There was a somewhat annoying Dana Milbank piece about how the baby boomers caused all the problems the other day. While it was more than a little “baby boomers drive a car like this beep beep, Generation X drives a car like this BEEP BEEP BEEP“, it brought up an interesting question: how many of the pathologies of the current political/media landscape are a result of certain aspects of baby boomer culture?
I’ve always thought that the honorable man or decent man stuff was very boomer. You sure as hear it a hell of a lot from Tweety and Joe Klein and all the pseudo-intellectuals who wank about dead presidents in Ken Burns docs. It’s the basis for every Tom Hanks movie since the salad days of “Volunteers” and “Bachelor Party” (the only two good Tom Hanks movies, IMHO). I haven’t heard many millennials talk about what an honorable man Paul Ryan or Joe Lieberman or John McCain is.
The honorable man concept works against liberals and in favor of conservatives. Honorable men can’t be women, because powerful women are harpies and lesbos, like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary. Black men can be honorable only as long as they are just giving speeches about uniting the country. Once they assume office, they become arrogant, tan-suited hyper-partisans. I’d argue it’s difficult for young people or even people with ethnic names to be honorable men.
Here’s the thing about the honorable man concept: it has no predictive value and no functional definition. Much of the media, including Megan McArdle, is quite rightly repulsed by Trump’s “vile authoritarianism”. You would think that would mean that Republicans who support aren’t honorable men. Not so, we learn from Megan:
[W]e are treated to the sight of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calling Trump’s remarks about the Hispanic judge in his fraud case “the textbook definition of a racist comment” while still refusing to disavow his support for the Republican nominee.
Nonetheless, I think Ryan is a decent human being.
Paul Ryan is an honorable man because he is an honorable man.
Republicans like Ryan are in a tough spot, I don’t envy them. Here’s someone whom I suspect is one of those reasonable, decent Republicans we’re always hearing about (he’s friends with Robert Reich after all). I’m genuinely sympathetic to his plight.
CONGRESSMAN: I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of them. Some of those Trumpistas are out of their fu*king minds.
REICH: You mean you’re afraid for your own physical safety?
CONGRESSMAN: All it takes is one of them, you know.
REICH: Wait a minute. Isn’t this how dictators and fascists have come to power in other nations? Respected leaders don’t dare take a stand.
CONGRESSMAN: At least I’m no Giuliani or Gingrich or Pence. I’m not a Trump enabler.
But I wouldn’t trust this guy’s decency to save us from collapse. I’d put a lot more faith in the anger of an unserious partisan who actively opposed Trump.