Mickey Kaus is a national treasure and when he speaks I listen very carefully. He is fascinating on the topic of the ongoing over-the-top progressive panic surrounding the Trump Ascendance, makes a specific request for a name to describe it, and offers advice we have also seen elsewhere:
It’s Not 1934
Wanted: A name for the hypertrophied fear of Trump that’s overcome so many — maybe most — of his opponents. Do you really need examples? There was the ThinkProgress editor terrified of his plumber:
Yes, that linked piece was written, and the plumber thing was not presented as a Watergate flashback. Obviously, no middle-aged white Jewish progressive would express fear of a black or Muslim plumber, but pre-emptive fear and loathing of working class white guys? The left is all-in!
Of course, you don’t need these examples if you have Democratic Facebook friends. Just read their posts — alarms about journalists jailed and killed, brownshirts, ethnic cleansing, pervasive surveillance, people living in fear, exterminationist violence, the whole nein yards. They’re scared.
The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens. They are, many of them, my friends. They’re in no way ignorant. That’s why the dismissive label “Trump Derangement Syndrome” doesn’t seem an accurate description (in addition to being belittling and ineffective). If they see the seeds of authoritarianism in Trump’s “Hamilton” tweet — or more plausibly in his suggestion that he might pick and choose which reporters can attend briefings … well, sure. Those are seeds. There’ve been seeds before, of course. There were the seeds of authoritarianism in Truman bullying a press critic who panned his daughter’s singing. There were more than seeds in Roosevelt’s NRA, in Nixon’s wiretapping and J. Edgar Hoover’s longrunning COINTELPRO surveillance and harrassment of dissenters.
But his advice, somewhat parallel to that offered by David Brooks, is to respond to Trump's actual policy proposals, not his provocations, real or imagined:
Suggested alternative: See what happens first! Don’t let the reaction to Trump be dominated by one extremely unlikely bad possibility, at the expense of nurturing the far-more-likely good possibilities.
Mickey admits that "1934ism" may not be the optimal name for this. Calling it the "Dark Night Descending" mindset has a nice pop-culture ring, but I know we can do better!
That said, I am intrigued by this teaser:
Coming in next post: How does 1934ism go away? Is it enough that the brownshirts don’t appear? (Spoiler: Maybe not.)
Well, how it goes away may depend on why it is here. Some of the fear is arguably rational - e.g., Trump has not even pretended to be a friend of the press, and a huge chunk of his supporters, and other righty hangers-on (OK, like me), don't have a high regard for our current lefty-cheerleading MSM either. But as to specific policies? Well, maybe Trump will try to eclipse the record set by Obama for most leak prosecutions. Or maybe not. As to herding them into the Executive Office Building, the significance is symbolic, not real. Time will tell!
But I think other elements of this fear of Trump have different and simpler motivations. For the press, agita sells papers and delivers hits. The NY Times is just making stuff up, but their readers love it so full speed ahead. Feel the fear, feed the fear - right now it is a successful business model. Of course, that same dynamic will inform DNC fundraising.
Another factor, again in my humble opinion, is the never-ending progressive competition for victim status. After all, you can't be a cry-bully with nothing to cry about. Which leaves middle-age white guys at the very bottom of the progressive totem pole.
Back in the day when the Democratic Party had a more class-based consciousness, working class whites, especially when unionized, were a pillar of the party. Today private sector union membership is much smaller. Public sectors unions are understandably all-in for the Party of More Government, but actual working class whites, such as the plumber featured in the introductory anecdote, are likely to be gun-toting, church-going embarrassments who haven't yet embraced the virtues of losing their livelihood to unrestricted, unenforced illegal immigration.
In any case, the current role of white guys in the Democratic Party has been to acknowledge their white privilege, write checks, and STFU. And (not to lecture Mickey on his own place in the party) Jewish white guys have their own odd victim status. Historically, anti-Semitism is obviously a real thing worldwide. But there has been a longstanding tension between blacks and Jews within the Democratic Party, and many proper progressives see Israel as running an apartheid state in the West Bank. This can lead to a bit of creative tension within the Democratic Party as to whether Jews are victims or oppressors; the Obama-Netanyahu rift hardly helped.
But the arrival of actual neo-Nazi brownshirts would elevate the victim status of Jewish progressives enormously. Which is great for white males libs in terms of cocktail party cachet, although it's only fun if no one gets hurt. Meryl Streep can whinge about Hollywood being vilified, white males can huddle together in a Starbucks in any big city and pretend to worry about being outed, hunted and killed by gun-toting rednecks (or plumbers!), and it will be such a relief to climb a rung or two on the Victim Ladder. Obviously, this imagined Nazi takeover won't elevate white guys past gay Muslim women here illegally, but maybe they won't have to be told to "check their privilege" every five minutes if they can pretend they might be executed at any moment. Maybe!
There was a third factor in play here, but I am having a Rick Perry moment. Ooops.
MORE: Glenn Reynolds has the 'Bold Resistance' theory. Undoubtedly something to that, which makes four.