First, the pet peeve that inspired this article: Stop trying to make “alt-left” happen. It’s not going to happen.
Obligatory Millennial Mean Girls Reference aside, I really do genuinely hate the term “alt-left”.
There is nothing “alternative” about the present day horde of identity-politicking, communist, equity leftists we find in government, media, and academia. They are the majority, not the fringe, not the alternative. It reminds me of why I get so annoyed with the “not all Muslims” argument and the “not all feminists” argument: it’s obvious and lazy.
We know. People are individuals.
People are also human beings, and human beings like categorizing things into manageable groups when talking about them, so get over it.
We know damn well that when we talk about the Left, we’re talking about the Left as it exists en masse, and if you are a “classical liberal” a la Sargon of Akkad or Dave Rubin, you’re not the droids we’re looking for.
(Now might be a good time to link to this piece by my friend and Halsey News columnist Josh Carter, who has a very different view than I do on this sort of broad, collectivist language. Though his article was written prior to me sitting down to write this, I think he raised some solid points, contrary to mine.)
If we must pander to the tiny minority of liberals who don’t suck by differentiating them from their unfortunate compatriots, I have a better word for it than the alt-right-evoking “alt-left”, even if it never “happens” (obviously, I’m no Donald Trump).
The toddler left.
I’ve started using this term on Twitter from time to time. Not because I think that I need to constantly differentiate the quickly-shrinking-to-mythical-status “good” liberals from the People I Really Mean, but because I think it serves a pragmatic purpose in a way that the “alt-left” terminology does not.
The main reason?
I think it’s funny. And ever since the Donald Trump campaign, I’ve come to believe very strongly that ridicule is how we will destroy the Left. The toddler Left, pardon me.
Donald Trump is the Troll in Chief. And I don’t say that to malign his intelligence – in fact, quite the opposite. I think Donald Trump’s use of humor as pragmatism was, and is, brilliant. My only question is whether he set out to end up that way, or whether his speaking style and direct-to-the-people communication lent itself naturally to politically pragmatic trolling.
Look at the nicknames he uses when he speaks of his political opponents. Crooked Hillary. Lyin’ Ted. Little Marco. Low Energy Jeb. Goofy Elizabeth Warren. Crazy Bernie.
And, my personal favorite, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.
Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently, "I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer." Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
All of the names share something in common: extremely innocent, silly, borderline-lame language. There is nothing truly cruel or hurtful about any of these insults. Unlike the Left, Donald Trump shows no actual hate for these people.
They come across as a very specific humor: the humor of ridicule. The humor that says “you are so silly, don’t even waste my time with your nonsense.”
@DLoesch This is how my toddler acts when I give him raisins or don't give him raisins. Also, Democrats.
— Stefanie MacWilliams (@StefMacWilliams) May 9, 2017
In other words? Donald Trump talks about the left (yes, I realize he also insults his fellow Republicans) in the same way I speak to my toddler when he’s laying on the floor in the middle of the kitchen screaming at me because I wouldn’t let him climb into the fridge and eat shredded cheese from the bag.
I don’t say anything mean to him (obviously). I don’t tell him he’s bad and wrong for doing what he’s doing. I simply understand that he is a toddler who is trying to understand a complicated and overwhelming world – and I use lighthearted humor to deflect the situation. “Oh, you’re fine. Stop being a drama queen.” “I know, mommy is so mean because I won’t let you drink my beer, how will the world go on.” and etcetera.
And make no mistake – the Left really does act like a bunch of toddlers. We saw a good example of this recently with the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“James Comey is a partisan, irresponsible hack and should be fired!”
“How dare Donald Trump fire James Comey! He’s an authoritarian dictator!”
Now, bear with my un-researched armchair child psychology for a moment: It’s not that a toddler “doesn’t know what they want”. They do – it’s just extremely transient. You can give them exactly what they asked for, and it will still provoke outrage, because in the time you spent fulfilling request A, their mind went to request B, logic be damned (this, of course, is made worse by the fact that the desire for request A tends to be repeated the second you have moved on to request B, and this cycle is repeated ad infinitum.).
The toddler left, unlike actual toddlers, do in fact have the developmental capacity to understand that this sort of impulse-driven flip flopping is not logical. Unlike actual toddlers, they’re not acting this way because there is a legitimate reason to do so – but because they are willfully obstructionist and reactionary.
And, like misguided parents who scream at their screaming child in at the grocery store (I’m looking at you, Battle For Berkeley approach) or buy them a toy to shut them up, we have let the toddler left get away with this behavior for far too long by neglecting to call it what it is and deal with it in a pragmatic way.
I have no interest in virtue-signalling, caveat-laden language like the “alt-left”, which manages to shield the majority of Leftists who really are Exactly Like That from criticism.
But the language of ridicule, a language that is politically expedient, not hateful, and also funny? Sign me up.
Dear Daddy Trump: please, continue telling the toddler left that they are in fact acting like toddlers.
I will be following suit.