Whyn Lewis, Through the Night, 1994
Victor Davis Hanson explained, the other day, that the essence of the Trump technique was to appeal to an electorate disgusted by the existing political state of things by becoming the first Post-Modern Candidate, by turning conventional politics upside down, by simply breaking all the rules. Trump succeeded, in essence, the same way Marcel Duchamp succeeded when he brought a porcelain urinal to an exhibition Society of Independent Artists in 1917, titling it “Fountain.”
[E]lite journalists, political advisers, media anchors, and pollsters, for all their analyses, have no idea where, why, and how Trump garners support. He follows no campaign rules. He has no consistent political ideology. He ignores decorum. Scandals do not tar him. The media treat him like a cobra rising from a basket — terrified that if at any moment they stop their music, the smiling serpent might strike and bite them in the nose.
Tomorrow Trump could declare there to be 57 states, or address vets as Corpse-men or tell his legions to bring a gun to a knife fight — and none of his supporters would find him clueless, half-educated, or incendiary. If Trump brought one of his wheeler-dealer Manhattan real-estate cronies to a rally and the man’s court-ordered ankle bracelet went off, no one would bat an eye.
In other words, Trump is a postmodern creation, for whom traditional and time-tested rules do not apply. He is neither brilliant nor unhinged, neither ecumenical nor just a polarizer, not a wrecker and not a savior of the Republican party, but something else altogether. He does not defy conventional wisdom. There simply is no convention and no wisdom applicable to Donald J. Trump. For years postmodernists have lectured us that there is no truth, no absolutes, no timeless protocols worthy of reverence; Trump is their Nemesis, who reifies their theories that truth is simply a narrative whose veracity is established by the degree of power and persuasion behind it.
A reality-TV star, Trump appeals to those who despise reality-TV celebs like the Kardashians. A billionaire, he is the hero of those who hate billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett. A vain narcissist, he earns the loyalty of those who are repelled by the vain narcissism of Barack Obama. A man who dyes and does his hair, tans his skin, and stretches his face, he appeals to those who have neither the money nor the desire to do the same. A self-described Republican, he attacks Republicans more than Democrats. An elite insider, he blasts elite insiders. He is both to the right and to the left of Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio. Trump rails against dirty campaign fundraising — and he assures us that no one knows such corruption better than he himself, since as a donor he used to spread cash around precisely to influence. Why else should anyone give?
If the rules of politics do not apply to Trump, how then can Trump break them? For Donald Trump, there is only one third rail: conventionality. If he, as advised, were to stop calling his rivals liars and crooks; if he, as urged, were to read sober and judicious speeches off teleprompters; if he, as counseled, were to talk in politically correct platitudes, Trump would turn doctrinaire and conformist — and be undone by reviving the very orthodox rules he once strangled, but that otherwise strangle outsider-insiders like himself. If Trump were to listen to a politico and lose 30 pounds, shorten his tie, cut off his comb-over, and wear earth-tone clothes, he would be finished.
His supporters want a reckoning with a system that has not so much failed as infuriated them. What drives their loyalty to Trump — if not the person, at least the idea of Trump — is a sort of nihilism. As a close friend put it to me this week, “I don’t care whether Trump wins or not, I just want him to f— things up as long as he can.”
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Claire Berlinski.
The essay appeared in Vogue in 1961:
To protest that some fairly improbable people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one’s underwear. There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. Although the careless, suicidal Julian English in Appointment in Samarra and the careless, incurably dishonest Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby seem equally improbable candidates for self-respect, Jordan Baker had it, Julian English did not. With that genius for accommodation more often seen in women than in men, Jordan took her own measure, made her own peace, avoided threats to that peace: “I hate careless people,” she told Nick Carraway. “It takes two to make an accident.”
Like Jordan Baker, people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an access of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named corespondent. If they choose to forego their work—say it is screenwriting—in favor of sitting around the Algonquin bar, they do not then wonder bitterly why the Hacketts, and not they, did Anne Frank.
In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.
Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. It seemed to the nineteenth century admirable, but not remarkable, that Chinese Gordon put on a clean white suit and held Khartoum against the Mahdi; it did not seem unjust that the way to free land in California involved death and difficulty and dirt. In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-year-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: “Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke about it.” Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, “fortunately for us,” hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnée.
In one guise or another, Indians always are.
Read the whole thing.
Death of John Talbot — Charles-Philippe Larivière, La bataille de Castillon, 1838, Galerie des batailles, Château de Versailles.
