Transgressive?

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July 19, 2016 11:03 a.m.

A bewildered TPM Reader AV emails:

I’m writing to you as a long time reader and admirer of someone who has a pretty good handle on the entire Trump phenomenon. But after watching the Patricia Smith speech and reading your take on it, hours later I’m still having some trouble processing what I witnessed.

One descriptor keeps coming to mind: transgressive.

It is the only word that seems to encompass the turn the now Trumpified GOP has taken. That a woman so steeped in the political demagoguery of Benghazi fostered by this thoroughly radicalized party would then be cynically put forward in a prominent speaking slot to actually place the blame on Hillary Clinton shocks the conscience. Indeed, the anchors on MSNBC seemed dumbfounded and framed their responses in the traditional mold of the political impact of this woman’s grief (I believe Rachel Maddow referred to it as a “bold” choice for the convention’s opening).

And this is where the notion of transgression comes to the fore. Attempting to grapple with such a craven ploy in familiar political terms is not just naïve, it fails to challenge its blatant toxicity and in so doing reinforces it.

Trump and the latent forces in the party he has unleashed (what you have so deftly labelled the “nonsense debt”) signal an ideology and movement that is decompensating into rank nihilism. Such transgressive behavior shifts the political terrain toward areas where Trump and his supporters may suspect liberals and the Democratic Party fear to tread. Effectively competing on this new political landscape will require a combativeness and political language unfamiliar to many on our side. I do not advise we imitate the other side, but we may not like what we must become.

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