Having “Grit”

Here is a line from Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times this morning.

“In short, we are seeing a national movement that is telling us publicly and loudly: WE WILL GO THERE” The subject of “We..” is in the previous paragraph. It is “Trump and his supporters.”. And “go there” means “ignore the popular vote and its implications for the electoral vote and elect Republicans no matter what.” That is what “Go there” means.

But that’s not the way it is expressed by the people who are going to do it. People who are going to violate their oath to support the Constitution of the United States don’t call it that. Always, the first step is to provide another context.

In this new context, what would be bad behavior otherwise, is now good behavior. This is the example that came first to mind. In the British TV show, Endeavour, Fred Thursday is the senior officer. He does what needs to be done as he sees the matter. His assistant, Morse, has a much more formal sense of what the law allows and what it does not. You would think that when it becomes necessary to beat information out of a reluctant informant, that Thursday would justify his behavior by saying how important it is to some other issues.

That’s not the way he puts it to Morse. The real question is, “Do you have the grit” to do what needs to be done. This is Roger Allam as Inspector Fred Thursday. [1] Morse has said that by doing this, Thursday has “crossed the line;” he has gone over to the other side. Thursday rejects that. It’s only a question, says Thursday, of whether you have the grit. The clear implication is that Morse in lacking in courage.

But even so, “courage” is a commonly held virtue. “Grit” is a “real man” word. It is an “are you fit to be a cop” word. It defines the job so as to include beating information out of informants and the unwillingness to do that is just unfitness for the job.

And you get to mean all that in public without ever saying it out loud.

That’s how I hear Friedman’s “Go there.” He is right, I think, that electors in Republican-majority states may be asked to promise to “go there” as a condition of their selection. They will not be asked, in that context, if they believe in democracy in the sense that every person gets one vote. They will not be asked whether their oath to support the Constitution requires them to be fair to all. They will be asked if they have the grit to to what needs to be done.

“No, I don’t” is not an acceptable answer. It removes you from the political organization making the demand, for one thing. But it also, in this phrasing, casts you as a coward. There will be no coming back from such a failure.

I have great admiration for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who said, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, I can’t do that.” Trump said, “Find me the votes.” Raffensperger said, “I would break my oath to the Constitution and to the people of Georgia if I did that.”

Notice the alternation of frames of reference. It is the frame of reference we need to look for as the legislators and the electors are chosen for the 2022 and 2024 elections. Friedman is right, I think, that we are looking into the abyss. Will we continue to be a democratic government or will we not. Do we have the grit?

[1] For American watchers, there is no way not to think of Joe Friday. I don’t know whether Joe Friday of Dragnet is popular in Britain or if they just like to watch Americans struggle to keep from making the connection.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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