The New York Times recently ran a front-page story illustrating the stark similarities in the language Fox News commentators and right-wing radio personalities routinely use to describe migrants from south of the border and the El Paso shooter’s screed he posted on 8chan shortly before murdering 22 people at a Wal-Mart where he targeted Mexicans and people of Mexican decent.
It’s not surprising the right-wing hyperventilating about an “invasion” from Mexico would inspire some aggrieved white young men to take matters into their own hands. It’s not only internet chat rooms that amplify white supremacist ideology, the president, right-wing “news” outlets, and the dominant mouthpieces of the Republican Party legitimize it too.
The current president chooses to use the “bully pulpit” either for barking at the press over the whir of a helicopter or for hate-filled Tweet storms that sound like they were written by a spoiled seven-year-old.
Any time of day or night just tap “refresh” on your phone and witness the latest Republican atrocity in real time as the administration attempts to dismantle multicultural America and replace it with a weird kind of white ethno-nationalism we haven’t seen in this country since the Jim Crow South.
One of the more cynical party lines currently circulating is the one Tucker “Swanson Dinner” Carlson and others are pushing that the whole immigration issue is a Democratic plot to “replace” white voters with new citizens
Tucker got some pushback for recently calling white supremacy “a hoax” and lost a few sponsors as a result. He’s now sunning himself in the south of France for a couple of weeks, but he’ll be back on air (probably in time to blame the next mass shooting on Bernie Sanders).
The corporate puppets that now run the E.P.A., the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Agriculture are fulfilling Steve Bannon’s wet dream: “deconstructing the administrative state.”
Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, was giddy recently at a Republican confab where he boasted about how half the scientists at the F.D.A. and the Department of Agriculture are quitting because the administration abruptly moved their workplace headquarters out of Washington, D.C. to the midlands.
The Trump Administration’s sociopathic disregard for the future of planet Earth, and even for the future of the American people, is the creepiest aspect of the dystopian moment we now find ourselves.
The predictable outcome of the administration’s reckless deregulation of extractive industries and Big Agribusiness, the gutting of entire federal departments, and the de factofiring of teams of scientists means that soon enough chemical plants are going to start blowing up, oil rigs will begin to spill, food will have to be recalled after people are poisoned, endangered species will go extinct bringing entire habitats with them, and we’ll be drinking dirtier water and breathing more polluted air. The climate crisis will be more severe because the government has been consciously pulled back from taking any actions to prepare for the emergency, which Republicans call a “hoax.”
The Trump Administration is filled with human sociopaths just like the corporate sociopaths they so slavishly serve. It never ends well when a country elevates leaders who unleash and legitimize “white power” for political gain and then use that power to turn white supremacy into government policy. The fusion of state and corporate power is the definition of fascism. These rich white men view the planet with such contempt and have so blurred the lines between truth and falsehood they’re capable of anything – including nuclear war.
The slow-moving right-wing coup that began following the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen United ruling in 2010, (which de facto legalized bribery and political corruption) has already born its bitter fruit. Every election cycle since Citizens United has broken all previous records for campaign spending, and the vast majority of the cash isn’t even publicly disclosed.
And the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” has been so expertly and methodically applied to our politics over the past forty years it has become nationalized.
Until and unless the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) suffers a clear political repudiation that once and for all strips him of power, we’ll have little chance of taking an off ramp from the disastrous course we are now on.
Southern Strategy on Steroids
Why did our political discourse vomit up these gangsters and place them in the highest echelons of power?
The rise of these jackals was not because of feelings of “economic anxiety” by “white working class” voters. But in 2016, there were just enough aggrieved white people to give Trump an electoral college victory.
For eight years they watched in horror while an African-American family resided in the White House. They see race relations as a zero-sum game. Any advance people of color, women, or gays make is seen as taking something away from them, which is a lie Fox News and right-wing talk radio has fanned for decades, and now the White-Supremacist-in-Chief is fueling and amplifying it. We’re seeing the power of the “bully pulpit” to infuse the body politic with divisiveness and hatred. It’s Trump’s whole reelection strategy.
The Republican president’s overt racism (and the willingness of the Republican leadership to go along with it) is the logical result of forty years of race-baiting and dog whistling to divide voters along racial lines.
