Recently, a Trump skeptical friend of mine shared a certain embarrassingly shrill series of tweets with me, remarking gloomily that it was “The Trump-re-elect in two tweets.”
In this he was quite correct—and was actually understating his case. The rest of the person’s Twitter feed showed an even more embarrassing rhetorical style, one that occupied her entire Twitter output. When I remarked on this to my friend, he replied with succinct and devastating understatement: “She seems unhappy.”
If a more perfect summation of #TheResistance exists, I am not aware of it. Yes, they seem unhappy. Or, to put it another way, they seem only unhappy. To be sure, a dissident movement’s being at least a bit unhappy is something we should take for granted: watching your vision for society get further away in the rearview mirror as the car is driven by a hated enemy naturally provokes emotional discomfort.
But that discomfort, though the root of any political movement, is only its root. It hardly can be expected also to act as branch, stem, and foliage. Yet, for #TheResistance, unhappiness seems to be the sole emotion motivating their cause. Consider: Unlike previous Leftist movements, #TheResistance has no inspiring musical theme—no Internationale, no Soviet National anthem—no art of any kind, not even crude propaganda posters.
What is more, it has no utopia, unless you count the idea of the world as a giant safe space. But even that is not a utopia: indeed, the movement’s own rhetoric casts safety as an insultingly small concession by the dominant society that should be granted without their having to ask for it. Safe spaces, in other words, are a necessary condition of a just society for #TheResistance, but not a sufficient one.
So what does a just society look like? Here, too, the answers are unsatisfactory. Those utopian societies that they borrow from pop culture—Wakanda and Hogwarts—are jarring mismatches with the movement’s rhetoric: the one is a racially homogenous, walled-off, Hermit Kingdom of presumptively benevolent imperialists, and the other is a relentlessly stratified, ancient boarding school designed for the children of an unalterably superior race of wizards, whose only real political conflict is whether some of those superior children are security risks for the wizarding crypto-ethnostate. It takes Soviet-level cognitive dissonance to transform either of these into societies steeped in Leftist notions of social justice, let alone into plausible utopias for social justice warriors.
What makes Wakanda and Hogwarts attractive to #TheResistance as political totems seems to be the fact that they are isolated (again) safe spaces in even more dystopian worlds. Small wonder, then, that all the movement has is unhappiness: if you believe yourself trapped in a dystopian hellscape, hope or triumphalism are not things you have time for. This is why, despite their pretensions to being wizards or Wakandans, I believe #TheResistance’s true idol is not Black Panther or Harry Potter, but Katniss Everdeen, an exploited, underprivileged child forced into becoming an object of the dominant society’s lust for violence.
And like Katniss, boy does #TheResistance have a detailed idea of our dystopian moment. I occasionally lurk woke Twitter out of morbid curiosity, and the picture that is painted by its residents of modern society is genuinely heartrending and terrifying, if you take it at its word. To hear #TheResistance tell it, ours is a world where a genocidal racist, sexually sadistic, bloody-minded, treasonous Russian puppet holds the presidency of the United States.
And that’s the most hopeful thing they have to say! For you see, that Caligula-esque monster is simply a tiny symptom of the real pathology at the root of our world: a pathology built by a white race that cannibalizes the potential and humanity of all non-whites, transforming potential shining examples of black and brown humanity into common criminals by poisoning the water they drink with lead, poisoning their minds by forcing them to operate in an educational system designed to disguise white special pleading as logic, and poisoning their souls with a history written to erase their humanity and heroism, nay, to erase their very existence and relevance in favor of the parasitic white race’s self-congratulation.
It is a society that, having squandered the potential of these noble beings to sustain the power of the rapacious and mindlessly destructive white man, then turns them into exploited labor in its prison systems, and which punishes them for lashing out even as it excuses the same lashing out from spoiled white boys with guns: guns they wield in expectation of the right to own, use, and abuse black bodies. To hear #TheResistance tell it, this vicious, dystopian racial protection racket refuses even to permit blacks the dignity of their own art, instead insisting they be measured against the sterile, soulless, overly technical style of ugly, irrelevant, ghoulish ghosts of whiteness past.
Nor does the pathology stop with race. Those white boys I mentioned expect to own women, too. In fact, they quite arguably want to own women even more than they want to own blacks, and society allows all but the most pathetic among them do so. The grinning specter of a sham form of due process leers down upon millions of traumatized women trying frantically to scrub the touch of their enslavers off their minds and bodies, and laughs at their pain as they curl into fetal positions from repeated, unpunished, and unpunishable violations.
