Tag Archives: white nationalism

They Aren’t Even Pretending Anymore

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly convinced that a variety of seemingly unrelated political attitudes and allegiances can only be explained by a deep-seated underlying racism. That conclusion doesn’t require us to disregard the complexities that dictate individual world-views and predict their saliency; I don’t mean to imply that individual circumstances are irrelevant–but the racist element is inescapable. History teaches us that previously suppressed bigotries  emerge and find expression when people are insecure,  financially or otherwise.

We are seeing that emergence play out in today’s Republican Party.

In the 1970s and 80s, when I was active in the GOP, I encountered people who expressed racist , anti-Semitic and homophobic opinions, but they were a distinct minority. If others with whom I worked shared those prejudices, they kept them to themselves; furthermore,  a significant number of  Republicans–including then-mayor Bill Hudnut– were vocal proponents of inclusion and anti-discrimination policies.

Maybe acceptance of diversity was easier at the time because most Americans didn’t anticipate the demographic changes that are now seen to threaten continued White Christian dominance–or maybe the current crop of GOP “leaders” is genuinely representative of the Republicans who remain after the “good guys” have mostly headed for the party exits.

Whatever the reason, those who are left in the GOP no longer feel the need to be coy about their White Nationalist beliefs. The recent CPAC meeting was held on a stage modeled on a recognizable Nazi symbol, and ABC’s recent report on the CPAC meeting was titled, “GOP congressman headlines conference where organizers push White Nationalist rhetoric.”

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was the surprise keynote speaker at a conference Friday night in Orlando, Florida, where speakers spread white nationalist rhetoric, organizers railed about the U.S. losing its “white demographic core,” and some called for further engagement like the ire that drove the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

Gosar wasn’t the only “usual suspect” who appeared at the meeting. Others included former Iowa Representative Steve King, whose most notable “achievement” in the House was a long history of explicitly racist comments, and the equally offensive conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

Gosar’s keynote was followed by a speech by a man named Nick Fuentes, identified as  founder of the America First PAC, who filled his talk with white grievance and anti-immigration rants. He is quoted as telling the crowd that “If [America] loses its white demographic core … then this is not America anymore.”

Fuentes went on to praise the Capitol attack, boasting about it leading to a delay in the certification of the election results.

“While I was there in D.C., outside of the building, and I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building and I saw the police retreating . I said to myself: ‘This is awesome,'” Fuentes said to the applause of the crowd….

“To see that Capitol under siege, to see the people of this country rise up and mobilize to D.C. with the pitchforks and the torches — we need a little bit more of that energy in the future,” he said.

The most terrifying part of that description is the sentence recording “the applause of the crowd.” The attendees applauded the perpetrators of the treasonous January 6th insurrection that left five people dead and did thirty million dollars of damage to the nation’s capitol.

The entire event revolved around fidelity to Donald Trump and acceptance of his Big Lie–from the “Golden Calf” Trump statue (which was reportedly made in Mexico…), to Trump’s willingness to make his first post-Presidency appearance at a meeting of far-right, proudly racist extremists.

I find admiration–let alone fidelity–to Donald Trump incomprehensible–but then I consider the effect of tribalism and political polarization. I still remember my long-ago discussion with a party “regular” about a Republican candidate that we all knew to be incompetent and probably corrupt. He didn’t disagree with my evaluation, but he smiled. “He may be a son-of-a-bitch,” he said, “but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”

Trump may be the antithesis of the “family values” these good “Christians” claim to be about, but he hates and fears the same people they do. He’s their White Nationalist.

 

So Here We Are…

Can you stand one more post about the January 6th insurrection?

Investigations in the wake of that shocking assault are steadily turning up evidence that it was anything but a spontaneous response to Trump’s crazed rally speech. It had been planned, and not just by the conspiracy-believing members of the rightwing’s radical fringe, but with the connivance of seditionist members of Trump’s campaign, his White House, and members of Congress.

The identities of these conspirators will eventually be made public, but who they are is ultimately less important than what they are–representatives of White Christian Nationalists who see themselves as losing out in today’s America.

Thomas Edsall writes a weekly column for the Washington Post on politics, demographics and inequality. In the wake of the riot on January 6th, he considered how “racism, grievance, resentment and the fear of diminished status came together” to fuel the fury and violence. He began with the obvious: the dominant role played by “out-and-out racism and a longing to return to the days of white supremacy.”

