Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

We get the term “postmodern,” at least in its current, philosophical sense, from the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 book, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.” It described the state of our era by building out Lyotard’s observations that society was becoming a “consumer society,” a “media society” and a “postindustrial society,” as postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson points out in his foreword to Lyotard’s book. Lyotard saw these large-scale shifts as game-changers for art, science and the broader question of how we know what we know. This was a diagnosis, not a political outcome that he and other postmodernist theorists agitated to bring about.

.. Jacques Derrida’s concept of “deconstruction” sought to understand language as a system capable of constantly hiding and deferring meaning, rather than a simple conduit for conveying it.
Another thinker, Jean Baudrillard, developed the concept of the “simulacrum,” a copy without an original, that leads to the “hyperreal,” a collection of signs or images purporting to represent something that actually exists (such as photos of wartime combat) but ultimately portraying a wild distortion not drawn from reality.
.. By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable.
.. Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university.
.. Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”
.. Kimball called “Tenured Radicals,” in his 1990 polemic against the academic left. At the heart of this accusation is the tendency to treat postmodernism as a form of left-wing politics — with its own set of tenets — rather than as a broader cultural moment that left-wing academics diagnosed.
.. it treats Lyotard and his fellows as proponents of a world where objective truth loses all value, rather than analysts who wanted to explain why this had already happened.
.. If you’re going to claim that Trumpism and alt-right relativism are consequences of the academic left’s supposition about what was happening, you must demonstrate a causal link. But commentators looking to trace these roots play so fast and loose with causality that they could easily be called postmodernist themselves.
.. It is certainly correct that today’s populist right employs relativistic arguments: For example, “identity politics” is bad when embraced by people of color, but “identitarianism” — white-nationalist identity politics — is good and necessary for white “survival.” But simply because this happens after postmodernism doesn’t mean it happens because of postmodernism
.. figures such as “intelligent design” theorist Phillip Johnson and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich cite the influence of postmodernist theory on their projects. Yet, as McIntyre acknowledges — and documents extensively in his book — right-wing think tanks and corporate-backed fronts — like tobacco industry “research” — had already established an “alternative facts” program for the right, long before creative misinformation entrepreneurs came around.
.. because reading postmodern theory is so notoriously difficult — partly because of how philosophical jargon gets translated, and partly because so much of the writing is abstruse and occasionally unclarifiable — an undergraduate (as in Cernovich’s case) or a layperson will almost inevitably come away with misreadings.
.. Hannah Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exist.” 
.. “The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,” writes Arendt in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics ,” “have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.”
.. Fredric Jameson’s reflections on conspiracy theory (“the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age”) aren’t what’s convincing people to believe that climate change is a hoax or that the Democratic Party has been running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.

.. Likewise, the claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is — as Trump said on national television — a “made-up story,” an “excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” is not a postmodernist critique of the evidence the Mueller investigation has gathered. So it’s a massive category error to call Trump’s post-truth politics “postmodernist.” It’s just the say-anything chicanery of the old-fashioned sales pitch.

.. it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes.
Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.

AS SEEN ON FOX NEWS WEEKEND

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE LEFT AND MINORITIES: “The left believes that black people and Hispanic people are stupid. That is the truth. They believe that we are stupid.”  – Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, on “Life, Liberty, & Levin,” discussing how racism, journalism, feminism and socialism interconnect in today’s political environment. WATCH

SOCIALISM IN THE CLASSROOM – “They can’t win in the battle of ideas … They’ve got to indoctrinate an ideology rather than educate in history because if they teach history, they’re going to lose.” – Radio host Michael Knowles, on “FOX & Friends Weekend” saying that Democratic Socialists are urging Socialists to become teachers because they can’t win a “fair fight.” WATCH

 

There Is a Revolution on the Left. Democrats Are Bracing.

“They need to wake up and pay attention to what people actually want,” Ms. Conner said of Democratic leaders. “There are so many progressive policies that have widespread support that mainstream Democrats are not picking up on, or putting that stuff down and saying, ‘That wouldn’t really work.’”

.. Energized to take on President Trump, these voters are also seeking to remake their own party as a ferocious — and ferociously liberal — opposition force. And many appear as focused on forcing progressive policies into the midterm debate as they are on defeating Republicans.

