If the past few years of conservative activism have cemented anything in US politics, it’s the idea that there are terrible leftist bullies out there somewhere doing something rude. At first glance, Ben Shapiro’s promotion for his newest book, Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans, seems like more the same, but on closer look, the way Shapiro has talked about the conservative movement in the US is surprisingly revealing. In one interview, Shapiro responded to questions about how the 2016 Republican nominee for president would best weather criticism – I mean “bullying” – by saying:
“The typical GOP establishment is not ready for this battle. Right? You have folks like Karl Rove, who’s firmly convinced that the way that you win elections is not by — is not by painting yourself against an enemy. The way that you win elections is by painting yourself as a nice person.
It is impossible in this life to paint yourself as a nice person. Ask anybody who’s ever broken up with a girlfriend, no matter what you say to your girlfriend after you break up with her, she’s going to think you’re a jerk. Right? And the same thing is true with the American people.
The American people have broken up with conservativism. You’re not going to convince them that conservativism is the way to go by being really nice. The way that you’re going to convince them that conservatism is the way to go is because this is a two-party system, and we can paint the other side as mean and nasty”
That’s right, Shapiro suggested that the US political party that’s fixated on controlling people’s uteri at the state level after failing to push through similar legislation at the federal level should act like an unhinged ex-boyfriend forcing himself back into his ex’s life. This is a common if unsettling attitude – that when someone (especially a woman) rejects you, the correct response is to ignore their wishes and force yourself back into their life. That sort of philosophy of sorts has its own terminology – for expressing concepts like the “friendzone”, Nice Guys, and some sort of contrasting jerk or bad guy.
Shapiro didn’t just show just how much manipulation and hostility towards women many conservatives apparently view as not only acceptable but the proper way of acting. The strategy he describes admits how fabricated these notions of “niceness” or “jerky-ness” actually are pretty empty labels. Just as feminists have been saying for years, clinging to the identity of being a “Nice Guy” doesn’t mean much beyond the belief that you’re somehow more deserving of the “girl” who of course can never be contentedly single.
In short, what Shapiro just proved is how what’s often seen as irrelevant pop culture is in fact deeply political and how politics are so frequently built off of those ideas about women, relationships, and power. What he showed is that the War on Women is still real, is still happening, and will likely become a permanent fixture of national Republican politics. Get ready for another 2012, everyone.