But Edsall also acknowledged the need to probe more deeply–to try to ascertain the roots of the anger and to identify the elements of contemporary life that serve to “trigger”  violent expression.

It may sound trivial at first, in light of what happened, but how important is the frustration among what pollsters call non-college white men at not being able to compete with those higher up on the socioeconomic ladder because of educational disadvantage? How critical is declining value in marriage — or mating — markets? Does any of that really matter?

How toxic is the combination of pessimism and anger that stems from a deterioration in standing and authority? What might engender existential despair, this sense of irretrievable loss? How hard is it for any group, whether it is racial, political or ethnic, to come to terms with losing power and status? What encourages desperate behavior and a willingness to believe a pack of lies?

Edsall posed those questions to a range of academic researchers. Their responses were sobering.

A sociologist at NYU dubbed the rioters “ethnonationalists,” and described  Trump supporters as those who want to return to a past when white men considered themselves the “core of America”–when minorities and women “knew their place.” Since they realize that such a return would require the upending of the existing social order, they’re prepared to pursue violent measures.

Another sociologist, a professor at Johns Hopkins, concurred:

They fear a loss of attention. A loss of validation. These are people who have always had racial privilege but have never had much else. Many feel passed over, ignored. Trump listened to them and spoke their language when few other politicians did. He felt their pain and was diabolical enough to encourage their tendency to racialize that pain. They fear becoming faceless again if a Democrat, or even a conventional Republican, were to take office.

There was general recognition from those Edsall consulted that It is incredibly difficult for individuals and groups to come to terms with the loss of status and power. Before Trump came along to provide a culprit, these individuals lacked what one scholar called “a narrative to legitimate their condition.” Trump provided a narrative that gave “moral certitude” to people who  believed that their decline in social and/or economic status was the result of unfair and/or corrupt decisions by so-called elites.

According to a professor of psychology at Yale, the insurrection reflected angst, anger, and refusal to accept an America in which White (Christian) Americans are losing dominance.

And, I use the term dominance here, because it is not simply a loss of status. It is a loss of power. A more racially, ethnically, religiously diverse US that is also a democracy requires White Americans to acquiesce to the interests and concerns of racial/ethnic and religious minorities.

Others who responded to Edsell’s inquiry noted that contemporary America is especially vulnerable to right-wing anger due to our high degree of income inequality, and lack of a welfare state safety net to buffer the fall of people into unemployment and poverty.

You can click through and read the various responses, but they all reminded me of an exchange in the film An American President. Michael Douglas, playing the incumbent, points to his opponent during a press conference and says something to the effect that “you have a choice between someone who wants to fix the problem or someone who wants to tell you who to blame for it.”

Trump voters chose the guy willing to tell these deeply unhappy people who to blame.

 

 

A “Collective Psychotic Episode”

Tuesday’s post, published early by mistake. See you Wednesday morning.

I am (unhappily) persuaded that the thesis of an October 4th article for Salon is correct.

David Mascriotra’s opening line was “There is only one political party in the United States.” He went on to defend that observation

The first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump demonstrated with hideous clarity that the Democratic Party is currently running against not a conservative public policy agenda or a coherent philosophy of governance, but a collective psychotic episode, channeled through an authoritarian demagogue who is equally propelled and crippled by his own neuroses.Gore Vidal, one of America’s best chroniclers of empire, once provided instruction to a British interviewer expressing confusion over the radical hostility Republicans showed toward Barack Obama, and the former president’s inability to react with equal aggression: “Obama believes the Republican Party is a political party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”

Mascriotra doesn’t fall into the all-too-frequent mistake of centering his criticism on Trump and his gang that can’t shoot straight. His analysis focuses on the real problem–the fact that the Republican Party has  undergone a radical transformation from a genuine political party into a cult–or, as the quoted paragraph graphically puts it, a “mindset.” And a pretty ugly mindset, at that.

This analysis rejects the (weak) excuse that Republican office-holders don’t stand up to Trump because they are afraid of what the author calls the “bloodlust” of the Trump cult. Although there is undoubtedly some of that, he argues that–at least at the federal level– they share Trump’s hatred of democracy, and he shares statements from several of the “usual subjects”– Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and others–to prove his point.

