This is the title of an op-ed from David Frum from last month, obviously a well known traditional conservative, talking about something that I’ve also been observing for quite some time.
The ease at which many Trump-era conservatives shift into, and welcome victimhood, feigning being attacked, insulted, threatened, what have you. Sometimes to create a narrative, sometimes to avoid questions, whatever.
I’ve had many personal experiences seeing people actively seek out victimhood during debate, it’s a real thing embraced by politicians that also seems to have trickled down to some supporters, and something worth discussing and reflecting on, I think.
Some of Frum’s comments:
Over the past half decade, we have turned much of the country’s mindscape into a group-therapy session for Trump believers. Reporters play the part of the therapist, reassuring the analyzed of a safe space for their grievances and complaints. The pro-Trump world has accepted the invitation. Even as Trump commits one constitutional, legal, and ethical abuse after another, his followers depict themselves as somehow the people truly suffering unfairness. Trump was a perpetrator who thought himself a victim, and American society has indulged that same illusion among Trump supporters.
The central concept in modern conservatism is victimhood. Responsibility, accountability—those are standards they apply to others, never to themselves. Even as they confront their stark record of complicity and culpability, they cannot absorb it.
During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump excoriated President Obama for supposedly refusing to use the term radical Islamic terrorism . At one of that year’s presidential debates, Trump said: “Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. [Hillary Clinton] won’t say the name and President Obama won’t say the name. But the name is there. It’s radical Islamic terror.”
But now the conservative world has gone all bashful about naming things. The preferred formulas for condemning the violence are vague and general, without reference to who did the violence and why and for whose sake.
Another great read, this op-ed really nails it for me, from 2018:
The truth is that victimhood does afford one a certain moral status that can be politically powerful. If we accept that an actual wrong has been done and you are the victim of that wrong, that means you have a legitimate claim not only to redress but also to hold the perpetrator accountable.
Which is why it’s such a common retort to say “ You’re not the real victim, I’m the real victim.” The problem isn’t racism, it’s white people being unfairly accused of racism. The problem isn’t sexual harassment and assault, it’s the fear felt by men unsure what will happen to them if they’re too flirty with their employees. The problem isn’t hate speech, it’s “political correctness” that keeps me from saying whatever I want. The problem isn’t what Brett M. Kavanaugh did to Christine Blasey Ford, it’s the fact that Kavanaugh had to endure listening to his accusers and all he got was a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
No presidential candidate ever validated and nurtured the right’s fantasies of victimhood like Donald Trump did. He said to conservative Christians: Yes, you are the real oppressed minority (even if you’re the majority). When you walk into a department store and see a sign that says “Happy Holidays,” you have suffered a terrible injustice by not being able to force everyone to acknowledge your religious holiday to the exclusion of all others. Only I will allow you to say “Merry Christmas” again, even if nobody ever stopped you from saying it in the first place. When antidiscrimination laws are passed and you have to allow gay people to patronize your business, you’ve been wounded and the laws must be changed to undo what you have endured.