A response to his victimhood analysis
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Arguing against economic bailouts by using political sadism seems like a bad idea.
There has long been a section of the conservative right that loathes the “Welfare Queen”: a fictionalized woman, usually black, who failed her way through life, pumps out some kids, and seeks to live the rest of her days on government handouts. This stereotype was first brought to fame by Ronald Reagan and based on a Chicago woman named Linda Taylor. However, in the long years since Reagan, the conservative ideology has maintained, upheld, and refined the image of the welfare queen. The modern Republican Party resurrects and trots this image around frequently to highlight the supposed unfairness of a system that suckles the lazy by stealing from the working. The image is used to express a weakness in society and a sinister rot that will bring America to its knees and though the very Chicago newspaper that birthed the myth has reiterated its non-existence, the specter is still trotted out for votes.
In more recent years, a new boogeyman has risen to the fore for conservatives to decry and loathe. This one is constantly overcome with emotions, frequently censorious, overbearingly restrictive, and sensitive to every imagined slight. It is the spectre of the victim: one who sees the outside as conspiring and plotting to hurt them, all while engaging in what some call “the Oppression Olympics.” Where the welfare queen was lazy, the victim is self absorbed. When the welfare queen was devising new and evermore insidious ways to pull money from the government, the victim sees the government as the only answer to the swords raised against them. If the two were to fuse, the Republic would surely fall.
Enter Congressman Dan Crenshaw, a retired marine who rocketed to public fame after Pete Davidson called him a “hitman in a porno movie” and mocked the war wound that would force Crenshaw to retire. Since that joke, Crenshaw has managed to make himself a media mainstay with regular columns in many of the main conservative papers and frequent appearances on Fox News and the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE). In one such column for the Daily Wire, (posted without paywall on his Instagram page) Crenshaw rails against “victimhood” culture and labels it a cultural battle between “fortitude and fragility.” As Crenshaw throws faux culture war touchstones like The Cat in the Hat alongside parables spoken by Jesus, you can’t help but be incredulous that anyone of faith would put the two together. Yet the goal is to galvanize the right wing who thinks both the Bible and Dr. Seuss represent their heritage under attack. As he juxtaposes the “proud family man [who] might return a welfare check after getting back on his feet” against the “fully employed Americans anxiously await[ing] their $1,400 COVID payment,” it’s clear that Crenshaw wants to paint a picture of two Americas: the hard workers and the victims seeking aid.
Maybe I have followed Crenshaw’s career for too long, but it becomes clear as this goes on that he has taken exactly the wrong lesson from his time in the forces. At one point he writes: “In the relative comforts of the modern world, where true trauma and hardship are harder and harder to come by, this affinity for victimhood narrative construction manifests in more and more ridiculous ways.” This almost exactly echoes a joke he had earlier made that the hardest thing AOC has had to do in her life is remember whether a table ordered “still or sparkling.” Setting aside that this barb was sent during an economic downturn that has decimated restaurants, the idea of belittling service workers because they weren’t soldiers is ludicrous. Unless his ideal world is one in which everyone goes through military training and sees active duty, there will be far more people whose lives mirror AOC’s than his.
In a recent return to the JRE, Crenshaw outlined his opposition to the stimulus cheques by opening with, “There is value in suffering.” When millions of people are currently facing economic ruination in your country and your state has only just recovered from a horrendous natural disaster, arguing against economic bailouts by using political sadism seems like a bad idea. In fact, after torching “lived experiences” in the aforementioned article, Crenshaw falls upon his own experiences to justify denying untold millions of Americans direct cash help. Even though 78 percent of Americans (including 64 percent of Republicans) support the cheques, apparently, the fact that some of Crenshaw’s war buddies received cheques is evidence that the government is overreaching. As I alluded to earlier, Crenshaw is convinced of the idea that the government helping people “will create a weak society that is unable to sustain itself.” Worse still, Crenshaw tries to position himself as some noble truthsayer in denying people the aid that they need. Crenshaw’s explanation was so bad that political commentator and fellow conservative Saagar Enjeti nearly blew a gasket tearing apart all the horrible ideas espoused by the congressman. It’s nice to know that there are people on the other side who also see Crenshaw’s Hunger Games society as ludicrous.
Unfortunately, the people in his district probably don’t care and likely aren’t affected by the ideas Crenshaw stands behind. Instead, it will only be the poor working class that will feel the suffering of his “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” dogma. I guess the story of kindness and generosity that is the literal foundation of both the bible and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas is irrelevant to some politicians.