Yes, the “rip heard round the world” was beneath the dignity of the office of the Speaker of the House. It echoed the pettiness that is coming out of all corners of our public discourse. Pettiness that could be met with maturity, but instead was met with more pettiness. We should be able to acknowledge this without qualification, the tired “yeah, but” both sides-ism, hypocrisy hunting that has decimated our ability to have a conversation about a situation or issue on its own merits.
I am thankful, though, for what her action revealed.
If you’ve followed me on social media or we’ve had an in-person conversation, you know that the cult of Donald Trump bothers me, but not nearly as much as much as the crypto-support he has among so many. These are the people who wouldn’t be caught dead at a MAGA rally, are turned off by his tone and childishness, and really wish he hadn’t happened to us. But even given all that, there’s not a chance in hell they will vote for anyone else other than him in 2020. Whether it is because of abortion or the economy or any number of other issues, he gives them what they want and they are with him.
If these people are active on social media, they love to announce how they believe “both sides are equally bad,” as if it were a great revelation that politicians are prone to corruption. Yet when it comes time to point out how each side is corrupt, they turn into the Babylon Bee, an alleged satirical publication that sees itself as distributing heat equally among a wide array of people, politicians, ideas, and religious figures, yet whose m.o. is to constantly satirize both the style AND content of those they disagree with, but only occasionally the style of those whose side they are clearly on. They know self-deprecation is necessary if they are going to be taken seriously, so they’ll engage in the minimal amount needed before moving on to other-deprecation.
Or, more simply, they believe “both sides are equally bad” in general, but really only one side specifically is bad.
For the most part, these crypto-supporters of Trump revealed themselves a long time ago. They would never admit it, because they know deep down history will not look kindly on the Trump phenomenon, and the reckoning is likely coming sooner than most will be comfortable with. Some of them haven’t even admitted it to themselves, clinging desperately to the illusion that they are independent thinkers who might be swayed to vote for anyone other than Trump in November.
Nancy Pelosi’s petty and childish action, though, brought most of the remaining closet-Trump supporters out into the light of day.
I counted no less than five of my friends who, on Thursday evening after the State of the Union Address, posted some version of the following…
I have refrained from making political statements on social media for so long, because I just don’t want any part in the vitriol and childishness that it always brings. And I think both sides are bad, and I’m not a fan of everything Trump does. But what Nancy Pelosi did was undignified. It was childish, petty, beneath the honor of her office, and a bad example to our children.
Now look. I am a big believer that we get to choose how we use both our literal voices and the platforms we have access to, such as social media. There’s too much shaming aimed at those who speak too loudly and constantly use their platforms for political, social, and theological statements, (as if there are any other kinds of statements), and there’s a fair amount of shaming of those who don’t say anything. But how and how much we use our voices/platforms is our own business, and there is no right or wrong way. (That’s not to say there aren’t more and less helpful ways.) If you say a lot, good for you (us.) If you don’t say anything, good for you.
So if someone wanted to let “grab them by the pussy” and “shithole countries” pass by without speaking up, that is their decision. A LOT of people who abhorred those comments and who honestly believe “both sides are equally bad” didn’t feel the need to comment when those stories came out. Many thoughtful people who were horrified at the sight of young children being ripped from the arms of their parents didn’t feel the need to announce their horror on Facebook, and there were legitimate reasons to not do so, and not doing so didn’t mean they didn’t care. When Donald Trump told four women of color, all U.S. citizens and all but one of whom were born in the United States, to “go back where they came from,” many people who hated him saying that didn’t take to Twitter to announce their outrage.
No one is required to broadcast every, or really any, of the things that outrage them. Those of us who do (I’m pointing the finger square in the middle of my chest) could learn a few things from those who don’t.
With that said, if someone let “grab them by the pussy” and “shithole countries” and kids being ripped from the arms of their parents and “go back where you came from” and the almost daily cruel, indecent, inhumane, and undignified things that come out of the mouth and Twitter-thumb of Donald Trump go by without comment, but then Nancy Pelosi ripping a speech in half was their “Whoah, NOW I need to say something” moment, they don’t get to claim to believe that both sides are equally bad. Nor can they lay claim to being apolitical or to hating how bad the discourse has gotten in our country or to not being a fan of everything Trump does. Not without the rest of us calling “bullshit” anyway.
The thing is, I’m actually happy these folks have revealed themselves. Many of them are people I respect and care for deeply, and trust their judgements on just about everything, sans politics. I’ve longed believed that the 40-45% approval rating that Trump has constantly had is really probably closer to 50%, maybe higher, because of the holdout crypto-supporters.
I actually believe that a crucial component of moving toward a more civil discourse is that all parties involved just lay their cards out on the table. I suspect Nancy Pelosi has forced all of our hands to do so.