Saint Reagan spoke of “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” using food stamps “to buy T-bone steaks.”
George Herbert Walker Bush, another Republican president canonized since his death, ran some of the most viciously racist political ads in American history up to that time. “We’re gonna make Willie Horton Dukakis’s running mate,” bragged Bush’s legendary campaign manager, Lee Atwater. The “Willie Horton” ads the 1988 Bush-Quayle campaign aired played on the old Jim Crow black rapist trope that was the justification for countless lynchings.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton beat up on the hip-hop artist Sista Souljah just to score points with racist whites by showing them he wasn’t beholden to black voters.
In the 2000 Republican primaries, George W. Bush’s campaign conducted push-polls in South Carolina targeting white voters that informed them that his rival, John McCain, had a “black baby” (the McCain family adopted a daughter from Bangladesh).
Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign was a clinic in homophobia running blistering ads attacking gay and lesbian rights and smearing the Democrats who supported them as being anti-god.
In 2009, the Koch Brothers’ front group, “Americans for Prosperity,” funded the “tea party,” which was little more than a vehicle for racists to vent their contempt for the first African-American president even while Obama was trying his level best to bring relief to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Every minute of every day during Obama’s two terms Republican racists and extremists attacked him for no reason other than the fact he is black. They even opposed some of their own policies simply because Obama supported them. A white South Carolina Republican, Joe Wilson, couldn’t control himself from yelling “You Lie!” at the president in the middle of his first State of the Union address (and he became a hero among the racists for it).
They kept alive the ‘birther” lie that Obama wasn’t born in the United States even after he released all of his birth certificates. Trump built his political career on this racist lie. They created and circulated all manner of racist memes that ridiculed not only the president, but First Lady Michelle Obama too, often using the vilest racist stereotypes.
But what the Orange Monster has done today is to take the racism intrinsic to the Republican “Southern Strategy” and turn the volume up to eleven. Trump and his Republican enablers justify, normalize, reward, and encourage white supremacy. He welcomes white nationalists, neo-Nazis, incel misogynists, and Ku Klux Klanners into his fold.
Loud and Proud
As a result, the racists and Nazis and white supremacists have crawled out of the woodwork and found a cozy home inside the Republican Party. They’re loud and proud. They don’t bother to wear masks anymore and even have their own Brown Shirt wannabes: the “Proud Boys.”
The President of the United States has successfully recruited a new generation of white supremacists from the teeming ranks of dullards, mediocrities, and failures who always want to blame their problems, not on the corporate oligarchy that has its boot on their necks, but on black and brown and Muslim people who often don’t even live near their communities. Why is it that the loudest yelps against minorities come from people who live in lily-white rural towns?
It’s a lot easier for young white men who text semiliterate racist “manifestos” from their mom’s basement to think their own shortcomings do not belong to them but have somehow been foisted up them by “others”: young women who sensibly don’t want to have anything to do with them (which sparked the “incel” rebellion); black people, who they perceive as making serious gains in the popular culture; Mexicans and immigrants who they believe have “stolen” their jerbs (even though none of these shmucks would spend one minute in the sweltering sun picking fruits and vegetables or processing the meat they think magically appears wrapped in cellophane in their local supermarket). And they also blame Muslims for their plight simply because they don’t know anything about world religions and are too unmotivated to learn.
Racism is fundamentally a stupid ideology and racists are generally stupid people (even the erudite sounding ones like Charles Murray, Tucker Carlson, or Steve Bannon).
We already know Trump’s a racist. Every competent person who has worked with him says he’s stupid. The most common description we’ve heard from people like Rex Tillerson or Gary Cohn is that he’s a “moron” (or a “fucking moron”). Even “the Mooch” now says Trump’s “crazy.”
The cliché is that as long as you do not allow them to create hatred in your own heart they haven’t won; and conversely, once you begin to hate them back that’s when they win. They feed off hatred and by hating them back you’re feeding the trolls. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the master of loving his enemies. And the guru and Democratic presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson, understands as King did that only love can conquer hate.
But “loving” these rich white Republican men is extremely hard when they’re systematically destroying the world’s oldest functioning democracy before your eyes and therefore they deserve to be despised. Therein lies the quandary.
