On the Edge

Let’s take a moment to revel in the magnificence of a fully operational government. I mean, wow, how special are we?!

OK, that moment is over.

Now let’s another moment to discuss edgy ideas and their importance to society. No, I’m not talking about innovative concepts that challenge the status quo, such as raising the marginal tax rate on millionaires or offering universal health care.

I’m talking about theories like “racial inequities can be explained by the idea that black people are dumber.”

Hmm, that’s odd. That supposedly edgy idea just seems like idiotic, boilerplate racism. 

But it shows what you know. Because one of the guys who believes that theory — a “notorious alt-right figure and accused Holocaust denier” — is held in such high esteem that he recently met with a couple of Republican lawmakers in Congress.

Hey, when was the last time you got an audience with multiple congressmen?

Well, perhaps you would if you were regarded as a mighty intellectual, as a great many right-wing xenophobes are in Trump’s America. Yes, people who would have been identified as racist fools or paranoid nutjobs just a few years ago are now “edgy” truth seekers. 

Apparently, there is “a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades, and media personalities” who promote ideas such as, for example, black people have a “violence gene” that makes them more prone to aggression.

By the way, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t black people who murdered six million Jews. It was… well, you know the racial makeup of the perpetrators, so just imagine how much worse it would have been if the Aryans possessed a “violence gene.”


In any case, overtly racist arguments and blatantly prejudicial thinking are now considered valid debate points, creating a “milquetoast both-sidesism” that argues “on the one hand, you have people who think bigotry is acceptable, and on the other, you have people who think it is not, and the only way to determine which group is right is to treat them as equals, and hear them both out.” 

However, “edgy” conservative ideas all pretty much boil down to one basic thesis: white Christian men are superior. Clearly, there is nothing edgy or innovative about this. In fact, it is one of the oldest ideas in existence, and one of the intellectually laziest. It is only a bizarre incarnation of right-wing PC, mixed with liberal politeness, that provokes mainstream outlets to say, “Wait a second, let’s give these ideas some respect.”

In truth, we are now giving platforms to people who watch Schindler’s Listjust so they can point out the stray historical inaccuracy as proof that it’s all made up. These are individuals who say, “Hey, hold on, maybe George Wallace had some good ideas.”

It has gotten to the point that espousing bigoted ideas apparently doesn't make one a racist.  In the era of Trump, it appears that a person can’t be labeled a racist unless he personally lynched an African American while wearing a Nazi armband. Otherwise it’s just political correctness and snowflakes getting all sensitive and shit.

Now, before you think that I’m being melodramatic, let me point out that at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, members of Identity Evropa relished their newfound respectability in political circles. Members of this group, if you’ve never heard of it, have been “emboldened by President Donald Trump's rhetoric on race and immigration, [and] they advocate for allowing only Caucasians to immigrate to the U.S. in order to maintain a white supermajority.”

Their plan, they say, is “to take over the GOP as much as possible.”

Sounds like a perfectly respectable, somewhat edgy plan — right?


All Downhill

This is apparently what counts as winning.

  • Republicans have agreed that Iowa Rep. Steve King is kinda, sorta, a little bit fucking racist.
  • A smirking teenage boy in a MAGA cap may or may not be a smug, sociopathic thug.
  • Trump may have obstructed justice by telling his lawyer to lie to Congress, but we can’t be sure.

In the first case, conservatives have feigned innocence and shock. In the other two, they have gloated about vindication.

However, these recent events aren’t positive developments that shine brightly upon the conservative movement. They are either the acknowledgement of something horrible that was perfectly obvious for decades, or the absence of clear proof about something sinister.

In other words, the modern Republican Party has been reduced to celebrating basic decency and/or inconclusive evidence.

Clearly, actual victories are hard to come by.

To be fair, there is not much for Republicans to laud as we pass the halfway point of the Trump Administration. The government is still shut down, the economy is displaying troubling signs, and the president is more unpopular than ever

The GOP’s one big victory of the past two years — a tax cut for billionaires — is widely regarded as a sham, and unless every liberal justice on the Supreme Court retires or dies soon, there is little hope that anything good will happen for conservatives for the reminder of Trump’s term.

Oh, and Mueller has yet to release his report, which even Trump’s allies believe will be “devastating.”

