American satirist Ambrose Bierce defined the presidency as “the greased pig in the field game of American politics.” If ever there was a year in which that is true, surely it is 2020. Most of us, in one way or another, have looked about as foolish and flummoxed as participants in a country pig scramble.
Yet if I were to offer a vote for most absurd, it would be those who indulged in sanctimonious screeds about the supposed threat of totalitarianism posed by four more years of the incumbent greased pig champion. Renowned linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky told The New Yorker in late October that Donald Trump is the “worst criminal in human history.” The worst. This is hyperbole worthy of “The Donald” himself.
Forget about Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, or Whitey Bulger, brutal murderers in American history. Forget about Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and the rest of the dictators responsible for millions of deaths in the last century. No, supposedly, Trump’s unparalleled criminality is all there in the unreleased tax returns.
Or, how about the Boston Globe columnist who claimed on Oct. 31 that Trump supporters were equivalent to the Islamic State? Yes, the same ISIS responsible for systematic rape, genocidal murder, and forced conversions of Christians and Yazidis to Islam. The same ISIS that crucified Christians, violently tried to re-establish an Islamic Caliphate, and inspired deadly terrorist attacks from the Philippines to Orlando, Florida. But, you know, Trump has been accused of sexual assault, and he says lots of mean things. Same difference, right?
Also guilty of hyperbolic sanctimony are all the people who appeared on our Facebook feeds in the days leading up to the November election explaining that they don’t normally post political stuff, but this year is different because our very democracy is at risk. If we didn’t vote for the Democrats, they warned, we had exposed our stupidity, evil, and embrace of authoritarianism. This, of course, ignores the fact that Trump and the GOP are subject to the same democratic processes as every previous ruling party in American history.
I expect, also, that we’re supposed to overlook the fact that liberal mainstream media and pollsters told us for months that the GOP would suffer a resounding repudiation of their alleged authoritarianism (whoops). We are also obliged to forget that our democracy was supposedly very much at risk in 2016 when we last voted in a presidential election. If four years of Trump was supposed to usher in a fascist dictatorial state, he certainly screwed that up.
What we witnessed in the lead up to the elections, and what we will continue to witness for years to come, is unadulterated disdain and contempt for Trump voters and conservatives in general. Lefttist media and the technocratic elite who run the dominant institutions of our culture push a narrative of America in which conservatives are racist, sexist, authoritarian ignoramuses, while liberals are noble, virtuous, and intellectually superior citizen-scholars.
Now, granted, there are sexist, racist, and stupid crazies who self-identify with the right. Such behavior is disgusting and should be unreservedly rejected. And I despise the acrimonious spirit that has taken hold on both left and right.
The vilification of conservatives, however, has become worryingly mainstream. The people who express the most outlandish opprobrium for conservatives do not exist in the dark recesses of the Internet — they are journalists, lawyers, educators, government bureaucrats, and many other technocratic professionals.
Perhaps this sanctimonious self-righteousness explains the fact that Trump received more votes than he did in 2016. Americans don’t appreciate condescension, especially from people who have access to financial and professional networks that have largely shielded them from the worst economic effects of COVID lockdowns and quarantine. Nor do Americans appreciate folks who wax eloquently about human dignity and rights while endorsing the murdering of American children in the womb.
Willingly, I grant conservatives are just as prone to hypocrisy as liberals. Yet there is at least one important difference. Conservatives more willingly acknowledge that they are hypocrites. As most conservatives are religious, or at least more sympathetic to Judeo-Christian beliefs, they understand that man is fallen and inherently sinful. Also, as most conservatives acknowledge we are all sinners, they are less inclined to inflated views of themselves.
This matters more than one might think. Conservatives who acknowledge their own failings do not look to society or government to forgive them and give their lives purpose. No, it is God who forgives and restores. It is transcendent truths that give meaning and inspiration. Our saviors will not come from this world, and certainly not from public opinion or public institutions.
Not so, we are learning, is it for adherents of the left’s woke ideology. For them is an endless cycle of self-recrimination for conscious and unconscious phobias and fragilities that must be forever unearthed and confessed (although never absolved).
As writers like Rod Dreher and Ryszard Legutko note, the boundary lines for what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior are constantly shifting. The result is a self-destructive victim culture that requires ever-new oppressors and power structures to discredit and dismantle.
Perhaps it is adherence to leftist ideology that explains this hyperbolic sanctimony and public pontification. The increasingly compulsory worldview on the left is now aggressively Manichean — one is either on board with the tenets of wokeism, or a bigoted homophobe to be canceled.
To burnish their ideological credentials, leftists must publicly declare allegiance to the new creed and chastise conservative backwardness. The former can find comfort, albeit briefly, in this virtue-signaling. Indeed, I’m ever-amazed how people are commended for their “bravery” and “insight” on social media for communicating the tritest anti-Trump tropes.
Yet one need not scratch deeply to perceive the fear that is present in such self-righteous acts. The leftist mob is fickle, and ever-eager for new statues to topple, new systems to deconstruct, and new enemies to discredit. In this brave new world, we are all one step away from being canceled for alleged bigotry, white privilege, heteronormativity, or some new disorder concocted by our pseudo-intellectual academic elites.
A hypocrite, says Ambrose Bierce, is “one who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.” In this rupturing America, we should all reflect on who, exactly, is that hypocrite.