The Republicans have already succeeded in getting a large segment of the white working class hating on the wrong people, which enables their plutocratic agenda to move forward.
Cass Sunstein famously writes about “nudges” and how these can be used to move people to make choices that are more beneficial to society and themselves than otherwise. What the orange fascists and Republicans have done in recent years is not a “nudge,” but a full-fledged “shove” in pushing people to accept a new discourse around poverty and race that encourages hatred and division. Trump’s entire 2020 strategy depends on it.
Fox, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart and OAN “News” have already succeeded in mainstreaming white supremacy in our political discourse. We blandly accept a ghoul like Stephen Miller sitting at the elbow of the King moving the government incrementally toward a Final Solution to the immigrant problem.
What began as hateful speech directed primarily at Mexican immigrants has morphed into torturing families at the border by stripping parents from children and holding them in private prisons where all the incentives are upside down.
The cruelty at the border serves three purposes: 1). It allows the racists to act out their fantasies against innocent brown people they’ve long ago deemed an enemy; 2). The racists believe such inhumane treatment will “deter” people, even those fleeing for their lives, from coming to the United States; and 3). It makes a shitload of money for Republican-run and operated private prisons that already have a clear “revolving door” with former administration figures, such as former Homeland Security Secretary and White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who joined the board of directors of Caliburn International, one of the private prison companies profiting from the immigrant incarceration policy. Ka-ching!
This massive “shove” is in exactly the wrong direction we need to go as a country. But the Republicans are following an age-old authoritarian script that has destroyed democracies around the world. They’ve sewn as much chaos as possible to discombobulate their opponents and justify law enforcement crackdowns.
They spew so many lies it’s impossible to keep up with them or sort them out. They’ve set up an alternative reality with state propaganda television, radio, internet and social media where alternative facts, gas-lighting, deep state conspiracy theories, and actual “fake news” flourish. They’ve chipped away at what we used to think was “common decency” in vilifying the loyal opposition, name calling, childish taunts and rubber-and-glue non sequiturs.
They’ve gradually moved racism and bigotry into the mainstream discourse (“Send Her Back!” is only the latest example with many more to come as we head into 2020). They rig elections in Republicans’ favor through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and (if they can get away with it) outright vote rigging, as occurred in North Carolina’s 9th District. They encourage foreign governments to help them in their political project with money and support.
Like the authoritarian nationalist Viktor Orban in Hungary they’ve stacked the judiciary with unqualified far-right racist and misogynist judges at all levels of the federal bench (thank you Moscow Mitch!).
They violate all norms of civilized discourse in a democracy, and stonewall the legislative branch in its legitimate Constitutional Article I oversight powers, thereby undermining the core of our system of checks and balances. They’ve aggrandized as much power as they can get away with inside the Executive Branch.
They’ve “deconstructed the administrative state” by moving entire government departments out of Washington where there’s institutional memory out to the boondocks precipitating a mass exodus of career public servants.
They denounce Democratic Congress members as “traitors” and “enemies of the people,” and trash journalism, academia, and science in favor of a hyper-capitalist absurdist Kellyanne Conway psychedelic head-spinning agenda.
They throw caution to the wind regarding the ecological needs of planet earth and accelerate the global climate emergency. They pathologically show zero concern for the kind of planet they’re leaving their own children and grandchildren.
They tear up major international agreements (such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action); and threaten and bully any nation that defies U.S. power in any way. They have warmongers and zealots, like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo in their ranks, who are waging economic warfare against Iran and greatly increasing the odds of a huge military conflict that could possibly spark World War III.
They give huge tax cuts to their billionaire donors and corporations.
They privatize as much of the federal and state government institutions they can get away with, and personally profit from it by going through the revolving door.
They crap all over the U.S. Constitution by defying Congressional subpoenas and by suing the federal government to gum up the works in order to hide the unprecedented corruption and profiteering going on in the Trump White House all the while wrapping themselves in the American flag.
They’ve spent millions of tax dollars on expensive and frivolous golf trips while Trump personally profits from people who have business with the U.S. government staying in his hotels (as well as foreign nationals). Palms are being greased and we don’t even know who’s doing the greasing.
They genuflect to the N.R.A. while tens of thousands of innocent Americans die each year from gun violence.