So why are Republicans still supporting a guy who has shown them the very best he has to offer, been an unqualified disaster, and who, in all likelihood, will now drag their party so far down that the shellacking they received in the last midterms will soon seem like a pleasant memory?

Well, we are talking about a political movement that still believes climate change is a myth — despite the science being overwhelming that the world is getting hotter, and more Americans than ever believing in that scientific truth.

For that matter, Republicans are the only group that still insists the Iraq War was worth it.

Obviously, we’re not dealing with people who adjust to reality quickly. 

So this might take a little time. 


Revenge of the Bobo

Humans are social animals. Yes, even you sullen loners, shy introverts, and lone-wolf bad boys out there — deep down, all of you need to connect with other people, at least on occasion.

One aspect of our social nature is that we take cues from one another. Although we want to believe that we think for ourselves 100 percent of the time, and are not subject either to the overt influences or the subtle hints of our peers, the truth is that we are constantly looking at, listening to, and measuring ourselves against others. Deny it all you want — science backs up the idea.

By the way, if you bend too easily to the will of others, you may end up a Nazi, and if you don’t bend at all, you may end up a sociopathic killer.

So once again, moderation is key.

However, it’s not just basic concepts such as personal space, small talk, and sarcasm that we learn from our fellow humans. We also learn how to be aggressive.

For proof of this, let’s look at the famous Bobo experiments of the 1960s, which were held at Stanford University.

In addition to having the most adorable name ever for a psychological study, the Bobo experiments showed that children learn through the observation of adult behavior. 

The study used inflatable plastic toys called Bobo dolls, which are basically large cartoon clowns bottom-weighted so that they return to an upright position when knocked down. 

You’ve probably seen one, or at the very least, had a terrifying nightmare involving them. 

The researchers divided preschoolers into one group that observed aggressive adult behavior, another group that saw nonaggressive adult behavior, and a third group that didn’t watch any adult behavior.

The kids in the first group saw adults punch, kick, and generally pummel the Bobo dolls. And you guessed it —  children in that group later modeled the adults’ behavior by attacking the doll in the same fashion.

In sum, if kids saw a grownup kick the shit out of the Bobo doll, they were more likely to be violent too.

The researchers said that the kids had, more or less, gotten permission to be aggressive little jerks because they saw an authority figure do it first.

OK, that’s all very interesting, you say. But certainly it’s not the case that grownup, voting American citizens “get permission” from authority figures to, for example, be racist — right?


Well, it may intrigue you to know that researchers have “found empirical evidence that Trump’s rhetoric has indeed lead whites to express more bigoted views of ‘the other.’”

After analyzing white people’s attitudes toward race and individuals of different ethnicities, researchers found that since Trump began his campaign in 2016, many white Americans have expressed more bigoted views about Latinos, blacks, and other groups, and as a bonus, they are more comfortable saying these statements out loud. 

The researchers conclude that “Trump is giving respondents tacit permission to be bigots.”

You see, Americans heard a major party nominee for president begin his campaign by slurring Mexicans, and as a result, years later, we discover that “Trump’s language [about Mexicans] doesn’t just embolden people to say more negative and more offensive things about the group he’s talking about, but it actually leads them to say more offensive things about all groups.”  

For these Americans, Trump has been an authority figure punching Bobo dolls. They think that if the president “is using this language, then it must be acceptable for me.” 

They have, psychologically speaking, been given permission to be racist. 

By the way, the original Bobo study found that the effects of modeling violent behavior lingered in children for months after witnessing aggressive actions. The researchers believed that once people have deemed a behavior to be acceptable, it is difficult for them to regain their previous mindset. So the kids had their personality altered in the long term.

Feel free to draw your own analogies to that.



From a Whisper to a Shout

So our malignant clown of a president recently commandeered a couple of television networks and, to no one’s surprise, proceeded to spew lies, racist innuendo, and bizarre conspiracy theories — all in the service of appeasing his base and making a final, desperate gambit to get his idiotic wall on the Mexican border constructed. 

And just today, he stormed out of a meeting when it became clear that Democrats had not inexplicably come around to his xenophobic worldview, stomping out like a belligerent toddler who has been denied playtime at Chuck E. Cheese.

Note: I have been saying since 2016, and will continue to say, that no damn wall is ever going to be built — as in never.