Republican officeholders and voters “are glad to see him waging war on a system designed to give representation and power to a diverse group of citizens.”

We all know what “diverse group of citizens” means: brown and black people, women, gays, Jews and Muslims. It always comes back to what is increasingly impossible to ignore– the almost total capture of the GOP by white supremacists. To rank and file Republicans, “Making America great again” means recommitting the country to the rule and social dominance of white male Christians. As Mascriotra says, “there is no other reasonable conclusion to draw from the fact that between 80 and 90 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance in office.”

That conclusion –that the GOP is no longer a party, but a white supremacist cult– is also supported by the lack of anything resembling an agenda or a platform.

An American without health insurance, or who pays a high monthly premium for inadequate coverage, can expect nothing from the Republican Party. Working parents who cannot afford child care and have no disposable income after paying each month’s bills can expect nothing from the Republican Party. A young college graduate unable to qualify for a mortgage because he has tens of thousands of dollars in student debt can expect nothing from the Republican Party. Poor children suffering through hunger and struggling to learn basic skills in a dysfunctional school can expect nothing from the Republican Party.

Mascriotra quotes George Will for the proposition that the GOP has abandoned any former connection to a coherent, genuine conservatism. He concludes that Trump’s inability to debate Biden, evidenced by his descent into tantrum and invective, was largely because Republicans no longer have principles or programs to debate or defend.

Through their multi-decade commitment to shrinking government down so small that it can “drown in a bathtub,” to use the words of Grover Norquist, what was once a reasonably coherent pro-business conservative party has arrived at its logical endpoint — a fascist power grab under the guise of an incoherent personality cult.

The late Stanley Crouch warned Republicans of their trouble in the late 1990s, explaining to Charlie Rose that you “cannot assemble a group of lunatics” to follow you without eventually following them into lunacy.

Reminds me of the lyric from the song, “Bring in the clowns.”

Don’t bother–they’re here.

 

 

Education Versus Indoctrination

The title of this post could just as accurately be “racists versus non-racists.” With his recent announcement of an upcoming Executive Order requiring the nation’s schools to teach “patriotic” history, Trump has abandoned any effort to veil his message or obscure his target audience.

The federal government has no authority over school curricula, but that’s irrelevant; the point of this announcement was to reassure his base that the administration and the Republican Party will continue to support white supremacy. Calling accurate history “leftwing indoctrination” leaves no room for misunderstanding. ( Talk about “whitewashing” history!”) 

According to the Guardian, 

Speaking at a conference in Washington DC on Thursday, the president announced a new national commission to promote “patriotic education” and counter the “decades of leftwing indoctrination” to which he claims US schoolchildren have been subjected. “Our youth will be taught to love America,” he said.

Trump once again attacked the New York Times’s Pulitzer prize-winning 1619 Project; that project– which marked the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship arriving in America–was a meticulously-researched history of slavery and its aftermath. 

As Kevin Kruse tweeted: “History that exalts a nation’s strengths without ever examining its shortcomings, that prefers feeling good rather than thinking hard, that seeks simplistic celebration over full understanding–well, that’s not history, it’s propaganda.” 

As Bill Barr (aka crazy corrupt person) recently noted, history is written by the victors. That’s true, even though Barr said it. What he didn’t say–and clearly doesn’t understand–is that to the extent that history is whitewashed, airbrushed and inaccurate, it is an impediment to future progress. Just as fake science interferes with efforts to understand the world around us, fake history impedes efforts to understand the society in which we live.

But of course, this isn’t really about history curricula. This is meant to reassure his racist cult. You need only read what he said. This is from NBC:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump accused schools of teaching students “hateful lies about this country” and said he would be taking steps to “restore patriotic education” as he continued his opposition to efforts to raise awareness about racial inequalities.

Speaking at what the White House described as a “conference on American history,” Trump said that he plans to sign an executive order soon to create a “national commission to support patriotic education” called the 1776 Commission and that he is directing funding to create a patriotic curriculum for schools.

“Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their souls,” Trump said. The White House declined to say when Trump would sign the executive order.

Trump also repeated his allegation that teaching America’s history of race was “toxic propaganda” and “a form of child abuse in the truest sense of those words.” (I’m sure David Duke agrees.)

