The asymmetric polarization of today’s politics and social issues

I don’t know if it is old age creeping in (I am a couple of weeks away from being 60) but I admit that I am dealing with a desire to push back a bit at some of what I am seeing.
I am an old school liberal: gays want to get married? Sure..why not extend the benefits to marriage to same sex couples. Let women compete for jobs that they traditionally did not compete for? Why not: what matters is if the job is done well or not…the sex of the person doing the job should really matter.

But in this day and age: we are expected to go along with stuff that I think is false; e. g. “there are no statistical differences between the brains of men and women” (ok, where does transgenderism come from?) or that transwomen ARE women (sorry..not in sports; sex categories are there to ensure statistical fairness of competition), etc.

And in this environment, we see…Donald Trump elected as President of the United States. Yes, he was beaten in the popular vote, but millions found him at least suitable.

Are these two things related? Very possibly. When there is anger out there, be it over economic matters OR social change, a Trump like character has a better chance:

The key to understanding this dynamic is what is called ‘the toxic triangle.’ The basic idea is that it is not simply the toxic leader that matters. In order to come to power, such leaders need both a core base of followers and an environment that is conducive to their rise to power.

The dynamics of the toxic triangle work as follows. Individuals with dangerous personality disorders are always present in society and are always seeking power. Such individuals are trapped within a narrow range of extreme thoughts, feelings and behaviours that focus on rage, arrogance, self-importance, denigration of others, scapegoating, disregard for the rights of others and a propensity towards cruelty and revenge.

The majority of us who do not have these disorders can, of course, also exhibit the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that characterise dangerous personalities. But we can also exhibit a much wider spectrum of thoughts and behaviours including empathy, cooperation, compromise, curiosity about and compassion towards others, and openness to changing our minds. Under normal circumstances, therefore, toxic individuals find it difficult to attract sufficient support to be elected to power.

The difficulty arises when the context within which we live changes in ways that make us begin to think and feel in the way that toxically disordered individuals think and feel. This can happen when we face acute economic hardship, when profound cultural changes occur with which we personally disagree, when we feel threatened by crime or violence, or when we feel that the political system under which we live has failed us. Under such circumstances, we too can come to feel angry and vindictive, leading us to search for scapegoats on which to focus our disappointment and rage.

When the mood of a sizeable proportion of the population shifts in this way, it creates the conducive environment for toxic leaders to rise to prominence by “capturing the public mood.” Of course, they are not capturing the public mood at all. They have always felt arrogant, angry, vindictive and scornful of others. All that has changed is that a lot of us suddenly agree with them. They are not prophets; they are simply angry hatemongers whose time has come.

And can a such a push back lead some reactionaries to vote for Trump? Check out this Andrew Sullivan article:

Yes, a conservative is worried about the scale and pace of change, its unintended consequences, and its excesses, but he’s still comfortable with change. Nothing is ever fixed. No nation stays the same. Culture mutates and mashes things up. And in America, change has always been a motor engine in a restless continent.

One question conservatives are always asking themselves is whether these changes can be integrated successfully into a new social fabric, so we do not lose cohesion as a nation; another is whether this change is largely being imposed from above by ideological fiat, or whether it’s emerging from below as part of an emerging spontaneous order. That’s why conservatives support marriage equality and reactionaries oppose it; why conservatives support equal opportunity for women and reactionaries fret about it; why conservatives think twice before leaving the E.U., which has been integrated into the British way of life for several decades, and reactionaries want to wrench Britain out of it; or why a conservative might hesitate before junking the entire apparatus of international alliances that the U.S. has built and supported since the 1940s, while a reactionary will just rip it up. All these broader social changes are emergent ones that seem well within our capacities as a society to digest.

But there is a place where conservatives and reactionaries find common cause — and that is when the change occurring is drastic, ideological, imposed by an elite, and without any limiting principle. This is not always easy to distinguish from more organic change — but there is a distinction. On immigration, for example, has the demographic transformation of the U.S. been too swift, too revolutionary, and too indifferent to human nature and history? Or is it simply a new, if challenging, turn in a long, American story of waves of immigrants creating a country that’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope? If you answer “yes” to the first, you’re a reactionary. If “yes” to the second, you’re a liberal. If you say yes to both, you’re a conservative. If you say it’s outrageous and racist even to consider these questions, you’re a card-carrying member of the left.