In any case, while Trump is prone to exaggeration and mendacity on a level never before seen in a chief executive, he does often tell the truth — usually when revealing his sincere, horrific opinions about “very fine people” who happen to be Nazis and his distaste for individuals who come from “shithole countries.” Oh, he’s also being honest about his feelings when he denigrates women and/or ethnic minorities via Twitter.

But Trump’s supporters have now one-upped the president by speaking the truth — at least their sick, twisted version of it.

You see, the New York Times recently profiled a Trump supporter in Florida, a woman whose fragile livelihood has been threatened by the president’s moronic shutdown. In between expressing shock that Trump might not have her best interests at heart, she also issued this truly intriguing quote:

“He's not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

As others have pointed out, this Trump supporter has let the truth slip out, which is that “one aim of the Trump administration is to hurt people — the right people. Making America great again … involves inflicting pain.”

And as we should know by now, “this is not an accident. Trump’s political victory and continuing appeal depend on a brand of politics that marginalizes and targets groups disliked by his supporters.”

So just who are these people who Donald Trump “needs” to be hurting? I imagine a brief list, in rough order, goes something like this:








Transgender people

“Uppity” women




East Coasters

West Coasters


The college educated

Never Trumper Republicans

Anyone who likes kale


Of course, I’m probably missing a few, and the exact order may vary with some Trump supporters, and there may be some overlap in those categories, but you get the gist. In essence, conservatives have a long list of targets, people who are not “real Americans,” who not only deserve pain, but actively need to be hurt. They require a beat-down, whether literal or figurative, because … well, why again?

Because their values are weird?

Because they are not sufficiently respectful of white, Christian, straight America?

Because they have dared to question the mighty leader?

Yes to all of that. But the chief reason is because people like the Trump supporter in Florida — people whose lives are often a mess — see no relief in sight. The GOP has no interest in helping anyone other than their billionaire donors. So the only way a struggling working-class conservative can feel better about herself is to drag others down, to make others suffer, to make all those smug liberals pay. Because it has to be their fault, right?

Or maybe Trump, through his embrace of sociopathic deviance, just attracts people who love to hurt others.

Keep in mind that “the cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected.” For his most ardent supporters, it is not an unpleasant distraction that Trump maligns and mocks the vulnerable. It is a selling point. The president’s “particular brand of identity politics — the racist attacks on blacks and Latinos, the Muslim ban, his cruel treatment of women — similarly depends on negative rather than positive appeals” and “is the dark heart of our political moment.” It is, more or less, “what makes Trumpism work.”

We can assume, therefore, that Trump’s campaign slogan in 2020 will be the following: 

“This time, he’ll hurt the people who need to be hurt.”

Kind of catchy, don’t you think?



Not a Single Brick

We start the new year as we ended the old one:

With a deranged old man holding the country hostage over a xenophobic fever dream that will never come true.

I’m talking, of course, about the continued government shutdown over the president’s insistence that he can bully Congress into funding his idiotic (and totally imaginary) wall on the Mexican border.

This comes despite the fact that Trump abandoned his early promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, and then couldn’t get funding for his simplistic, fear-based solution even when his party controlled both chambers of Congress for multiple years. And it comes despite the fact that Democrats have absolutely no incentive to compromise with Trump on anything. And it comes despite the fact that fewer than 40 percent of Americans support this boondogglish foolishness in the first place, and that the percentage of support drops into the 20s when people are asked if the wall is worth shutting down the government. And it comes despite the fact that ex-Trump officials, who are becoming as plentiful as cicadas, are now admitting that the wall is never going to happen. And it comes despite the fact that illegal immigration is down, and a damn wall wouldn’t stop anybody anyway. And it comes despite the fact that… well, you get the picture.

Basically, the president has gambled the tattered remnants of his pathetic reputation on fulfilling a bizarre campaign promise that only the hate-filled, the ignorant, and the delusional ever believed in the first place.

Trump now says that the resulting government shutdown could last “a long time."

It could indeed last a long time. Not because Trump is a shrewd negotiator who is standing firm on principle, but because he is a sociopath who doesn’t care about the people he’s hurting and the country he’s damaging.

Yes, within this whole sad spectacle, there is just one thing that all Americans can agree upon:

The Steel Slates is a great name for a rock band.