It breaks my heart to write this post. I am a fan of Chris Hayes and his Emmy award-winning show, “All In with Chris Hayes.” His command of the relevant material is remarkable. He is brilliant, incisive, and witty.
But, unfortunately, he also seems to be a singlist – a person who disparages single people. Chris Hayes would never practice racism or sexism or heterosexism or any of the other isms. I don’t think he has to make an effort not to do so. Those isms seem inconsistent with his values.
Not so for singlism. Earlier this evening (Monday February 19, 2018), in his “Thing 1, Thing 2” segment, Hayes described the results of the latest ranking of U.S. presidents by 170 political science scholars. The news was that James Buchanan is no longer ranked as the worst president in U.S. history – now that designation goes to Donald Trump.
The “Thing 1, Thing 2” segment does not seem to be posted online yet, so I’m writing this from memory. When Hayes first mentioned Buchanan, as the person who has long been ranked last in the list of presidents, he described him as “the bachelor president.” I raised my eyebrow but told myself to let it go. After all, Buchanan was the only president who started out single and stayed single for his entire term. Grover Cleveland was single until he got married while in office and Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Chester Arthur, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, and Martin Van Buren were widowers for all or part of their time in office.
So maybe Chris Hayes was using the bachelor designation in a neutral way, pointing out something unique about Buchanan.
But then, when he got to the end of Thing 2, and made his point about Trump now coming in dead last instead of James Buchanan, he referred to Buchanan as “that loser bachelor.”
And that is not okay.
Hayes seems to be implying that what was terrible about Buchanan was not the way he led (or failed to lead) the country, but his status as a single person.
If Chris Hayes had simply been looking for some interesting characteristic that distinguished Buchanan from all other presidents, he could have, for example, started the segment by calling him “the president from Pennsylvania.” Even so, I doubt he would have wrapped it up at the end of Thing 2 by derogating Buchanan as “that loser Pennsylvanian.”
If it is still not clear that there is anything wrong with calling Buchanan “that loser bachelor,” imagine if the president who used to be at the very bottom of the list had been Barack Obama. Would Chris Hayes say that Trump had just taken the bottom spot from “that loser Black man”? It is inconceivable.
That’s the thing about singlism. It is practiced unselfconsciously and unapologetically, by people who would not in a million years say anything remotely degrading about people in other stigmatized groups.
C’mon, Chris Hayes. You can do better than that.
[UPDATE: On Facebook, someone suggested that Hayes may have been alluding to the way Trump would talk by calling Buchanan “that loser bachelor.” That seems plausible. I hope that’s what Hayes meant.]