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Are We Now Going to Have a Race to the Bottom of the Well of Resentment?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 1, 2016: in his book Head and Heart: American Christianities (Penguin Press, 2007), historian Garry Wills, a practicing Catholic who is not opposed to legalized abortion in the first trimester, characterizes the alliance of certain Protestant anti-abortion zealots with Catholic anti-abortion zealots as an unholy alliance. You see, throughout most of our American cultural history, American Protestants were anti-Catholic, among other things, and historically, Roman Catholics formally considered all Protestants to be heretics. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973 legalizing abortion in the first trimester laid the groundwork for this unholy alliance to emerge.

Wills enumerates the list of certain other Supreme Court rulings that had also rankled those Protestant anti-abortion zealots -- a list that has undoubtedly grown since Wills' book was published in 2007. But Wills does not need to explain that most of those other rulings did not much concern Catholic anti-abortion zealots, because most of those other rulings had little or no impact on the parallel but not necessarily equal American Catholic subculture. (Disclosure: Like Wills, I also grew up in the American Catholic subculture, which is one reason why I was interested in the widely reported report that 52% of Catholics voted for Trump.)

For all practical purposes, the unholy alliance that Wills discusses contributed to President-elect Donald J. Trump's decisive electoral victory over the Democratic abortion advocate Hillary Rodham Clinton. No doubt Trump's selection of Governor Mike Pence as his Republican running mate helped him seal the deal with certain Protestant anti-abortion zealots. No doubt Trump's big-sounding campaign statements against legalized abortion contributed to the support he received from both Protestant and Catholic anti-abortion zealots. No doubt Hillary's unequivocal support of legalized abortion in the first trimester turned off many anti-abortion zealots.

In the book Render unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right's Crusade against Science (Open Court, 2007), James H. Fetzer draws on deontological moral theory (derived from Kant) to set forth a reasonable position about legalized abortion in the first trimester that I find cogent and compelling (pages 95-120).

I admire Wills for going to the trouble to enumerate the various Supreme Court rulings that trouble certain Christians, and I admire Fetzer for engaging certain claims advanced by the Christian right.

Because I support legalized abortion in the first trimester, I voted for Hillary. In addition, I published one OEN critique of Trump after another before the election. However, I have never seen Hillary as the lesser of two evils, because I have never seen her as "evil," even though I am not uncritical of her. For example, I do not understand why she voted in favor of authorizing the Iraq War, when she was the U.S. Senator from New York. Nor do I understand why she decided to use a private email server, when she was the Secretary of State. James Comey was an idiot for intervening shortly before the election -- twice -- about the FBI's investigation of Hillary's emails.

As I will explain momentarily, I do not fully understand why she decided to run for president again in 2016, after she lost the Democratic presidential primary in 2008. Nevertheless, despite my reservations about her, my reservations about Trump were and are far more serious. Which is why I am now writing the present op-ed commentary.

In any event, the time has come for the mainstream pundits who supported Hillary to comment on her decisive electoral loss to Trump. For example, the liberal columnist Paul Krugman, a past winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, in his column "The Populism Perplex" in the New York Times (dated November 25, 2016), does not refer at all to the abortion debate. Instead, he frames his discussion of the election in economic terms. When his economic framework yields almost no insight about the outcome of the election, he then says, "To be honest, I don't fully understand this resentment [of the Trump voters]."

We should dwell on his admission for a moment, because we do not often find a mainstream pundit admitting that he does not fully understand something. Perhaps his admitted lack of understanding will motivate him to undertake a study of the Trump voters' resentment(s).

But the most straightforward way to explain Krugman's admission would be to say that his economic framework may be a wee bit defective when it comes to understanding resentment that may include both economic resentment(s) and non-economic resentment(s). I know, I know, Krugman himself likes to promote economic resentment(s) -- which certain ancient Hebrew prophets such as Amos promoted, and so did Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. So if Krugman can understand and indeed cultivate economic resentment(s), why is he apparently unable to understand non-economic resentment(s)?

Under the upcoming Trump administration, I am sure that the rich will get richer. But I'm not so sure about how other Americans will fare economically under the Trump administration. Perhaps Trump administration hopes that trickle-down economics will work, eh?

However, I am also not so sure what kinds of non-economic payoffs the Trump voters hope to receive from his presidency. In part, he campaigned on non-economic resentments involving legalized abortion and the Supreme Court.

In any event, assuming that President Trump does not engage in a nuclear war that ends the world, which after all would not help the rich get richer, I am sure that liberal and progressive mainstream pundits and editorial boards will have no shortage of things in the trump administration to comment on.

But make no mistake here, Hillary also campaigned on cultivating non-economic resentment(s) -- perhaps most notably when she invited Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe (in 1996) to campaign alongside her and describe her feud with Trump. I guess that Hillary figured that she needed Machado to help her fire up her feminist base in the Democratic Party. Ironically, feminists of Hillary's generation at one time denounced beauty pageants. For his part, Trump played along and continued his feud with Machado.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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