Mark Schlissel of the University of Michigan recently waded into a minor controversy when he told students at a post-election vigil, “Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday that was expressed during [Trump’s] campaign.” Predictably, some portion of that other 10%–those who voted Trump—accused Schlissel of bias and intimidation. (Remember the 1990s, when liberals were supposed to be the over-sensitive ones?)
Meanwhile, white-supremacist propaganda has been posted across the Ann Arbor campus, advocationg “white pride” and denouncing inter-racial dating.
Hey y’all. This is currently what’s being passed around and posted here on campus smh pic.twitter.com/Nb2DMJov2A
— #BBUM (@THEBSU) September 26, 2016
And as protests erupted nationwide in response to Trump’s victory, there was crowing on the right and some chiding from liberals. The election is over, some say, and “it’s time to buck up”; don’t become the hate you condemn, says the hapless comedian Trevor Noah; We must give Trump a chance, say others like President Obama, never quite explaining just what this means. A chance to do what?
More recently, Noah invited right-wing talking head and “white supremacist voicebox” Tomi Lahren to have a healthy debate about her claims that Black Lives Matter is a moral equivalent to the KKK. IN other words, writes David Dennis, ” Lahren spouted violent propaganda on national television while Noah tried to get her to value his black life.” And after words, they praised each other for their civility.
Thank you for being my guest Tomi. Our goal should be to destroy these “bubbles” not each other. You’re always welcome on my show. https://t.co/AairL3cdAy
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) December 1, 2016
These exhortations to “give Trump a chance,” listen to the “other side”–even when the other side is barbaric–are the sad, festering remains of “bipartisanship” and “civility,” liberal political virtues that grow more irrelevant by the day in the Trump era. “Civility,” you will recall, is nice among neighbors but a losing idea in politics, since it treats a battleground as a peaceable conversation among equally reasonable positions. As an equivocal mode of approaching one’s rivals with charitably good cheer, it has none of the acrimony and the pathos that generally makes for effective political humor. So the fact that Noah stands so squarely for “civility” is a big reason why he isn’t very funny.
Like Trump’s University of Michigan supporters, Noah, Krugman, and many others confuse opposition with “intolerance,” disagreement with intimidation. Ron Fournier, of Crain’s Detroit, is another case in point. He tweeted his disappointment with Michigan opponents of Trump, for their “intolerance” for a position he simultaneously identifies with “hate.”
No tolerance for hate. No intolerance for people who support a person you hate.
Also: It’s a state university in a purple state. https://t.co/51c7Zb0v9X
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) November 16, 2016
His position therefore seems to be: on the one hand, no tolerance for hate. On the other hand, no tolerance for intolerance of hate.
These criticisms indulge in one of the stranger features of our already disastrous political culture. We are told, on the one hand, that the stakes of elections are so high, and then scolded when we act like we believe it. If we take “democracy” seriously—that is, as something other than an expensive excuse to hold election-night parties—then we should encourage the sort of antagonism and anger visible on campuses and in the streets. We should have the courage, at the very least, to say “no,” loudly and disruptively and rudely. We will all also need to forge new ties and alliances outside of our comfort zones, our workplaces, and God help us, our Facebook networks. No one should give Trump a chance–he just might take it.