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What Does It Mean To Take The Gloves Off?


There is a dangerous and irresponsible strain of opinion telling the Democratic Party today that when they lose, it’s because they aren’t fighting hard enough. Here’s one outline of this opinion from Politico editor John Harris. Here’s another way of stating the opinion, from a writer at Wired. The thesis goes something like this: the left has total dominance of the culture, and total dominance of the popular vote, so the answer to why they lose not infrequently is that the system is rigged against them, and they must fight all the harder and “take the gloves off” or something like that to achieve their ends.

The gloves have been off for a very long time in American politics. How quickly we forget the attempted murder of multiple Republican politicians including Steve Scalise, who may never walk normally again. Just this past week we saw a Democratic staffer who doxxed multiple Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee indicted, facing nearly 50 years in federal prison for his crimes. We saw Cory Gardner revealing his wife had received graphic texts of a beheading after his vote for Kavanaugh, along with their home address. And in Washington, we saw whatever all this is.

And this is not new, of course – it stretches back a long time. The gloves were off for the American Left in the late 1960s, when campus and activist violence became normalized. They were off in the 1970s when the outgrowth of that spirit of protest led to the sequence of Weathermen bombings that crisscrossed the nation. 

Politically, the gloves were off during Robert Bork and judicial filibusters and the extreme procedural measures to pass Obamacare and the “pen and phone” mode of governance that came after. And of course they were off as a matter of communication too, when Democrats turned a nice fellow like Mitt Romney into a scheming misogynist who wanted poor people to die from cancer and never paid his taxes. Harry Reid’s reaction when confronted with lying about that point, which the media had covered excessively, was: “Romney didn’t win, did he?” Were the gloves on then?

So when you are already screaming at people in public and doxxing them and staking out their homes, what does taking the gloves off mean? And will you ever realize that this tactic of charging full speed at the doors of the Supreme Court and beating at it with your fists really, really doesn’t work? Because it won’t, no matter how well organized it is. 

As for the systemic bias point (more on that as it relates to Article V and the disturbing turn against the existence of the Senate as we know it tomorrow, because I suspect that’s what taking the gloves off really means), should we pretend this hasn’t happened before? I give you the answer from Harry Reid to the question: “Aren’t you worried Republicans will get rid of the filibuster on the Supreme Court?” The majority is the majority.

But does that majority really have overwhelming political power, enough to crush the presumed cultural dominance of the left? Well, what does cultural dominance mean? Does it mean people start listening to Late Night hosts for their political guidance? Does it mean they start heeding the words of Hollywood at the Emmys or Oscars? Does it mean that when Taylor Swift takes to Instagram to endorse a guy who would be the oldest white man in history elected as a true freshman to the Senate, it should launch a million young female voters to support him… over a woman? That’s not how this works – never has.

If the right really did have overwhelming political power, it would be running roughshod. Outside of the realm of taxes and regulation, it’s hard to see that. Obamacare is still mostly the law of the land. Planned Parenthood is still mostly funded. Education policy is still nibbling at the edges of reform. Curbing public sector unions is limited to a few states. Republican success in New England and Maryland and elsewhere has led to the election of quite a few governors, but where’s their big achievements besides managing things a little more cheaply?

What this whole “we’re the wet rag party” talk really translates too is: we, the abidingly secular Americans who were repeatedly promised we were the ethnically and sexually diverse and dominant coalition during the Obama years, now feel frustrated by being merely ascendant and feel instead entitled to absolute and immediate victory. And that justifies the “we’re coming for you” attitude today. Because any roadblocks or speedbumps for that agenda are now viewed as the vestiges of dead old white men protecting the interests of modern old white men.

This was a surprisingly dominant viewpoint as recently as a few years ago, accepted even among intelligent people on the right. Then a surprising group of people came along willing to say: No. And that has made all the difference.