In Friedrich Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans, when the enchantress Joan of Arc preaching her visions and prophesies, inspires the French Army to heroic efforts and panics the English into flight, the dying English commander Talbot complains:
„Unsinn, du siegst und ich muß untergehn!
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.
Erhabene Vernunft, lichthelle Tochter
Des göttlichen Hauptes, weise Gründerin
Des Weltgebäudes, Führerin der Sterne,
Wer bist du denn, wenn du dem tollen Roß
Des Aberwitzes an den Schweif gebunden,
Ohnmächtig rufend, mit dem Trunkenen
Dich sehend in den Abgrund stürzen mußt!
Verflucht sei, wer sein Leben an das Große
Und Würdge wendet und bedachte Plane
Mit weisem Geist entwirft! Dem Narrenkönig
Gehört die Welt.
Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield!
Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain. Exalted reason,
Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
Wise foundress of the system of the world,
Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurbed steed,
Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
Accursed, who striveth after noble ends,
And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
To the fool-king belongs the world.
Stupidity doesn’t always win, of course. It just wins most of the time.
Via John Brewer:
“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.” — F. Zappa (a better guitar player than F. Schiller was)
Rush yesterday described a futile attempt by Ted Cruz in Indiana to reason with a “brain-dead” Trump supporter.
I cringed when I saw Cruz cross the street, ’cause I knew exactly what was gonna happen. And the reason I called the guy brain-dead is cause that’s how he acted. “Trump! Trump! Trump! Lyin’ Ted! Lyin’ Ted!”
He had no desire to engage Cruz. Cruz was being polite. He crossed the street, wanted to engage the guy in conversation about issues. I literally was cringing when it happened; I cringed when it was over. Because it wasn’t gonna work. And the audio was such that even if Cruz was trying to create something viral that could be on social media that would show him politely and graciously encountering a Trump supporter and explaining the issues (and hoping that that would go viral), it didn’t have much of a chance ’cause the audio wasn’t good enough for that to happen.
All the Trump people were shouting this or that, encouraging this guy. “Trump! Trump! Trump! Lyin’ Ted! Lyin’ Ted!” You know, Cruz was polite. He was everything that you would want somebody to be, and he’s being mocked and laughed at and made fun of as a square, as a nerd, as a loser or what have you, which is exactly right in line with what’s happening in our culture today. It is the renegades, and it’s been this way for a long time. The renegades and the — well, however you want to characterize them.
The people that do not stay within the guard rails of reality, they’re the ones that are celebrated and praised. They get rich. They’re made heroes. We’ve made celebrities out of them, and people that don’t do that are just dull and boring and dryballs and usually tagged as conservatives or what have you. So I was not calling all Trump supporters brain-dead. You’ve heard me talk about the Trump people. You’ve heard me lionize the Trump people. You’ve heard me, on this program, celebrate the Trump people and explain to people why certain people behind Trump support him.
This guy was no different than a Code Pink protester, and so that’s that. I’m sorry. I wasn’t able to separate the personal experiences I’ve had just like that over the course of my career, and I knew it was gonna work when I watched it happening and I watched the replay. I knew it wasn’t gonna work, and frankly there’s a part of me that still — even though I know the drill and I know the lay of the land and I know the reality and I’m the mayor of Realville.
It still bugs me when doofuses like that end up the winner in a circumstance like that. But welcome to America 2016, or whatever it is.
Trigglypuff is the nickname given to a Hampshire College student who was recorded loudly protesting in the audience of a University of Massachusetts Amherst event titled “The Triggering,” which featured a discussion criticizing politically correct movements on campus hosted by conservative blogger Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Christina Hoff Sommers.
The painting depicts King Stanislaus Augustus together with members of the Grand Sejm and inhabitants of Warsaw entering St John’s Cathedral in order to swear in the new national constitution just after it had been adopted by the Grand Sejm in the Royal Castle visible in the background.
Below is a short film celebrating the passage of the first liberal constitution in Europe by the Polish senate, May 3, 1791, the passage of which provoked treason by magnatial aristocrats (The Confederacy of Targowica) followed by intervention and partition of the country by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Tadeusz Kosciuszko led the national resistance to the partition. The final defeat of Kosciuszko’s forces was followed in 1795 by the Third and final Partition of Poland-Lithuania. The actual document wound up locked in an iron box under guard in Moscow’s Kremlin, so much terror did it strike in the hearts of despots. Poles and Lithuanians still sing the praises of the Constitution of the 3rd of May which extended the rights enjoyed by the nobility to the entire country. The Third of May is today a national holiday in both countries.