This announcement about a proposed Executive Order came on the heels of news that the Office of Management and Budget had prohibited departments from using federal funds for diversity training, and a previous threat from Trump to cut off funding for schools that teach the 1619 Project.

As one pundit noted, “Patriotic Education” is a term and an approach most widely associated with China, North Korea and more recently Hungary, where Trump buddy Viktor Orban supports rehabilitating “cohorts of a mid-20th century leader who also happened to be a brutal Nazi conspirator.” “  

Not that long ago, when the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia removed millions of educated people from cities and moved them to the countryside under the guise of providing them with patriotic “re-education”, and then killed them and buried them in mass graves, now better known as “The Killing Fields”. 

For that matter, patriotism can’t be taught. Patriotism is a form of love, and love can be reciprocated, it can be portrayed and discussed, but it cannot be forced. Ironically, it is more likely to accompany an accurate portrayal of America’s history.( I still recall stories during the Korean War attributing North Korean success in breaking the will of captured American soldiers by showing them evidence of American behaviors inconsistent with what they’d been taught. They no longer knew what to believe.) 

It is no longer possible to avoid recognizing what’s at stake on November 3d. It is no longer possible to pretend that a vote for Trump is anything other than a vote for white nationalism– and a vote against the America we do love.

 

The Explanation

I  no  longer know where  I found  this quote–I neglected to record its origin. It  may have been from  a private exchange, but if not, and if any of you reading this can point me to the source, I’d appreciate  it.

The thing  is, it really explains a  lot:

I looked at the hundreds of people at Trump’s rally tonight, unmasked and older, and almost all so very white, and saw a group of people so afraid of the future they are willing to say yes, willing to throw in their lot with a malignant narcissist because he tells them they can recover a world in which they felt more relevant, a world they control.

A reactionary group of older white men look at a global future in which questions of clean energy, climate change, economic fairness, and human equality are uppermost, and their reaction is to cling to a world they control.

I’ve recently read several commentaries pooh-poohing what their authors  regard as  “over the top” descriptions  of what’s  at stake on  November 3d. I don’t know what reality those authors inhabit, or what histories have informed their opinions, but I firmly believe that anyone who doesn’t see this election as an existential choice is either willfully blind or disastrously uninformed.

Every single day, credible media report on new actions taken by this administration that intentionally undermine the common good. Environmental protections have been eliminated, public schools undermined, the rule of law decimated. Trump’s tweets and rhetoric continually set Americans against each other. Agencies charged with the health and well-being of the population have been subverted, and people have died  unnecessarily as a  result. A lot of people.

In place of the  accountability and communication Americans have a right to expect, we are   inundated daily with lies, manipulated videos, altered quotations–constant disinformation and propaganda.

If Trump was simply incompetent, that would be troubling but not existential. If  he  was simply corrupt, that would  be concerning, but  also not existential. But he and the supine GOP have gone  much further than mere incompetence and corruption.

Traditional aspirations–think “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” have been turned upside-down in favor of an increasingly explicit white nationalism. In the place of  a platform and policies, Trump and the GOP  that is now his reflection simply promote fear–fear of the “other,”  fear of losing white Christian male dominance, fear of social change. In place of efforts to bring us together, they continue to sow discord and encourage political tribalism. 

In the last  few days, Trump has increased  his encouragement of violence and mayhem,  presumably believing  that increased unrest will cause voters to rally to  his  “law and  order”  candidacy.

What keeps me up at night is the possibility that my life-long belief  in the essential goodness  of most Americans–not all,  but most–has been misplaced. What if there  are many more white guys afraid of a future they have to share with women and dark people than I ever thought?

I follow Nate Silvers’ FiveThirtyEight.com, and have  trouble wrapping my head around the polling that shows a steady 40% approval  of the childish buffoon who has commandeered our government. I look at scholarly research showing that “racial  anxiety”–i.e., racism–is the single most  reliable  predictor of support for Trump and his GOP. I see  comments on Facebook  by presumably reasonable people endorsing  bizarre conspiracy theories and patently obvious untruths.

And I’m terrified. When I wake up on November 4th, I want to breathe a  sigh of relief because the people I believed in have gone to  the polls and put an end to our four-year American nightmare.

What  if I’ve been wrong all these years? What if  it can  happen  here?