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Daily Bread for 8.17.22: The Populists’ Dominance-and-Submission Ritual

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 79. Sunrise is 6:04 AM and sunset 7:53 PM for 13h 48m 39s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 66% of its visible disk illuminated. 

 Whitewater’s Parks & Recreation Board meet at 5:30 PM

 On this day in 2008, American swimmer Michael Phelps becomes the first person to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games.


Most political movements have not only an ideology but also a style in which that ideology is expressed. Adherents will often speak in a common way, or even dress in a common way, while expressing their views. Some of this is stereotypical (that is, a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image). 

David Frum, in Trump Is Back on the Ballot, observes a conservative populist style that Trump exemplifies:

DeSantis ran in 2018 as a craven Trump sycophant. He had four years to become his own man. He battled culture wars—even turning against his former backers at Disney—all to prove himself the snarling alpha-male bully that Republican primary voters reward. But since the Mar-a-Lago search, DeSantis has dropped back into the beta-male role, sidekick and cheering section for Trump.

Trump has reasserted dominance. DeSantis has submitted. And if Republican presidential politics in the Trump era has one rule, it’s that there’s no recovery from submission. Roll over once, and you cannot get back on your feet again.

Trump specializes in creating dominance-and-submission rituals. His Republican base is both the audience for them and the instrument of them. But to those outside the subculture excited by these rituals, they look demeaning and ridiculous. Everybody else wants jobs, homes, cheaper prescription drugs, and bridges that do not collapse—not public performances in Trump’s theater of humiliation.

Trump did not create what Frum describes as a dominance-and-submission ritual, but he is an exemplary practitioner. This is almost always a public ritual: an in-person confrontation between someone and those whose submission he seeks (indeed, demands). In this dynamic, others are to submit after a period of apologies, groveling, and abject begging for the practitioner’s supposed mercy.

Note well, how this is different from an ordinary person’s occasional concerns: while an ordinary person expresses his grievances (however forcefully), the dominance-and-submission approach demands others’ self-abasement in reply. This outward aggression masks an inner neediness: a battening on the degradation of others. A well-individuated man or woman does not seek from others a particular emotional display in response to speech. One may have policy objectives, but legitimate policy objectives do not include expecting, let alone receiving, submissive displays from others. 

For people who have never encountered someone like this, it’s often an unsettling experience. A dominance-and-submission approach often works its force on the unaccustomed. 

(Professionals who have performed difficult clinical work in their careers are sure to have met a few clients or patients who attempt this dominance-and-submission ritual. There are few better, early-in-career experiences than learning how to deal with people of this ilk. Some professionals are naturally cold to this ritual, but experience of it further improves both their natural sangfroid and ability to manage professionally in response to it. A confident recommendation: every last professional, having left his or her blue-stocking background, should commit to a period of gritty clinical practice to see both the best and worst of patients or clients.) 

Years of this dominance-and-submission ritual from Trump, and conservative populist imitators, and yet it’s still hard for policymakers nationally, statewide, or in Whitewater to respond sensibly. Sadly, the same people who know better than to play with a hyena have trouble adopting a sensible response to a dominance-and-submission ritual. 

Unfortunate, deeply unfortunate. 


 Gorgeous Earth from space station time-lapses compiled by NASA

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1 month ago

[…] know. They’re wrong (if not in moral error) no matter how loudly they speak. They practice a dominance-and-submission ritual that is as far from Christian conduct as one could go. (This ritual isn’t part of any major […]