Political Heroes and Villains

Yesterday, I wrote the following (sort of related) post on Facebook:

Today, I saw the following tweet in reference to Sally Yates’s Senate testimony:

Indeed, Twitter was blowing up with praise for Sally Yates and disdain for her questioners in the Senate. If you don’t recall, as Acting Attorney General, she refused to defend Trump’s travel ban Executive Order in court. At the time, she indicated that her refusal was based on the DoJ’s obligation to “seek justice and stand for what is right.” Trump then fired her, which makes sense, given that she was refusing to do her job. Yates then became a martyr. Anyone who resists Trump in any way is a saint, as far as #TheResistance is concerned, no matter how meaningless their “resistance” actually is.

This kind of hero worship, especially when directed toward political figures, is ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is the villain hatred such as that directed toward Ted Cruz in the above tweet. For all I know, Yates is a great person; I’m sure she is a skilled lawyer. Likewise, I don’t care much for Ted Cruz. At the same time, though, Yates has done nothing particularly heroic, and Ted Cruz is indisputably a brilliant and well-credentialed lawyer (he doesn’t need to Google important statutes). There is no reason to impute qualities to these people that they might not have.

Some other heroes of #TheResistance include Elizabeth Warren, who was stopped from speaking for breaking some obscure Senate rule that no one ever invokes (the Republicans were being awful, but it will still always bug me when “she persisted” is used as a feminist rallying cry); Hillary Clinton, who recently declared herself to be part of #TheResistance after failing to come to terms with her loss to Donald Trump; and Preet Bharara, who made himself into a martyr by refusing to step down as U.S. Attorney and then being fired.

It is truly amazing how easy it is to acquire political capital, these days. All you have to do is be visible and be obnoxiously anti-Trump and anti-Republican. Next thing you know, Twitter will be ablaze with people singing your praises, even though you have done nothing. (To be fair, Twitter will also be ablaze with alt-right trolls calling for your death, but that’s part of the deal.)

I guess it’s part of our culture of moral grandstanding in the age of hyperconnectedness. Actually accomplishing something beneficial is too hard and not visible enough, so why bother? It’s far easier to take an unsurprising public stance on a politically charged issue and wait to be fired. The masses will love you just the same.

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