“If you don’t like the weather in New Hampshire, then wait five minutes.” This infuriating adage, one which we embrace all the more warmly because it deceives, might be repurposed more fittingly for the nation at large: “If you think the political climate can’t get any more hostile, then refresh your Twitter feed.” Gentlemen and -women have never survived on the campaign trail, a ruthless wasteland in which decency and kindness are only weaknesses, but never before have I, at least, observed such spirited contempt for the very pretense of empathy and affability. Our capacity for cruelty—one might say, our carnal appetite for such—has only deepened in the last four years, and unless we adopt new tastes immediately, we will acquire a bloodlust more passionate still.
The Iowa caucus looms, and with it the next stage of our hateful evolution. Hatred is so much more than an emotion: it is a motivation, too, a source of compulsive energy to be expended or exploited. Politicians respect the variegated value and power of hate, but they acknowledged this influential element only recently: Trump invited us to hate the aristocrats and the colored immigrants whom they pretend to protect, while Hillary encouraged us to hate the working class and the other victims of our social structure. Liberated of the hateful taboo, we consciously expect, perhaps even prefer, hatred to be expressed by politicians. Concordantly, the omnipresent spectacle of the presidential primary has become a cascade of hate, with the candidates promising to unleash greater stores of psychic firepower against the enemy in the White House.
[All except Marianne Williamson, that is: the only candidate who acknowledged the “dark psychic force” was pilloried in the press and manhandled in the media. Conspicuously, none of the fourth-wave feminists rushed to her defense, nor did anyone who claimed to represent the counterculture note that a true political outsider might be of interest to voters once again.]
We have been inundated, culturally as well as psychologically, with this toxicity for the last several months—actually, for much longer than that. Nevertheless, this deluge of demagogues must pass through some kind of filter, lest we be too scatterbrained to focus on the task at hand. Most of the candidates have already been purged on the orders of the DNC, and several more will founder in Des Moines, where the first of the corporate donors will finally make their choice. Commanding our attention to a single candidate, the stage managers will ensure our hateful energies are directed toward a specific end, thereby narrowing and strengthening our malignant passion simultaneously.
What does this process of “narrowing and strengthening” entail? What does it achieve? In the first place, it effects a political amnesia whereby we forget, or are told to forget, our preferred candidate, the candidate who was plainly superior to the nominee. George Takei, that mountebank who hawks the establishment’s nostrums, regularly reminds us to forsake our values and embrace the nominee who doesn’t share them, who may even refuse to share them. Try as Takei might to rationalize this defeatist submission as vigorous pragmatism, even he cannot obscure its elemental cynicism—and the relationship of hate to cynicism is beyond dispute. Nevertheless, we can become so consumed by hateful abstraction that we forget how we arrived at this place, with this nominee, and with the nobler candidate abandoned somewhere behind us.
Takei and the oligarchs he serves are counting on us to forget and to disregard, lest we try to thwart their hateful inspiration. If, however, our memory proves stronger than their propaganda, then they will direct their hateful energy against us, for they will identify us as the most unscrupulous and wicked purveyors of hate. How can they accuse us of harboring such a scandalous sentiment when we know it to be their favorite indulgence? Because they believe themselves to hate only the source of hatred, and in their war on hatred they permit themselves the use of the weapons of this war, of which hatred is but one example. So joyously do they seize the double-edged sword.
If, at any time in the last four years, you have publicly condemned this suicidal process, then there is no chance that you have not incurred the indignant criticism of the hateful, especially the hateful people who claim to stand on the Left. I write this not to explain why they disparaged you, but to warn you that their calumny will only become the more caustic as the disheartening reality of this political charade descends upon them. All of their hope for a principled progressive to seize control of the ship and to guide the Democrat Party towards redemption will be devastated in a matter of months, possibly as soon as the Iowa caucus. In any case, we cannot expect to dodge every one of their aspersions, for soon they will acquire plentiful material for slanders and slurs unimagined hitherto. Whatever injury we withstand amidst their fusillade is the price of our enlightenment, and I suggest we accept the cost in advance.