The polarization of our politics between the Groomers and the Deniers, often bemoaned, is highly diverting. It’s also our eternal condition, not subject to any appreciable alteration over time. Our politicians and pundits deal with each other the way the Huns and the Visigoths did before both got overwhelmed by the Mongols. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, though we may pray for the Mongol invasion. The direction of history is at "an inflection point.” There is, right now, no other thing to be and no way out. The Groomers and the Deniers agree on that, anyway.
Admittedly, the pressure to choose between the Groomer Democrats, those woke advocates of child sexual abuse, and the Denier Republicans, who are so closely yet vaguely associated with the Holocaust, may appear to strand you in a situation where it’s impossible to identify the lesser of two evils. But there’s no third way. If you're not for us, you're against us. If you're not a Denier, you're a Groomer. It's time to choose.
It comes down to this fundamental question: Which is worse, child sexual abuse or genocide? Maybe it's genocide, but being associated all day every day with either brings certain challenges. Just as each side points out, if you’re not a child sexual abuser, you’re an anti-Semitic murderer and vice versa. Disconcerting, I know.
I’d been snorkeling in the sea of American politics for 50 years when the key to understanding it finally swam into my ken like a fluorescent fish. Each side’s completely wrong, irrational, and inconsistent with regard to every positive position they advocate. The nest of contradictions make it conceptuallyimpossible to endorse either side consistently. But each side, or "tribe," is redeemed by the fact that it’s exactly right about the other. I agree with the woke that one shouldn’t believe anything Ron DeSantis says, except when he tells you what woke peopleare trying to accomplish. Then he's completely right.
It’s a familiar observation that the polarization of American politics has been primarily demographic. It's not beliefs that separate us anymore, it's identities. As polling shows, women are Groomers and men are Deniers (seems obvious once you say it). Black people are Groomers and white people Deniers. Gay people are Groomers (wait, did I just say that?) and straight people are Deniers. Rural people are Deniers and urban people are Groomers. Mixed race, Latino, bisexual, and suburban people don’t exist at all.
How did American politics get into this situation? Like everything that has ever happened, it’s due to "strategic communications." Each side, in its purely American heart, wants to realize the promise of America at this critical inflection point of whatever year it might be at the moment. For each, "realizing the American dream" means [equality and opportunity and] annihilating one's opponents rhetorically.
How can one annihilate one's opponents rhetorically, especially given that one's expressive skills are rudimentary at best? Today’s strategy is to find the most pejorative term and tack it on to your opponents every time you mention them. This isn’t only the approach of Tucker Carlson, but of the editorial board at The New York Times. Calling someone a “groomer” or a “denier,” admittedly, has no factual or empirical content. But it's polluting. It makes your skin crawl, even if you don't remember exactly why. Once you tack it on someone, they're just not going to be able to scrub it off.
And throwing a word at someone is easy, whereas giving reasons or devising decent policies is difficult. All in all, calling your opponents the grossest name you can imagine is an efficient if intellectually disabled strategy for winning elections, or it would be if the other side wasn't doing it to you all day as well.
"The average American voter," according to both sides, can’t rationally assess anyone or anything. But she can unconsciously register a gratuitous insult, if we repeat it thousands of times. And in our fiendish cleverness, we intend to do just that. That's why the 2024 election will be the most important of our lifetimes, if not in all American history, an inflection point at which, I predict, the Deniers will win 49.5 percent of the vote and the Groomers 50.5 percent, or vice versa. It's the eternal American standoff, and we're definitely not getting anywhere.
There's no percentage in hating them both, though it's hard not to. But comfort yourself with the fact that they hate one another, so that none of them can escape being tarred, feathered, and ultimately ridden out of town on a rail. Lord knows they all deserve it, for the basic question of our politics, just as Biden puts it, is who we really are qua Americans.
And qua Americans we are all either child sexual abusers or advocates of genocide, just as our politicians insist. Decide! And await the Mongol invasion.
—Follow Crispin Sartwell on Twitter: @CrispinSartwell