The final days of summer have drawn up a crop of new contenders for the next edition of Anthology of American Insult.
The Arizona Republican Party was, in a Twitter post clearly intended to be humorous, unsubstantiated public instructions on the state superintendent, herself a new mother, accusing her of being a “groom”, targeting children for sexual abuse. .
The Republican running for the US Senate in Pennsylvania was television personality Mehmet Oz, whose campaign said his Democratic opponent blamed only himself for his recent stroke due to a diet lacking in vegetables.
And there was Representative Carolyn Maloney, who is exiting Congress after losing the primary to fellow Democrat Representative Jerry Nadler. New York voters were not convinced by her late suggestions that her opponent might be “old” and unable to serve another two years.
what do you say? Meh….
This is a reasonable response. Those connoisseurs of political slang have heard much better. Those concerned about the degradation of political culture in recent years have seen much worse.
Yet there were some notable features about these hurtful comments. For starters, they may be representative of the Trump age, but none of them were spoken of by Donald Trump, or aimed at him, or about him in any way.
What’s more, none of these insults were apparently made for pique, or a hot-mic that was not intended for public consumption. On the contrary, they all apparently came across as deliberate tactics, in the hope that they would be considered shrewd by the political class and strike a resonant chord with voters. In other words, they were at least trying to play the game by the rules as they now understand.
The implications are significant, even as the effects of the insult are likely to be lacking, or to remain in mind for a long period of time. Here’s another part of Trump’s legacy: Other political actors are copying his instinct for casual savagery. It is now part of the daily regimen of American political life.
If one is feeling pessimistic about the future – it has been a safe enough bet lately – there are some possibilities to consider. It could be that even after Trump is eventually trampled on by prosecutors or voters or old age, he will still have to be recognized as the supreme political innovator of his age. For a generation after FDR, or JFK, or Reagan, even politicians who did not approve of his policies often incorporated elements of his style into their public presentations.
Perhaps that’s what we’re seeing again, when even a Democrat like Maloney talks about a fellow Democrat in uncomfortably personal terms, with language that would have been surprising seven years ago but is only noticeable now.
A more troubling possibility, however, may be that Trump is not the cause of the new vulgarity and vulgarity of contemporary politics—just a particularly flamboyant expression of much darker trends. Contrary to modern technology, particularly used by social media, it is particularly adept at uncovering primitive dimensions of human character. It suggests a renaissance of outrage, outrage and conspiracy theory – the signatures of the politics of contempt – are going to be with us for a long time to come, no matter what happens to Trump.
But why so much sorrow? Pessimism gets boring after some time. So, for that matter, makes political rhetoric redundant. In 2019, 85 percent of voters had already said that the U.S. had won over the past few years. Political debate in the U.S. has become more derogatory and negative; Things have only gotten worse since then. It’s at least worth considering the possibility that what we saw this summer was not a harbinger of the future, but rather a trend spasm that may be running its course.
At least in some cases, extremist language is coming from politicians facing extreme circumstances. Maloney’s allegation about Nadler, 75, came after the 76-year-old Congresswoman was clearly seeing the end of her career and was acting out of desperation.
Oz’s mockery of the stroke suffered by Democrat John Fetterman also came out of desperation. Oz needs to join a race in which the polls show him running behind. The state’s lieutenant governor Fetterman withdrew from the ensuing debate and refused to commit to others, citing a recent recovery from a stroke.
But Fetterman’s recovery didn’t stop him from mocking Oz in a video complaining about the price of crudités. Hoping to turn the vegetable theme back in Oz’s favor, a senior adviser jumped wildly in a prepared statement: “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, he probably wouldn’t have suffered a major stroke and Would have been in a position to lie about it constantly.