In a new essay, Anton explains his view of the world: “What happens when transformative efforts bump up against permanent and natural limits? Nature tends to bump back. The Leftist response is always to blame nature; or, to be more specific, to blame men; or to be even more specific, to blame certain men.” To be even more specific, cis white straight men.

But what are “permanent and natural limits” to transformation? Here are a couple: humanity’s deep-seated tribalism and the natural differences between men and women. It seems to me that you can push against these basic features of human nature, you can do all you can to counter the human preference for an in-group over an out-group, you can create a structure where women can have fully equal opportunities — but you will never eradicate these deeper realities.

The left is correct that Americans are racist and sexist; but so are all humans. The question is whether, at this point in time, America has adequately managed to contain, ameliorate, and discourage these deeply human traits. I’d say that by any reasonable standards in history or the contemporary world, America is a miracle of multiracial and multicultural harmony. There’s more to do and accomplish, but the standard should be what’s doable within the framework of human nature, not perfection.

Side note: Sullivan is right, of course. Consider how incidents get discussed in woke circles. If you saw this as basic rudeness from a protester against a US Senator, you are not woke. To be woke you had to know that this was a WHITE MALE taking the microphone from a WOMAN OF COLOR (never mind the protester is a nobody and the lady is a sitting United States Senator.

Sigh…but there is nothing for me on the right; absolutely nothing. I’d have do deny science (e. g. evolution, climate change), swear that supply side economics works (nope) or that some races DO have things stacked against them (e. g. African Americans are often unfairly profiled by law enforcement). Sorry; I can’t believe those lies either; at times it appears that I fit in nowhere:

2016 was the breaking point, or at least a watershed moment, when the vilification of diverse opinion exploded. Trump vs. Hillary forced everything into a binary, and suddenly bipartisanship and moderation became radical positions to take.

Now, you aren’t just voting out of habit or, God forbid, voting for your own interests. Every vote is considered a statement on your personal identity and worth. Your value, who you are, what kind of world you want, whether or not you’re a good person or an evil person…it all boils down to which lever you pull. Damn your reasons. Vote for the ‘right’ person, or else you are a fascist, or a racist, or a globalist, or a communist.

Politically disinterested citizens like me have increasingly been pulled off the sidelines and into this incredibly divisive political climate, unwilling combatants in a battle fought among fiercely partisan tribes. Many are being bullied into involving themselves in the process, because intolerance and shaming have become features of the American life. Thanks in no small part to social media, the simple act of expressing your opinion, or even going so far as to ask questions, has begun to negatively affect lives and destroy people.

You may have once fancied yourself a good progressive, while also having the opinion that there are only two genders. Or you may describe yourself as a staunch conservative, but tend to think racial targeting by police is a problem. Or the cardinal sin: you may have decided to vote for a candidate you felt better represented your concerns.

Upon voicing on social media what you think are fairly normal, moderate views, you find out something you didn’t know — YOU ARE THE ENEMY. And not just the enemy: you’re evil.

After 2016’s chaotic impact on The Culture took hold, each mere opinion or vote became life or death in the fight for the survival of civilization — and you are either for civilization or against it. The trouble is, everyone believes they’re on the ‘right side of history’ and justifies abhorrent behavior in service of that belief. Families are divided. Extremes have become more extreme and shades of gray are shunned. Expressions of nuance are mocked. Anyone moderate with a brain and anything to lose has largely gone silent.

I get it, too. I understand why the silent majority is uneasy. They’re not wrong to worry that sharing their opinion on Facebook could cost them their livelihood.

And there it is.

Author: oldgote

I enjoy politics, reading, science, running, walking, (racewalking and ultrawalking) hiking, swimming, yoga, weight lifting, cycling and reading. I also follow football (college and pro), basketball (men and women) and baseball (minor league and college)

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