First, let me just state for whatever record this counts as that I hate – I hate – the fact that I’m wading into a celebrity feud. Since my wife stopped receiving Entertainment Weekly, it’s just something that’s gradually been phased out of my life, to my benefit. I barely even found out that Angelina and Brad were on the outs.
But, when one of those celebrities happens to be the president-elect of the United States, it becomes a little more important. And, frankly, it helps illustrate a point I’ve been struggling to make.
By now you know that Meryl Streep used the Golden Globes last night as a platform to call out Donald Trump for some of the things he did on his way to the Oval Office, specifically, mocking a disabled reporter. Showing enormous restraint befitting his soon-to-be title, the President-Elect of the United States waited 7 hours before taking to Twitter to clap back at Ms. Streep.
This isn’t the part I want to discuss. In fact, it’s a distinguishing characteristic of the age we live in that absolutely nothing in that last paragraph should be a surprise. Instead, I want to talk about what happened next, which is a chorus of takes along the lines of “Meryl Streep just illustrated why Trump won!” Here, I’ll let Meghan McCain (whom you only know of because of television) explain:
“This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how – you will help get him re-elected” – @MeghanMcCain
Yes, that was the daughter of John “I like people who weren’t captured” McCain, who you may recognize from her guest spot on the Golden Globe nominated, Hollywood-produced television series House of Lies, conservasplaining that Meryl Streep is “why Trump won.” Chances are, you’ve been exposed to this kind of take before – the idea that calling someone racist/bigoted/deplorable is worse than being racist/bigoted/deplorable, although it usually couches itself in language like “liberal condescension” or “talking down to real America.” In fact, there’s a pretty recognizable pattern that’s been repeating itself lately that goes something like:
- Donald Trump and/or one of his supporters does something awful
- Someone says “hey, wait a minute, that’s awful”
- “That’s why Trump won”
But see, we already had a celebrity avatar for why Trump won, and it wasn’t Meryl Streep. It was Billy Bush.
We didn’t end up with President Trump because people spoke out. We ended up with Trump because people didn’t. Because they chuckled along at descriptions of sexual assault instead of saying “hey, wait a minute, that’s not cool.” We ended up with Trump because we lost all those little battles that are fought every day on golf courses, and in frat houses, and in man caves, and at dinner tables, when the Billy Bush in us won out over our inner Streep, and we chuckled along rather than saying something.
Making someone feel shame over their ignorance isn’t a bad thing. We shouldn’t ask ourselves “if I stand up to this person, how will they vote?” every time we see or hear something that makes us uncomfortable. In fact, we shouldn’t want people like that on “our side” anyway.
This talk about “reaching out to Trump voters” that I’ve heard from too many institutional Democrats (and yeah, this means you, Bernie) presupposes that everyone deserves to be reached out to. We should be glad that we’re out of touch with some of these people. If there’s a lesson progressives should learn from the last election it’s that while we may not be spread out across the country in an electorally advantageous way, there’s still more of us than there are of them. We don’t need to alter our thinking in order to be more “in touch” with the deplorables. We don’t need to win them over. We just need to defeat them.
We don’t need to stop standing up, we need to stop laughing along.