They hold military parades and twist every event honoring the history of the United States into a jingoistic nationalist celebration of the Dear Leader.
They scapegoat minorities and mistreat people at the border, and they’ve given a seat at the table to the extremist “Council for National Policy” formed by shady billionaires to implement some kind of secret dystopian agenda.
In 2020, Trump’s Nuremberg rallies will become more and more violent and extreme. “Send Them Back!” will be to 2020 what “Lock Her Up!” was to 2016. Trump’s reelection strategy is simple: Divide and conquer the electorate by race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status and then ratfuck your Democratic opponent in every way possible by lying, cheating, and getting covert foreign help.
The goal of the Trump campaign will be to make whoever is the Democratic nominee, through baseless smears and withering ridicule, so toxic, so radioactive he can squeak out another electoral college victory even while losing the popular vote by more than he did in 2016. It’s going to be the nastiest, ugliest, most disgusting and democratic norm shattering election in U.S. history. Buckle up.
Just a bit of clarification is needed on this point:
“During the 1992 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton beat up on the hip-hop artist Sista Souljah just to score points with racist whites by showing them he wasn’t beholden to black voters.”
Just to remind folks, here’s what Sister Souljah said that merited the metaphorical beating up: “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Additionally, the “beating up” came as a result of Jesse Jackson’s having invited her to join his Rainbow Coalition and Clinton was using her comment (fairly or unfairly) in the midst of a political campaign. Sister Souljah claimed the comment was taken out of context but a transcription of the original Washington Post article shows that there was very little taken out of context *unless* she was doing a whole lot of devil’s advocacy without noting she was doing so.
Her rhetoric was NO better than the usual right-wing “pundits” who insist on equating mass shootings (usually) perpetrated by white men with all the gun violence on Chicago’s streets. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will take ANY situation in order to indulge in some good ol’ Clinton-bashing.
Thanks for reading my piece! But Bill Clinton did not have to bring Sista Soulja up at all into the middle of his campaign. He chose to do so for political reasons. At the time his campaign believed he was overly identified with black voters and they didn’t want to alienate whites (he only won with a 43 percent plurality in any case). Souljah’s word came shortly after an enormous riot in Los Angeles after a police brutality incident and reflected the sentiments of many, especially young, African Americans. Clinton cynically used his moralizing against Souljah in a way that mirrored the Republicans and neutralized the race issue for his campaign. Also, in the middle of the campaign, Clinton flew back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man, which showed that he was “tough” on crime (another Republican talking point). Rector was so mentally disabled on the day of his execution he put aside his dessert thinking that he’d be able to finish it later. Ian Haney Lopez, Dog Whistle Politics, (Oxford University Press, 2014) pp. 108-109.
When I was younger I would have maybe agreed with you on Soulja. But not long after we came to a period where young people starting picking up guns and murdering people in a non-stop progressions of increasingly horrific active shooter events…and my final years in the education system were spent looking up on roofs to see if I could see any rifles.
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t blame musicians. We need stronger gun laws. But at the same time, most of these mass shooters fuel their anger with hateful music, or social media, or whatever. So I think that public figures, especially those with a large, young audience, have a degree of responsibility to watch what they say. Because who knows what troubled kid is going to hear that and misread that anger to be advocating actual violence. Angry music? Fine. Say you want to spend a week murdering people because of their race? No way.
Soulja’s comments don’t age well. They are just so antithetical to the spirit of civil rights and Dr. King and the things that will heal our racial divides. And what’s worse…those aren’t the sort of comments that will likely motivate black crimes so much as they can be used by white supremacists to justify theirs. Consider what would have happened if one black kid had murdered a white family and Soulja albums were found in his room…in subsequent years dozens or hundreds of black kids would have been shot and killed on “stand your ground” claims. Every trigger happy cop would be watching out for the next black active shooter. I mean…thank god no one listened to her.
Too often we only criticize our political opponents, and refrain from calling out our allies. That’s what you suggest – “he didn’t have to bring her up.” But he did, because her words were an absolute moral wrong, and somebody needed to. To do it compassionately and intelligently showed leadership. She was taking us down a dangerous road, and before that spun out of control someone needed to speak to it.