WARNING: THIS IS A RANT.
I have reached a point where I really dislike “party base” political activists on both sides. I have been frustrated with them for a very long time, even back some years ago when I had a minor staff position for a U.S. Senator. Even then I was a pragmatist, and even in its infancy I loathed having to suck up to interact with “the netroots” for “base outreach,” which unfortunately was a not infrequent part of my job. My main experience is with the Democratic side of the aisle, but I’m fully aware that it’s at least as bad—if not worse—with the Republican party base. And it has gotten much worse over the years, even since 2006-07. They are both shrill, narrow-minded, bound to groupthink, and utterly insecure. It’s not enough to support a side some, or even most, of the time. If you don’t check off all the boxes on their list, you’re not a “real” Democrat/Republican/progressive/liberal/conservative/whatever. There are even nasty holier-than-thou acronyms for it: RINO (Republican In Name Only), DINO, etc.
But what’s worse is that if you don’t CARE about being a “real” whatever, because you have your own views and lifestyle that you chose without reference to them, they still can’t leave you alone. If you reject orthodoxy, you had better know your place and settle into a position of meekly accepting the moral shame that they heap upon you. If you reject that too—especially if you laugh at them and their infantile middle-school bully mentality disguised as Serious Moral Business—well, brace yourself. Open “rebellion” and independent thinking are far more threatening to these people than mere failure to conform (as long as you self-flagellate and accept their shaming). For the latter, at least you haven’t committed thoughtcrime. Independent thinking is also more threatening—believe it or not–than going all the way to the other party base and joining that hive mind. Thoughtcrime is, after all, not applicable to those who have actually thrown their lot in with Eurasia or Eastasia (whichever is the designated enemy); it’s a domestic crime. These people can only accept those who think either exactly the way they do on every point, or exactly the opposite from them on every point. “With us or against us!” is all that they seem able to find comfortable. Black or white.
For my part, I rather like gray. It is a nice color and suits my complexion well. When I need to dress up in a suit and don’t want to wear black, I often put on a gray one. I also like having a life in which I sometimes do need to wear a suit. I like having a conversation with a bank officer about how best to invest my savings in an economy with meager interest rates. I like not sharing my place with five roommates because rent is $3000 a month in that inner-city neighborhood and commuting is just out of the question because it leaves such a huge carbon footprint. I like not having to self-flagellate over the fact—THE. FACT.—that no, there’s really nothing I can do to make a difference about X, Y, or Z bad thing happening on the other side of the globe, because I know I can make a difference in my own life and that of the people I know and care about. I like being ambitious and driven and living in a clean, first-world manner. I know as a meteorologist that climate change is already a fait accompli even if everyone in the U.S. suddenly became a dirty bohemian hipster tomorrow, so rather than sacrificing a successful professional lifestyle in the name of “reducing my carbon footprint,” I see climate change as a research opportunity—and since it so happens that we’ll understand better what we’re dealing with, I have no guilt about that either. I also recognize that most popular “causes” du jour are things that I cannot possibly affect and that also do not affect me, and therefore I try not to let them worry me or raise my blood pressure.
I care about what I care about, and my opinions on those subjects are what they are. Do I live in a fantasy world, focused on my own life while the world burns around me? The people of whom I speak might say so. I, however, think they are the ones living in a fantasy world, with their delusions that they can change every last thing they pretend to be concerned about. Yes, “pretend.” I don’t think it’s sincere. I think they pretend to care about everything, and convince themselves that they have agency in everything, because that’s how they can make themselves feel like they are superior to others. That is why independent thinkers and those of us who refuse to play their game threaten them so much: We remind them of something in themselves that they can’t face. It is very much a middle-school mentality, as I said before, complete with middle-school insincerity and pretensions. Grow up, people. It does not make you a bad person to focus on the things that you actually do care about.
But if that’s just too much to ask, then fine. I don’t ask for the approval of any party base. I do ask to be left alone by party bases. Go bloviate at someone with a poorer self-image, someone who might be receptive to the moral shaming, and we’ll all be happier.
(Sorry about this. It’s just the result of a confluence of things over the past several days. I really, really need to stay off Facebook and not read blogs or opinion pieces.)