god save me from the converted

The True Ally

You will have noticed the specter of the angry white male Hillary Clinton supporter. You could hardly miss him, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter. There are dozens of him, hundreds. He has labored to ensure that his efforts don’t go unnoticed. He is determined to be louder than loud, when it comes to defending the honor of his candidate. He is determined to out-feminist the feminists. He is determined to make himself heard, because surely it’s his voice that will cause the great tipping point and carry the world to justice. He’s the absolute picture of a disgruntled white man; if I was making a movie about an angry white man I’d cast him as the lead. He’s convinced himself that his limp Democrat centrism, when married to his ultra-aggressive delivery, equals radicalism, and that his brand of politics is as far as one should ever go. He’s a commissar, of a curious kind: not motivated by particularly deep attachment to the political convictions he’s spouting now – indeed, if the mass of vague liberalish Democrat politics moves, he’ll be sure to follow – but by a kind of terror of not being aligned with those who set our new standards for what it means to be righteous. That’s because, more than anything, he’s motivated by the insult of recognition. He complains about basement dwellers, bros, and angry white men because deep down he knows that’s how many people see him, and so the performance of his politics is an effort to get out of that box, to define his own story.

Which wouldn’t be a big deal if the aggression this all engendered wasn’t so intense, if there wasn’t such menace lurking in these guys, the Hillary Men. When I look at someone like this, I say to myself “this is someone who wants credit.” And it’s that credit-seeking that leads to the intense anger towards people to his left. He says to himself, I’ve come all this way far over, as a white dude, and there are still people attacking me for not being left enough. How dare they? Where’s my prize?

The pro-Hillary boomer dude isn’t alone in this weird world. I’ve said this before: there is no bigger creep than the guy at the academic conference with the “Actual Misandrist” T-shirt, asking women panelists “how can I stop oppressing you?” The social derision towards “bros,” in the tiny but elite world where the term has become an insult, has created this niche of the anti-bro. He is extravagantly not bro-y. He loudly derides David Foster Wallace, Jack Kerouac, and Jonathan Safran Foer – in fact, he’s not even reading white male authors at all this year, actually. He carries a tote bag and he is very publicly sensitive but he also does jiu jitsu, of course, and has a whole spiel about how it’s spiritual for him but he can also kick your ass. He doesn’t do drugs but he respects the journey. He has opinions about spoken word. He’s not insincere in his feminism – good lord, is he sincere. But he’s the guy who gets aggressive with women at the cocktail hour after the feminist conference. Because the anti-bro’s politics are defined by what he’s not, and more importantly by being seen as what he’s not, there’s something inherently predatory in him. He doesn’t have a politics; he has an agenda. Give me bros over that any day.

How did we get here, to the point where angry white men literally silence women for disagreeing with them politically, and who do so believing that they’re acting in the interests of feminism? And how do we go back, if we don’t like it here? I think we have to get past the politics of pure association. To get over the politics of who and back to the politics of what. To acknowledge again that demographics aren’t destiny, that there are plenty of black Republicans and anti-feminist women and regressive queer people, and that the best way forward to achieve actually socially just outcomes is to stop with this bizarre liberal habit of reducing all politics to social sorting. Would it surprise you to learn that Bernie Sanders’s base was young women? That fact was obvious if you bothered to look but invisible if you just stuck to the narrative, because liberals have decided that there is no politics but the politics of association. Which is why so many male Hillary Clinton supporters feel compelled to stake their claim, to stand on their rock and say “this is me.” Progressive politics is no longer about the complexities and nuances of what you believe and how you act in turn, but just about sorting yourself into the right group. Which means that there’s no possible way to get past Bad Choice A or Worse Choice B. God save me from the converted because they see good politics as something to be rather than something to do. And if your politics is who you are rather than what you do, well, then you can as a man tell a women to shut up in the name of feminism. After all, she was just another BernieBro.

The truth is that I don’t really believe in the HillaryMan as an archetype, or in the anti-bro. They’re just crude stereotypes that I cobbled together in a few minutes; I could ladle that stuff out all day long. And you could get stuff published like that forever, in the Awl or wherever, and a couple hundred urbanites would cluck along and start sprinkling whatever dumb epithet you came up with into their conversations. Nothing will have changed, other than the lines of the circle of the woke getting drawn a little darker. Or you could stop trying to be something and start trying to do something, to be willing to engage in politics in a way that does not leave you secure in the knowledge that you’re One of the Good Ones.