Countering right-wing movements that thrive on transgression is a challenge. One of the terrifying things about Trump’s victory is that it appeared to put the fundamental assumptions underlying pluralistic liberal democracy up for debate, opening an aperture for poisonous bigotry to seep into the mainstream. In California, a man named Patrick Little, who said he was inspired by Trump, is running for U.S. Senate on a platform of removing Jews from power; in one recent state poll 18 percent of respondents supported him. On Thursday, Mediaite reported that Juan Pablo Andrade, an adviser to the pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies, praised the Nazis at a Turning Point USA conference. (Owens, West’s new friend, is Turning Point’s communications director.)
It’s a natural response — and, in some cases, the right response — to try to hold the line against political reaction, to shame people who espouse shameful ideas. But shame is a politically volatile emotion, and easily turns into toxic resentment. It should not be overused. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line between ideas that deserve a serious response, and those that should be only mocked and scorned. I do know that people on the right benefit immensely when they can cultivate the mystique of the forbidden.