January 8, 2019


The Partisans and the Ideologues (PETER SAVODNIK, JANUARY 4, 2019 , Vanity Fair)

If you can't distinguish between Mitch McConnell and Joseph Goebbels, if you're the kind of progressive who thinks free speech is violence, or whiteness is a crime--there are a lot of you out there--the Kremlin social-media mavens have you in their sights. You're the fruit that hangs low.

It's not just the insidious threat of pro-Bernie Sanders memes cooked up in a St. Petersburg basement, or Moscow's fondness for Jill Stein, or the post-election spike in shady, Resistance-ish Twitter accounts like @RogueNASA and @RoguePOTUSStaff. It's the vulnerability in the way the Democratic partisan thinks, which is not that different from the way the Republican partisan thinks, which is not really thinking. It's speaking in tongues. It's faith. The progressive pines for elected representatives one can fall in love with, as if all politicians were not focus-grouped escorts. The partisan can't stomach this tension--one of the reasons, presumably, we've heard so little about Beto O'Rourke's father-in-law being a very rich real-estate developer. (To the true progressive, money is "filthy lucre," and Beto can't be filthy--Beto is . . . Beto.) The partisan--ranty, feverish, fully cocooned--craves simplicity. The partisan, in the end, is not really left or right, but needy, in search of a cartoon god that can impose order--a moral calculus--on one's life. This person is simultaneously dangerous and in danger.

It's important, at this juncture, to distinguish between the partisan and the ideologue. In this country, there used to be a species of human known as the ideologue, one who believed deeply in certain principles (for example, the benevolent power of the re-distributive state, or the moral superiority of free markets). Of course, these people still exist, but their proposals (mostly) feel stale, better suited to the old order--when liberals were champions of free speech and conservatives still trafficked in ideas, when capitalism and democracy were assumed to coexist in harmony, when we weren't so in love with our gadgets, with the hyper-positivism and small-minded concreteness and practicality of the new technology.

The ideologues, alas, have been eclipsed by the partisans, who retain vaguely ideological beliefs, but who are less principled than combative. (Sidenote to all my Bernie Bro bros out there: The happy talk you lapped up way, way back in the faraway land of early 2016, about free college and living wages, was some good old-fashioned ideology. You thought it sounded fresh, because you were born in the 1990s--and because it lacked the partisan guile of the Clintonistas, who would never allow something so quaint as an ideological commitment to get in the way of winning. Hasta la vista, Bernie!) Bottom line: The partisan loves the fight! The partisan craves the Manichaean clash of good and evil. The partisan, naturally, would object to this, but the partisan is basically an idiot.

Our president, who resides in a subterranean alt-reality in which no one is expected to believe in anything except the president, perfectly embodies this transmogrification. 

Image result for new yorker cartoon dogs cats must fail


Posted by at January 8, 2019 4:30 AM