I used to read and think a lot about our nation’s culture and politics. Since the election, that hobbyhorse has come to feel like a rather masochistic inclination. Why is that so? Corey Robin, a political scientist who has written a great deal about conservatism (here), describes my predicament:
Sometimes, not always, politics is war by other means. Not just for a few small sects but for large-scale groups and populations. I don’t mean war in the sense that one group is trying to dominate another; that’s continuous, always there. I mean war in the sense of overt, ongoing, declared battle between those groups.
We seem to be in one of those moments. One of the things we’ll have to get used to in this moment is the strange whipsaw effect of daily struggle, of seeing defeat mutate, quicksilver, into victory, and then seeing that victory slip through our fingers like it was never ours to have. That’s the way war is. (If you’ve ever been through a strike, you have a visceral sense of this.) Everything is temporary, not much lasts.
We have to learn to survive that, to know that when Trump delivers an executive order, that’s not fate, that’s just the day’s rout, which can be turned into tomorrow’s route. Conversely, when we win some small victory, it may be just an overture to another defeat.
I guess what I’m saying is, above all, we need resilience. And patience.
This week’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court not to lift the stay on Trump’s immigration ban may be just an overture to another defeat….but I believe it is important to always draw a measure of sustenance from a victorious skirmish.