In an interview aired Sunday with left-wing CNN, Malcolm Gladwell warned that a Hillary Clinton presidency could be met with a backlash of anti-female sexism and misogyny. Joining Fareed Zakaria, he also asserted that support for Donald Trump was at least partially driven by an anti-black racial backlash against the first black president.
It’s the token phenomenon. There’s a term that psychologists use, lovely work by a guy named Dan Effron, called moral licensing, which says that when a favored group, a majority group, does an act of generosity towards an outsider, it doesn’t necessarily signal that more acts of generosity are coming, sometimes it just gives them license to then go back to their old ways. So the thing that perpetuates prejudice is acts of openness.
This is a way of describing the psychological mechanisms of backlash… it explains why discrimination persists generation after generation even when there are these hopeful signs. A good question is, now that you have one black president, is a second black president more or less likely?
Maybe Donald Trump is what you get when you’ve had two terms of Obama. In other words, that people having said, okay, we have been this country that’s open to opening the White House to, you know, a very very different kind of president, maybe we can go back to our kind of baser – I’m telegraphing my feelings about the presidency – maybe you could return to your kind of baser instincts once you’ve been so generous and open for eight years.
Gladwell makes several implications in his above statements:
Men are a “favored group,” at least in the realm of political office. Conversely, Clinton is somehow disadvantaged by being outside this group.
Electing President Barack Obama was an “act of generosity” from whites to blacks, and that America’s “old ways” before 2008 included widespread anti-black prejudice.
Supporting politicians from supposedly disadvantaged groups such as blacks and women amounts to openness and generosity.
No consideration was offered of Clinton as a beneficiary of popular left-wing narratives framing women as an oppressed group relative to men across space and time. Clinton herself has regularly emphasized her sex as a political asset, predicating much of her campaign on the “historic” nature of her candidacy.
Gladwell looked Down Under for evidence of a political backlash against a woman as head of state. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, he said, was subjected to “the most extraordinary, devastating, unbelievable level of misogynistic vitriol” following her securing of the prime ministership. This alleged anti-female sexist abuse, he claimed, was an illustration of this social phenomenon of backlash against marginalized groups following “openness” and “generosity” extended towards them.
If Hillary Clinton wins, what happens? Does the fact of her victory and the achievement of our first ever female president open the door to people venting a level of misogynistic vitriol that would’ve been unthinkable before her election?
Gladwell then claimed that Clinton’s political fortunes were damaged by pervasive anti-female sexism in America. This widespread social bias against women, he added, led to Clinton being excessively scrutinized relative to presidential candidates of the opposite sex.
The level of scrutiny she is given for real or imagined misdeeds, is far greater than an equivalent male would be given. I don’t think that’s an outrageous statement. She gets, people pick over things she does in quite an extraordinary way. I would imagine if she were to get elected, that undue scrutiny would ramp up. Why? Because that’s what happens to every woman who enters a previous male world.
No consideration was offered of Clinton as a beneficiary of an informal preferential approach from left-wing media towards like-minded women.
Gladwell’s polemics serve one purpose: to frame neo-Marxist grievance narratives as unending. The Quixotic struggles of the left are eternal. The left’s war on human nature in pursuit of its perfection is permanent.
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