What is more, those pathetic souls who fail to own women by tricking them into bed are still permitted to control women through other, more indirect means: by gaslighting women about their knowledge by endlessly explaining things they should be presumed to know, by mobbing them even on social media where they should expect the dignity of emotional catharsis without constantly looking over their shoulder for offended male overgrown children, by thrusting their legs out from their pelvis and colonizing the very space where women sit. Sex is unthinkable: why offer your body up to those who will treat you like a masturbation aid? Why permit masculinity to exist at all? What is masculinity but the brutish confidence of violent subhumans who seek to plunder your mind for ideas, your body for pleasure, and your very lives to appease their hateful mental fragility: a fragility that exists only because they are apes who cannot keep still, cannot cooperate kindly and humanely, and cannot empathize?
Your government, even aside from the genocidal rapist who runs it, is devoted to reducing you to a statistic, to a broodmare, to anything but a human with claims on your fellow man. It expropriates what little money you earn for loans forced upon you in your youth, and what it doesn’t take for that, it gives to a vampiric class of rich baby boomers who expect to finance their lavish retirements with your stolen labor. Any claim you try to make upon the kindness and decency of your fellow man is dismissed as entitlement; any attempt to teach the world with the wisdom of your own experiences is dismissed as naivetè; any attempt to escape the rotting, antiquarian hellscape of the world your parents created through your cell phone is treated as grounds for mocking your work ethic and firing you. You are doomed to be a serf forever, a sex object forever, a wage slave forever. Meanwhile, the white, male, straight, cisgender vampire class whines about the meager fact that it cannot explicitly say your life doesn’t matter, but has to pretend to hide behind empty, white male universalist lies. And all this while the white male corporate class literally cooks the world with consumerism and greed.
What Kind of World?
Who among us, if we could be persuaded to believe a vision like this was accurate, would not throw ourselves upon the gears of all that makes society function? Who among us would not #Resist such a world?
Well, actually, most people. Even in the most totalitarian, hellish societies (see: North Korea), the majority of mankind reverts to inertia rather than to fighting back against even the most manifest injustices. It is only when people are convinced that a better, nobler way exists in opposition to their hellish status quo that resistance actually begins to accrue.
Which is why, even if the hallucinatory parade of horribles presented in the previous paragraphs were even semi-true, it would not be accepted by the majority of people, and for a simple reason: the human mind militates against despair unmoored from solutions. People are more easily persuaded to fight for a dream yet unrealized than to fight against a nightmare—after all, they have to believe the nightmare is real first. In their obsessive drive to complain, #TheResistance has forgotten to tell us what we have a right to expect from the world instead. Indeed, they seem to resent the necessity of explaining this: “Any decent person should just know,” their exponents protest. But we don’t. And even if we did, wouldn’t they rather have the right to define the world we should expect?
But they wouldn’t. Because they are not really #Resisting. They are screaming at the sky, terrified and angry there is no parent, no hall monitor, no adult to complain to and force to put everything right.
American In a Way
Believe it or not, I do not say this to condescend to them. In fact, I respect their earnest desperation far more than I respect the smug entitlement of NeverTrump. #TheResistance may be disastrously, unfathomably wrong, but they at least have a sense of loyalty and commitment to certain subsections of their fellow man: subsections bigger than the community of magazine editors. I can respect being loyal in the wrong way far more easily than I can respect dismissing the concept of loyalty altogether in the name of arid abstractions. What is more, the goals of #TheResistance are, in a misapplied way, very American: if nothing else, I do believe they seek a more perfect union, and to promote the general welfare, however warped and backward I find their ideas about how to go about it.
But more than this, I know what it is to perceive oneself living in a nightmare. Just over a year ago, most contributors to this website—including yours truly—implicitly signed onto a manifesto that treated the course of American life in a stark, apocalyptic binary: “Charge the cockpit, or you die.” And thanks to the excesses and impatience of the very people who now make up the #Resistance, most of America was prepared to agree.
But that alone was not enough to elect Donald Trump. Trump’s slogan was not “Make it stop,” or even “Standing athwart history, yelling STOP.” Trump’s slogan was “Make America Great Again,” which is to say, make it safe, rich, and proud again. In his own nonideological, ad hoc way, Trump did something that previous generations of apocalyptic-minded conservatives could not bring themselves to do: he acknowledged that America saw itself as trapped at midnight, and in so doing, gave himself cover to remind us of the sight of the first rays of dawn.
It is too early to say whether #TheResistance’s politics of wailing and gnashing of teeth will deliver them the House this November. Given the intensity of their despair and rage, it may well be enough. But just as the Right needed the outsider Trump to reorient us away from simply ruing decline, I predict #TheResistance will not be able to see its politics vindicated without a reorientation that aims to ascend toward something it holds beautiful. Only then will we see if the woke find a way to make America see the stars, or if their depression sends them back to sleep.