By Matthew Delaney
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
The most competitive ground in politics is not a majority in Congress or those fickle suburbs in swing states. It’s who owns the high road.
Voters love politicians that turn the other cheek when they’re being goaded and respond to insults with tasteful mockery. The kind that doesn’t apologize for advocating for what they believe, but also says “my bad” when they screw up (and then does something about it). The bigger man who makes their opponent(s) look small by just existing.
Most of all, we love politicians that stick up for the little guys, or dare I say, the victims of our society’s failures.
That’s a triggering word around these parts. The right — and I’d say the rest of us, who are simply fed up with the left-wing orthodoxy in this country — eschew victimhood because it’s gotten a bad rap.
To label yourself a “victim” is often code for someone who is so narcissistic that they believe their life would be perfect if people didn’t care so much about their skin color or sexual preferences. The oppression olympics are despised because it elevates those who feign trauma in exchange for influence. We were supposed to prioritize the “lived experience” of victims to fast track our goal of true equality. What we got was a filtering device to reward the least scrupulous, and coincidentally, most loyal members of left-wing political movements, from Black Lives Matter activists to #MeToo crusaders.
But when one side of the political argument is written off as the heirs of the Nazi party, the other side gets anointed as the guardians of the good and decent. That’s why transgender activists taking over Oklahoma’s state capitol in January was righteous, but the date that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol was branded into your head 9/11-style. The subconscious exception we all make for the left discounts the victims of their political failures because, I mean, c’mon, at least they’re trying to do good.
A lot of that grace comes from the institutional control that left-wingers have. From academia and Hollywood, to medicine, law, tech, and of course, the media, there’s bound to be some osmosis of liberal America’s character when so much of the public domain is constructed by the bluest voters. But the core of this political psyche is that we treat the values of left-wing activists as our point of reference, morally speaking.
We value safety, so coordinating with Twitter to suppress speech and threatening to fire 80 million people who didn’t get the Covid-19 vaccine are understandable. We value empathy, so letting migrants mosey across the border and homeless people inhabit the street are just the right things to do. Most of all, we value polite lies over ugly truths, so acknowledging how divisive any of these aforementioned actions are is to break the fourth wall and result in your canceling or smearing of your reputation.
It’s that last little bit that’s slowly causing people to turn (no one thought being nicer to fat people would translate into erasing every use of the word “fat” in Roald Dahl’s books, for example) but our default characterizations of both parties and the kind of people who we think support them are still largely defined by institutions.
Hence why Republicans and conservatives are seen as stuffy robber barons who want their AR-toting white nationalist bodyguards to impregnate your daughter the moment she turns 18 (if not sooner where it’s legal). Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, are seen as well-meaning mushballs who get a little carried away while trying to make the world a better place.
Even when the gloomy reality of the left’s aspirations smacks us all in the face, there’s some “official” source there to explain away your feelings — such as anxiety over crime — or provide an excuse — such as Joe Biden saying it was Trump’s Afghanistan policy that led to the tragic withdrawal. Like the well-trained, non-thinkers that we are, we accept the explanation despite being given a million reasons to second-guess our relationship with “official” sources since March 2020.
Point is, perception is reality, and the perception as it stands now is that left-wing America’s actions are given the benefit of doubt that those outside of that tribe can’t afford. That’s what owning the “high road” looks like.
A common dilemma for those of us seeking alternatives to left-wing orthodoxy is finding a way to be aggressive about our interests, while not advocating for them in a venomous manner. We don’t want a detour from the high road and go full Scott Adams, for example. Still, we’re ashamed about exercising political power and social influence to advance a cause that runs counter to the overarching progressive beliefs that manifest as Democrat policy.
For better or worse, Donald Trump did kickstart that momentum swing the other way. Trump has been to the same soirees that our politicians, celebrities, and media figures frequent. He knows these people because he was a Democrat up until about 10 years ago. He also knows that you have to get mean with them — otherwise they’ll eat you alive.
Think of how much we learned just because Trump was willing to roll around in the mud with the Democrats and their institutional allies. Would we have been able to translate allegations of racism, sexism, or whatever as simply “shut up,” or would we have ever learned that political correctness is just a ruse to shame people for non-liberal behaviors? Maybe, but only after we re-painted the moon in rainbow colors to atone for its oppressive whiteness.
Obviously, Trump’s downfall was that he was only nasty. He lived for the political food fights and not so much the policymaking. The best you could hope for with Trump was for him to make Democrats sink so low that people would be just slightly more disgusted with them than him. Think Russiagate or Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test.
Antagonism does not an identity make. So, while we cheered Texas for sending its migrants to New York City and Florida for flying theirs to Martha’s Vineyard, at the end of the day, these are just new-age (albeit, smarter) iterations of Trump’s tirades against the “Deep State.” They don’t scream “I’m more principled than you” as much as they do “I’m better at being politically devious than you.” That only serves to reinforce the polarization already frustrating the nation’s politically homeless.
This is where emphasizing victims come in. It makes your aggression appear noble when it’s being done in defense of someone who can’t capably defend themselves rather than purely in opposition to your archrival.
The residents of East Palestine, Ohio, are legitimate victims of our blue government’s lack of empathy for red America — which Trump wisely seized on. Children who are subjected to sexualized lesson plans in schools and gender transition surgeries by an overzealous medical establishment are correctly labeled as victims by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Business owners who went under from the lockdowns were rightly spotlighted as victims by Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show.
Protecting those victims — real victims — is seen as honorable. It’s the essence of justice and is what our country was founded on: serving as safe harbor for those who fled their homelands because they were religious outcasts, ethnic minorities, or serfs who couldn’t fulfill their greater ambitions.
Democrats, and their liberal and left-wing allies, have had a monopoly on who is a victim and how we should atone for their mistreatment. It’s warped our brains to the point that we fear acknowledging vulnerable people or groups because to do so puts them at risk of being absorbed by the left, or more likely, not getting consideration that their pain is real.
But those of you reading this either know or have been victimized in one way, shape, or form that was beyond your control. Addressing it — while also not letting it define you — is the path to asserting your values and retaking the high road.
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