Late last week, a Republican outpost in North Carolina suffered major damage after an explosive device was thrown through a window. The act has been widely, and justifiably, condemned as the heinous and regressive act it is. If anything of sociopolitical relevance came from this act, it came in the form of responses to it.
Donald Trump, as he did in the wake of the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, after the shooting in Dallas this past July, even after his most recent sexual assault scandals (plural), took this moment to blame imaginary “animals” representing Hillary Clinton. If real, these animals appear to exist in total ubiquity with stunning commitment to agitation. These political powers are fictional, but for Trump, this type of response is one of his many demagogic features.
Perhaps a far more interesting response to the attacks came from author and technology commentator David Weinberger. With the help of 520 contributors, Weinberger raised well over $10,000 through a GoFundMe account in order to reopen the office. Such a display of bipartisanship was deserving of explanation, and Weinberger obliged in a special feature to the Washington Post entitled “I’m a Democrat. Here’s why I helped raise money for North Carolina Republicans.”
The piece itself is worthy of perusal, but the logic is deserving of critique. At the beginning of the piece, Weinberger notes the financing effort “pales in comparison” to ones which may be directed toward, for example, “Haitians…or your local food bank.” He acknowledges the North Carolina Republican Party’s ideological opposition to most Democrats, particularly when it comes to “harsh anti-LGBTQ legislation and anti-black voter suppression tactics.” However, all of this counterargument is refuted by, as Weinberger says, the attack being “an attack on democracy itself.” That the political beliefs of the actors are unknown is taken as an even stronger reason for this type of political and financial obligation: we cannot let these intellectually masked attackers win the game we do not know they are playing.
With all that in mind, it remains tough to see ultimately what Weinberger is fighting for. The GOP office should have been rebuilt, and the violence, deserving the full weight of the law in both justice and deterrence, should have been condemned. However, Weinberger’s initial points deserved more serious reflection than he gave them. Why is the idea of sending money to Haiti mere refutable counterargument? Has this entire election not been about a fascist demagogue subverting democratic principles through a policy platform which routinely subjugates minorities and American “others”? Has the North Carolina Republican Party not been one of the most newsworthy outposts of this fascism and democratic degradation?
The flexibility involved with both disavowing what the North Carolina GOP stands for while championing what the North Carolina GOP stands for is a fantastic bit of moral gymnastics. In much the same way Trump’s deflection is a hallmark feature of his ethos, this brand of moralizing-into-oblivion is a staple of the liberal ethos in which the abstract beauty of democracy is more worthy of upkeep than democracy itself.
This will come up again. As has become clear this election cycle, this is the age of political upheaval. Modern conservatism is splintered between an alt-right faction untethered to reality and a more traditional sect quickly losing ground with its base. Right or not, by the end of this self-reckoning, they will be in a place more conducive toward their goals; they will know who they are, even if they might not be aware of their being outmoded.
Progressives, on the other hand, appear ready to be moral pandering’s standard-bearer. Standing for everything while standing for nothing, they wield a dull bludgeon rather than spearhead any truly meaningful action.