted on her absolute right to stay on the job, come what may.
Ganz contrasts this with the Republican approach:
Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments. They are no respecters of persons. When they got the sense that they were being cheated by their establishment who would just collect checks, pal around in Washington D.C., and not deliver anything, they unleashed Trump to menace them. Their entire apparatus is a kind of grotesque vision of ideal democracy: an unruly mob terrifying and disciplining the elite. “Don’t get out of line, we will come for you.”

It wasn’t an idle threat; they tried to lynch the vice president.
I understand what Ganz is getting at here, but I think he's confusing cause and effect. There was cult of Ginsberg because liberals have been beaten down in the past half century or so, and now have very low expectations for what a left-leaning Supreme Court justice can do. Liberals got used to the fact that our side rarely wins at the Supreme Court, so the best to be hoped for are a few futile but sharply worded dissents. We lionize politicians like Wendy Davis and Beto O'Rourke because we have the same sense of futility regarding red-state electoral politics: Davis and O'Rourke might never win a statewide election, and Davis wasn't able to prevent a once draconian-seeming twenty-week abortion ban from becoming law, but gosh darn it, both of them tried.

We embrace these figures -- and the likes of James Comey and Robert Mueller -- not because we're more inclined than Republicans to create personality cults (see: Donald Trump), but because, even after decades of being beaten to a pulp by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and Mitch McConnell, we still play by the rules, and make heroes of people who would do great things if playing by the rules actually accomplished anything. We still believe the system can work if we just quietly sit back and allow it to function in a gentlemanly way. Meanwhile, Republicans grab the system by the lapels and pile-drive it headfirst into the pavement, or they stealthily poke holes in it for years until it no longer functions, at which point they run roughshod over what's left of it.

Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money likes what Ganz has written.

I'd understand pining for Al Franken if he really could get elected again and accomplish something for our side; Republicans are looking forward not only to Trump's comeback but to the comeback of Eric Greitens, the sex-predator ex-governor of Missouri, who's now running for the Senate. But Trump and Greitens can actually (a) win again and (b) do a lot of damage once they're elected (in other words, they can effectively carry out the right's agenda). They'll do it using shamelessness mixed with ruthlessness. The Democrats' problem isn't that they need to stop putting people on pedestals -- it's that they need to learn how to fight to win.

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