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Name: Mister Rea
Gender: Male
Hometown: Houston
Home country: Moon
Current location: afk
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 48,808

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TPM: Silly RW hagiography painter Jon McNaughton is a sign of a deeper problem in our Republic

(posted to GD because of editorializing by the posting DUer)

You've seen his ridiculous paintings before, well-executed cross-bastardizations of medieval hagiography and Soviet-era rigid didactic style, but selling post-Reagan partisan Republicanism as holy cause under seige from an unholy alliance of Islam, secular humanism, and moderately left-of-center politicians. This is the work of Jon McNaughton. TPM just wrote an editorial about his surging popularity in the Age of Trump. You need to read it to the end. Maybe not from the beginning, but certainly don't miss the end.

Here's the artist, painting James Madison, seemingly about to field an Obama poop like it's a line drive past third

For year's we've all had a good yuck at the child-like simplicity of his admiration for the views of the GOP hard right, at apparent odds with his undeniable talent at detailed portraiture (but which somehow stills falls short of true naturalism for his seemingly deliberate refusal to paint his characters in natural poses). In terms of balance and composition, he might as well be doodling zoo animals for his mom's refrigerator. If you google "McNaughton+golden ratio" you won't get any results.

... which is not to say there's not a kind of genius at work here.
Like remember that poor cop who had to have a beer with Obama after arresting a professor for being black in his own home?

But this post and the editorial I'm pointing you at is not really about selective renaissancism in the art of the Post-Rational Age. It's about the sociological features of the American populace in the Post-Rational Age. It's about how (and more importantly why) McNaughton's audience doesn't mind the rejection of Renaissance Humanism and Rationalism in their art--conflating schlock with ideology. In the minds of McNaughton's (and Trump's) target audience, Jefferson and Washington and Madison are figures, not of the Enlightenment, but of American Nationalism, just a few more saints to be dyed into the stained glass.

Hey, Scalia!! The fuck you ripping up there?

You got to give him his due. Like a well mannered Mormon (a background that might have led the painter to conflate politics with salvation), he's making an effort to bring all races into the Big Republican Tent with a healthy smattering of actual black historical characters (Harriet Tubman, Gen'l Benjamin Davis) and nameless American Indian stereotypes peppered into the crowdshots. Middle Americans need reassurance they aren't becoming that kind of conservative. We still like the "good ones."

Let me emphasize the word "becoming" before I send you off to read the TPM article itself. I hope it's thought provoking. The thoughts it provokes sure are scary to me. The thing I've gotten wrongest about the Reign of Trump was my view that he is only the logical result of Republican dumbstanding on a range of issues over the past four decades--from the racial dogwhistles to win over Southern whites to support tax cuts to the false-faced moralism on abortion and gay-panic voting to maintain corporate control over Congress. I thought he was the culmination of what you get when you convince millions that tax cuts lead to balanced budgets and marijuana raids lead to small government. It's all lies, of course, but I was wrong to think Trump is the final equation in this psychohistory trigonometry.

Trump is the herald of American Tribalism. It's not that he and his allies are giving the people what they want, and just ripping off the treasury in the meantime while they accomplish little. He's just the loudest siren warning us of an approaching (and in most cases, already situated) cultural shift away from the core American principles of tolerance, inclusion, opportunity, and the expansion of liberty. These people embrace their identity politics in ways that obliterate the traditional notion of American identity. They are Yugoslaving the United States. They embrace the notion of Trump as benevolent pater noster, teacher, prophet, deliverer.

Yeah, pretend you're not the one who shredded it, asshole

All evidence to the contrary, they see Trump is an honest patriot, a godly husband, a peace-seeking defender of ethical order, a product of divine intervention. The next step in this social evolution is clear. The post bronze age, monotheistic notion that divine order is universal, rather than just an extension of our god's protection of our nation, is up for rejection. In our cause, torture's okay, adultery is okay, bombing children and rejecting refugees (be they from Syria or from New Orleans) is perfectly moral because they are not us and our God protects only us.

It's only a happy coincidence for them that such a reductionist trend dovetails well with the old Republican philosophy of small government. For decades now fundamentalist Republicans have only favored small government on a case-by-case basis. Isolationism is not a rejection of preening militarism in the Pentagon budget nor in the targeting of selective adversaries in the Middle East. Philosophy quit mattering a long time ago. This is the world Trump and his apologists--from Fox News to your uncle Ernie at Thanksgiving dinner--are helping to create. Democracy, as illustrated by Jon McNaughton and embraced by his fanbase, is fundamentally at risk.

Go read this and brace yourself for the future.

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