Lindsey Graham and Brett Kavanaugh channel white-rage blowback, but suddenly they just come off like big babies
Heather Digby Parton
October 1, 2018
There has been a lot of discussion lately about women’s rage. New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister (a former Salon staffer) has written a timely book about it and has chronicled various aspects of the issue, most recently in the New York Times. Women are mad as hell, for sure. But if they want to see how powerful white men (and the women who enable them) leverage anger to dominate the rest of us, we’ve just had a potent demonstration of how that works.
The rhetorical violence of the right-wing response to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation mess perfectly illustrates the “Don’t make daddy mad” tactic of white patriarchy. Powerful white men may allow women and people of color to speak their piece but such people should never, ever think that they get to make the rules. If they refuse to back down when they’re told to do so, there will be hell to pay. This is a familiar tactic to people who grew up in traditional, patriarchal families. Mother may complain and the kids will squabble, but when Father has had enough and puts his foot down, everyone must stop or face his wrath, which will be swift and often brutal.
This particular political temper tantrum has been building for about a quarter of a century, ever since Bill Clinton disrupted what Republicans believed was a lock on the presidency stemming from the glorious reign of Ronald Reagan. They considered Clinton an unreconstructed hippie who was illegitimately elected they treated him as such for his entire eight-year term, ending with that failed impeachment trial. They were furious that the public didn’t back their play and when the 2000 election chaos ensued, they fought with everything they had and eked out a win. (Thanks to the Supreme Court, let us note.)
Since the Democrats pretty much cried uncle on that occasion, Republican anger settled down to simmer and they reveled in the soaring popularity of George W. Bush after 9/11, feeling their rightful dominance once again restored. That didn’t last and Bush ended as a failed president, causing their rage to rise to unprecedented levels with the election of Barack Obama, our first black president. They pushed hard to make Obama lose his cool but he never did. He couldn’t, of course. Any black man in America, especially if he’s in a leadership position, must always stay in control lest he unleash the beast.
So right-wing male anger grew and grew, finding an initial outlet in the Tea Party wave election of 2010. Then Democrats made the fateful decision to push the envelope and try to force them to endure another leader who challenged their rightful roles, this time a woman. Recall the words of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who said it out loud: “Eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”
Hillary Clinton had always made those kinds of men livid. She was an uppity feminist woman whose most enduring characteristic was that when she was defeated or humiliated she simply refused to shut up and slink away. (That trait annoys people to this day.) That she would deign to believe she could be president after they had dogged her with one bogus scandal after another, and even held her liable for her husband’s personal weaknesses, was just too much.