“I was wrong.”
I’m full of admiration for his candor about this, and for not being vague and offhand about it but spelling out in detail exactly what it was that he thought he was mistaken about. In fact, I would say that the whole problem with American politics and, indeed, with American life today stems from the fact that hardly anybody ever has the humility to say “I was wrong” anymore. About anything.
The reason for this I have touched on before. With the breakdown of so many traditional identities based on family, social class, religion, occupation, etc., people show their aversion to existence in an undifferentiated mass by identifying themselves with their opinions.
Especially with their political opinions.
The overwhelming need for such self-identification by politicians and pundits, as well as by millions of ordinary, everyday folks who see themselves as competing for attention on the same playing field with the politicians and pundits, is what has made Twitter worth $44 billion. I wonder if Elon Musk understands this?
Even the otherwise rock-solid identifiers of race and sex must now take a back seat to one’s political opinions, as President Joe Biden showed when he claimed that if you were black and even thinking about voting for Donald Trump, then by golly, “You ain’t black.”
Of course, that was back in the days before we knew that female impersonators had the magical power of turning themselves into actual women. Such, we imagine, is the power of opinion.
But here’s the problem with identifying yourself by your political views. Once you have done it, you can never change your mind in response to changing circumstances, or the persuasion of others, without losing a vital part of yourself—your own (and other people’s) sense of who you are.
In other words, you can never allow yourself to say, “I was wrong,” but instead have to dream up reasons for thinking that you were right after all
About the election, I was wrong too, though not so wrong as poor Henry was. Having a superstitious dislike of predictions as tempting fate, I hardly ever make them—unless they’re of bad things that I hope thus to avert.
Ironically, I was wrong in thinking that “a lot of people” (or at least as many people as I had supposed) were disgusted with Fauci’s inability to admit that he was wrong.
And I’ll make an even more humiliating, as well as a more ironical confession than that. As I thought on Tuesday of what I was going to write this week, my number one theme was going to be: “Will the Democrats learn anything from defeat?”
The answer, by the way, was going to be, “Probably not.”
Now I have to admit to being wrong instead of them.
It doesn’t mean, however, that I was wrong about what they would have done if they had been defeated. Not that I’d mind admitting it if it did.
So then, will the Republicans learn anything from (relative) defeat?
That’s a more difficult question to answer. My fear is that they will, but that it will be just another wrong thing.
It’s easier to answer for myself. Here are two things I’ve learned, apart from the inadvisability of making predictions.
The first is that demonizing and lying about your opponents, if kept up long enough and relentlessly enough and with the strong support of the media, can still pay remarkable electoral dividends, even after six solid years of it.
And, the second is a corollary of the first: that such success in representing—with the help of the media, of course—the other party as evil means that no degree of incompetence or corruption in your own party is too great not to be excused by it.
Unlike Sullivan, lots of people seem to have voted for the disaster even without Trump himself on the ballot as the alternative.
Therefore, I’m now prepared to dare the lightning and predict that, in the next two years, we’re going to see lots and lots more monstering of Republicans and lots and lots more corruption and incompetence by Democrats and their media allies.
I do hope I’m wrong about this.