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1st December, 2020

Tony Sarowitz - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Lionel Shriver is known to be a great champion of the anti-woke, anatomising , dismantling and ridiculing their commonplace assumptions in the most amusing ways. For some, then, it was a surprising development when she came out in her Spectator column (a section of which was recently re-posted by the Spectator after the US election) in favour of MABA – Make America Boring Again – and announced that she would be voting for Joe Biden. We shouldn’t really have been surprised as she has never hidden that she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has generally always been a Democrat.

For Shriver what America needs is some dull peace and quiet normal process for it is weary of the havoc wrecked by the Offender-in-Chief, Donald Trump and his Twitter account. The doctor now prescribes some homogenised inoffensiveness so that we can all put our feet up without that infernal clamour going on. Joe Biden, who looks like a benign Grandpop, seems to fit the bill perfectly. Never mind that his enemies at the New York Post and Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani suggest he is some kind of mafia boss taking rake-offs from his corrupt son, Hunter or even that he might be a little personally dubious in his relations to the opposite sex, aspersions they felt free to cast in Trump’s direction. His enemies would say that wouldn’t they? Let’s push all that aside. The attraction of the placid new normal he represents is just too strong to resist.

Yet, if one bores down into modern politics and the bitter culture war being fought out behind and through them is there really such a thing as ‘boring’ or inoffensiveness? Does not that war demand the taking of positions and the causing of offence when the countervailing positions in the war cannot be accommodated together and are mutually displacing? Shriver said ‘Biden’s very dullness could restore a sense of order.’ But if one drills down into that dullness and inoffensiveness one would surely find that it masks real positions on a range of issues. The English poet, William Blake seemed to understand this:

The modest rose puts forth a thorn,

The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:

While the Lily white shall in love delight,

Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

The Lily

This might seem to suggest that the person who is openly and honestly aggressive and who offends in certain times may actually be preferable to the unthreatening sheep. You know where you stand at least. To refer to another part of our culture Christ himself said ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ and I believe that the same book from which this is drawn includes the words ‘ A time of war, And a time of peace.’ In citing these quotations I am enjoining uncompromising cultural rather than civil war of course.

Shriver is eminently intelligent and is happy to concede that electing Biden may unleash the hard left, that ‘among the Democratic party elite the wokesters are ascendant’, that her ‘heart fell’ when Biden ‘genuflected towards ‘systemic racism’ and that Trump signed ‘an unusually sane directive that federal agencies not promote critical theory which might not (now) last beyond Valentine’s Day.’ Given all of this this one wonders how she reconciled it with voting for Biden. Does she really think these are times – when nearly 70 million voters still voted for Trump - where ‘anything for a peaceful life’ is going to work?

Just scratch a little way below the ‘boring’ surface and we find a list similar to that made by Shriver when she was weighing up her options in that article (she lists higher taxation and incontinent spending, weaker attitudes on immigration, packing the Supreme Court and the likelihood that Kamala Harris will become President). Under Biden there will be re-entering of the Paris climate accords, restoring the deal with Iran, a more complacent and conciliatory attitude towards China, a putting of pressure on the UK to do the bidding of the EU, the giving of tacit consent to the pernicious and destructive insanity of critical race theory and a culture ridden with incipient Marxist grievance. None of this is neutral or reassuringly bland. It all takes the most partisan and definite of positions if only by omission. Much of it flies in the face of the 70 million who voted for Trump.

Now that it looks as though Biden has won the election Shriver's strange accommodation of things she obviously hates is mirrored in other places. You can see outlets that used to seem to understand the horrors of modern liberalism adopting a more emollient tone towards it and beginning to hedge their bets.....

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