.. Fifty-three of the 305 candidates have been endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, the Progressive Change Campaign and Our Revolution, organizations that have helped propel challenges to Democratic incumbents.

.. Mr. Brewer, who backs Gretchen Whitmer, a former State Senate leader and the Democratic front-runner for governor, said Michigan Democrats were an ideologically diverse bunch and the party could not expect to win simply by running far to the left.

“There are a lot of moderate and even conservative Democrats in Michigan,” Mr. Brewer cautioned. “It’s always been a challenge for Democrats to hold that coalition together in the general election.”

.. The pressure from a new generation of confrontational progressives has put Democrats at the precipice of a sweeping transition, away from not only the centrist ethos of the Bill Clinton years but also, perhaps, from the consensus-oriented liberalism of Barack Obama. Less than a decade ago, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, derided the “professional left” for making what he suggested were preposterous demands — like pressing for “Canadian health care.”

.. urged Democrats to recognize the intensity of “anger, fear and disappointment from people in our own party,” especially those new to the political process.

“They’re young, and a lot of them are folks that weren’t around or weren’t engaged when Obama ran for the first time,” Mr. Johnson, 36, said. “So this is their moment of: Let’s take our country back.”

.. primary voters have chosen candidates who seem to embody change — many of them women and minorities — but who have not necessarily endorsed positions like single-payer health care and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

..  Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a left-of-center Democrat who ran for president in 2016, suggested the party wants “new leaders and fresh ideas” more than hard-left ideology.

“Sometimes that may be filled by a leader who calls herself a Democratic socialist, and sometimes it’s not,” said Mr. O’Malley, reflecting on the political convulsion that touched his home state. “Sometimes it’s with a young person. Sometimes it’s with a retiree. Sometimes it’s with a vet.”

.. avowedly moderate standard-bearers, such as Senator Doug Jones of Alabama and Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania

.. among Democratic stalwarts, there is a sometimes-rueful recognition that a cultural gulf separates them from the party’s next generation, much of which inhabits a world of freewheeling social media and countercultural podcasts that are wholly unfamiliar to older Democrats.

.. But within deep-blue precincts where Democratic insurgency appears strongest, talk of accommodating the center is in short supply.

 

The Progressives Who Don’t Hate Trump

Even Bernie Sanders has said not-unkind things about the president.

I was at a friend’s daughter’s confirmation party in eastern Long Island, N.Y. The family Volvo and the Tesla bore Bernie Sanders stickers, one from 2016 and the other from 2020. “The thing about Trump . . .” I began, and the father interrupted me: “. . . he’s not all bad, right?” he said. “I actually like some of the things he’s doing.” He mentioned North Korea and trade protectionism. He cast his eyes about, worried about being overheard.

My friend didn’t vote for Donald Trump and doesn’t intend to in 2020. But he doesn’t despise the president nearly as much as he—being a leftie—is supposed to. I hear that from a lot of my fellow progressives.

.. Centrists who supported Hillary Clinton go crazy when Mr. Trump tweets. His gleefully crass style drives them bonkers. His contempt for identity politics appalls them. Many progressives, on the other hand, are primarily motivated by economic and class justice.

.. That isn’t to say that the Bernie Sanders people approve of family separation or pretending that police brutality isn’t real. But left populists are not entirely unsympathetic to economic nationalism or stronger border controls. For them, American workers come first, and Donald Trump is the first (far less than perfect) president in most people’s lifetimes to walk that talk.

.. And the senator observed last year that Mr. Trump has “very strong political instincts” and knows how to “connect with people.”

.. party leaders will have to face an uncomfortable truth. For a lot of lefties, Trump hatred won’t be enough to get them to vote. They just aren’t that not into him.

.. If Democrats want a united front against the Republican, they’ll have to acknowledge that Mr. Trump has re-created the Reagan Democrat phenomenon among the white working class and its allies. They’ll have to do something to keep the populist left inside the tent.

.. Mr. Trump isn’t the president progressives would have chosen, but his appropriation of policies previously championed only by Mr. Sanders may prove to be a neat trick. He may neutralize enough of the Democrats’ left flank that he won’t be despised enough, by enough of the Democratic electorate, to bring about a wave election.