Among the many occasions of unintended comedy that the election of Donald Trump has vouchsafed a grateful world, perhaps none is more comic than that huddled mass of garrulous disappointment calling itself “The Resistance™.” Hillary Clinton had hardly got outside her last goblet of Chardonnay in the wee hours of November 9, 2016 before “the resistance party,” a “grassroots movement fighting against the hateful and authoritarian agenda of Donald Trump and the radical right,” was infesting the internet. Mrs. Clinton herself waited until May 2017 to announce her new political organisation aimed at funding “resistance” groups that are “standing up to President Donald Trump.” Media pundits across the country warned their audiences against “normalising” the President. “Trump is not a legitimate President,” screamed one typical member of the fourth estate, “Normalising fascism, the marriage of authoritarianism and nationalism with a business controlled government, is wrong.”
You can understand their anguish. Someone they did not favor was elected president of the United States in a free, open, democratic election. Can you believe it? Their candidate lost. Even worse, the opposing candidate was elected without their permission, over their strenuous objections, unremitting ridicule, and against their hermetically sealed certitude that such a thing was impossible, impossible! O tempora, O mores! The 2016 presidential election worked the way the Constitution said it was supposed to work, not the way Hollywood millionaires, Ivy-educated pundits, angry feminists, or partisan opponents wanted it to work. Clearly, end times are nigh.
No wonder the Resistance™ is so voluble and tenacious. Just a couple of days ago the comedy site Vox, reporting on the many rallies against President Trump that continue to provide free entertainment at college campuses and other redoubts of privilege across the country, noted that “While the rallies people are attending may not always be Trump-specific, they are certainly Trump-related.” Indeed they are.
The early Christian sage Tertullian opined that among the delights of the blessed in heaven was contemplating the torments of the damned in hell. Tertullian’s teaching was later declared heretical, but his psychology was sound. Schadenfreude may be an unChristian emotion. But all the best authorities recognise its delights. It is difficult to contemplate the pained contortions of the Resistance™ without a bit of tittering Schadenfreude creeping in. A case in point is The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War, a much-noted bulletin just out from the front lines of the Resistance™. “The next time you call for bipartisan cooperation in America,” this cri de coeur begins, “and long for Republicans and Democrats to work side by side, stop it. Remember the great lesson of California, the harbinger of America’s political future . . .” Wait! are things as bad as that? Is California—more and more the Venezuela of the United States—is it really our future?
I certainly hope not, but the authors of this alarming expostulation hope it will be. On the one hand, they argue, “there’s no way that a bipartisan path provides the way forward.” Forget that. It’s total war now, just as it was in 1860, and only one side can emerge victorious. Which side will it be? “California today,” they argue, and I believe they actually mean it, California “provides a model for America as a whole.” That bankrupt, crime-ridden, regulation strangled, population-losing, tent-city mecca is “far ahead of the nation in coming to terms with the inexorable digital, global, sustainable transformation of our era. It is a thriving work in progress that gives hope that America can pull out of the political mess we’re in.” And night is day, black is white, and Governor Jerry Brown is a visionary leader who really will make America great again. And I, as Dorothy Parker once remarked, am Marie of Romania.
That’s the thing about the Resistance™. It gets attention for the same reason that a freak show at a carnival does. Every rational person is appalled by it but somehow cannot look away. It is the incarnation of absurdity, but all the more fascinating on account of its extravagance. I earlier mentioned Tertullian. He is probably most famous for the mot Credo quia absurdum: “I believe because it is absurd.” That is no more orthodox than Tertullian’s other teachings, but it might as well be the motto for the Resistance.™