The Wages of Trump Derangement Syndrome
Ann Althouse posed a question I have been asking myself frequently since the early hours of November 9: "The experts got blindsided by what happened on Election Day, so why should we care how they try to explain it now?"
Although I am confident that the correct answer to this question is "we shouldn't care how they try to explain it now," the phenomenon Althouse touches upon is multifaceted. One important aspect revolves around the issue of exploded authority and what that has done to the implicit contract between pundit and punter. As Althouse explains: "I mean, I know the political writers need to keep writing. It's their livelihood. But why are we supposed to keep reading? It's been established that you don't know what you're talking about. Your game is a fraud."
Althouse proceeds to describe a smarmy, know-it-all piece in The New Yorker (pardon the pleonasm) by Maria Konnikova called "The Psychological Research that Helps Explain the Election." It's an inadvertently comical effort to rationalize the election of Donald Trump as the result of occult forces: "confirmation bias," "the polarization effect," "cultural cognition" (a new one to me), "authoritarianism" (an old favorite), "evolutionary psychology," etc., etc. Doubtless Ms. Konnikova believes that she is saying something meaningful, but the whole sad performance strikes me as a sort of mummers' play: colorful, eye-catching, but ultimately akin to that pageant Macbeth despaired of: "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
The reaction to Donald Trump's victory in the community of snowflakes has been nothing short of surreal. I noted some deliciously fruity specimens in the current issue of The New Criterion in a piece called "Trumped-up, Trickle-down Outrage." By now we have a bulging dossier of absurdity, a folder that would put a frown on the face of any mental-health professional. The incontinent displays of anger, anguish, and apocalyptic melodrama are evidence of a serious derangement. And the fact that the entire performance takes place in an unctuous jelly of narcissistic self-absorption makes one fear for the sanity of a large swathe of the privileged class.
Examples are a dime-a-dozen. But here are a couple of recent ones. Were you thinking of studying art history at Cornell University (home of the "cry-in")? I recommend that you take aboard this statement from the Cornell Department of the History of Art concerning the U.S. presidential election:
We, the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, write in response to the recent presidential elections. One of our department's greatest strengths is its coverage of artistic practices from across the globe, with special emphasis on issues of race and ethnicity, cross-cultural exchange, and gender, as well as postcolonial and decolonial approaches to visual culture. The environment of xenophobia, racism and misogyny engendered by the presidential campaign and election threatens the diverse intellectual environment on which this department prides itself. Moreover, it has implications for the collective safety of students, faculty, and staff on this campus. We hereby reaffirm our dedication to the well-being of Cornell's diverse community, and remain vigilant to the needs of those who are the most affected by these recent political developments.