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Only Fools Fall in Love

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We are now seeing how Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ego has materially led to the ending of abortion in this nation. It’s not her entire legacy, but it’s a hell of a lot of it. Sadly, she and other politicians left of center are buoyed by what are effectively low-level cults of personality, where their fans fall in love with them, brook no criticism, and convince them to stay on well past their sell-by date. And while you can say that Republicans are the same with Trump, it’s a different deal because they were looking for a figure like Trump for a decade and he simply fulfilled their desires as a politician of hate that allows them to feel better about themselves.

This Gawker piece gets at the very real problems with liberal politics around individual hero worship, something that I want to point out up front is equally shared by fans of Hillary Clinton and fans of Bernie Sanders, not to mention Ginsburg and any number of other figures. Or for that matter, those are who outraged about the resignation of St. Franken, as if Tina Smith doesn’t vote the exact same way on every issue minus the breast grabbing.

For 50 years, conservatives have worked tirelessly towards the repeal of Roe v. Wade. While calling for “strict constructivism,” “judicial restraint,” and denouncing “judicial activism,” they trained and deployed cadres of lawyers as right-wing activists. They gradually took over institutions and then the key institution: the Supreme Court. This required them to adopt Machiavellian means: most of the justices in question swore up and down at their confirmation hearings that they had no designs on Roe, that it was the settled precedent. They were lying. In a certain way it’s a brilliant feat of political will and organization that should be studied.

But while the conservative movement has pumped out loyal foot soldiers who understood that the cause was the main thing, liberals have gotten caught up in the hagiography of their leading functionaries, making everyone involved forget that they are part of a larger movement and not the ends in themselves.A perfect example of this is the pathetic and embarrassing cult of Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the “Notorious RBG” T-shirts, the inane interest in the details of her workout regimen, the literal votive candles — part of that political tribe’s tendency to worship bureaucrats and officials as saviors, a process replicated in Comeyism (his trashing of Clinton’s electoral chances was quickly forgotten after he became a vocal Trump critic), Muellerism, and Faucism.

Liberals started to get everything backwards: women’s rights existed to produce a woman Supreme Court Justice who could be feted rather than a woman on the Supreme Court being there to guarantee women’s fundamental rights. When people called for Bader Ginsberg to step down, the sentiment was labeled “sexist:” “She doesn’t owe you anything,” the idiotic refrain went. Even after her death during Trump’s presidency, when the catastrophic reality of her decision was clear, her supporters vocally still insisted on her absolute right to stay on the job, come what may.

Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments. They are no respecters of persons. When they got the sense that they were being cheated by their establishment who would just collect checks, pal around in Washington D.C., and not deliver anything, they unleashed Trump to menace them. Their entire apparatus is a kind of grotesque vision of ideal democracy: an unruly mob terrifying and disciplining the elite. “Don’t get out of line, we will come for you.”

It wasn’t an idle threat; they tried to lynch the vice president. Will Roe satisfy the troops and prove to them that slow and steady takeover of institutional power is the way to go? No, now they have tasted blood and know they can get what they want. The justices must make themselves useful. The conservative media knows its role is to flatter and placate the mob: the leaker is the real traitor and insurrectionist, we should pray for the families of the justices. But conservatives know to fear the wrath of their own constituents, not angry liberals.

By not getting caught up in the myth of itself, the entire Republican movement worked in concert when it needed to. The conservative court gave a leg up to Bush in 2000 and, in return, he elevated more of them to the bench. When Trump appeared, they didn’t see an obstacle but an opportunity, a crude battering ram to crash through the gates for a final assault. During a debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, when asked about the court, Trump said, “The Supreme Court…that’s what it’s all about.” On the one hand, it sounded dumb, like he didn’t know what to say and was reverting to his usual hyperbole and bluster. But it was a clear message to conservative voters: “I can deliver what you’ve always wanted.” And he did. Mitch McConnell invented a precedent out of whole cloth and blocked Merrick Garland. When it looked like Brett Kavanaugh might be sunk, the entire conservative movement and Republican party snapped into fighting formation. The prize was in sight. It was no time to break ranks.

You can certainly critique parts of this. But the main point is dead on correct. Liberals fall in love, conservatives fall in line. Think about what has happened to Liz Cheney, who is a genuinely horrible human being from one of the worst families in American history but now is not horrible enough for the Repuiblican Party. Is there any nostalgia, outside of the 10 Never Trumpers who write for legacy media publications? No. The average position of the Republican Party is fuck that traitor, I hope she goes away.

My friends, we have a lot to learn from them on how we treat our relationship to individual politicians.

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