Saturday, June 9, 2018

Not all Trump supporters are racist.

Yes, Trump dog-whistles racist things. Not everyone hears them or pays attention. People pick and choose. 

Some people are mostly just Republicans.  Simple as that.

There is an idea going around within liberal punditry that all Trump supporters are racists and that it is OK--maybe even mandatory--to call them out on their racism.  Example  After all, Trump is openly following the George Wallace playbook and therefore Trump supporters are either racist themselves, or tolerant of racism. Condoning it makes one a party to it.

Charlottesville: "Very fine people on both sides."
This is both factually wrong and politically foolish. Not all Trump supporters are racist and in any case people hate to be accused of racism, even when it is true, and especially when they think it untrue.

Everyone knows someone more racist than themselves, and those are the racists.

Trump is skilled at choosing his opponents and covering his tracks. He dog whistles. People who want to hear it, hear it. People who don't, don't. His least elegant cover-up was his opening remarks after coming down the escalator to announce his campaign, when he said Mexicans were criminals and rapists, "and some, I assume, are good people."  His tone was reluctant, as if he were forced to admit a rare exception, but even then he offered a fig leaf. 

People who want the fig leaf have it. He is against drugs and rape, and he assumes some 
Mexicans are not. See? Not racist.

Ali ex wife: Pardon someone who kneels instead.
The example represents the whole. Trump points to MS-13. He saves--then condemns--black shoplifters. He describes in detail murders by undocumented people from Mexico. He says NFL players are unpatriotic for taking a knee. There is an unmistakable pattern, a synecdoche, the bad example representing the whole. 

But then, the fig leaf. Praise for Kanye West, pardon for a long dead black prizefighter, Kim Kardashian's intervention on behalf of a black grandmother, talk of a pardon for Muhammad Ali, Ben Carson still in the Cabinet. 

See? He can't be racist, not like Woodrow Wilson or the KKK. 

People who aren't motivated by racist thinking--or who are offended by it--don't have to hear it and integrate the dog whistle. They can deny it is happening.

Racial anxiety and the displacement of whites, and especially white males, as the default "regular, normal American" is the centerpiece of the Southern Strategy as performed by Trump, but the culture war has multiple battlegrounds and liberals create lots of opportunities for Trump to exploit them. (And if they don't, Trump tweets a provocation and liberals respond.) A person can be uncomfortable with modern LGBTQ politics, and Trump picked a tender spot for a scrimmage: transgender soldiers. A person can be uncomfortable with campus political correctness, or abortion, or with Muslims, or with secularization, or with MeToo, or with bicycle lanes, or with multiple languages on ballots. 

It doesn't have to be race. 

There has been a great deal of social change in the past 50 years.  Watch the TV Show Mad Men to be reminded. The now-cancelled Rosanne show was a depiction of the resistance to that change. Liberals think they won by getting the show removed, but it was a net loss. Liberals lost a primary source book and text. 

A person can just be a Republican. The brand matters more than the policy.  Being a Republican is an affiliation, like being a Duck fan, a Red Sox fan, a Methodist, or a Texan. The policy implications of being a Republican--as relates to issues of economic power--changed enormously between Romney's message and Trump's, but the coalition of people stuck with their brand. The same people--big business, Wall Street, and anti-regulation libertarians--stayed in in the coalition and still push the levers of power in the Congress, so they passed a tax bill that represents traditional trickle down, not populism. Trump campaigned on a populist message, but never cared about it. He cared about winning, not policy. He got the win; K-Street got the policy.  Win-win.

Republicans stayed Republican, a mix of social conservatism and tax cuts. White racists have their party, but the party is much bigger than that. Voters pick and choose, hear what they like, and if nothing else they know what they don't like. Hillary. Hippies, if there are any. Lazy people getting food stamps. Harvard and Berkeley. Self righteous scolds. 

A strong economy. A great many Republicans will conclude that whatever stupid things Trump may have done with porn stars or tweets or Russians, he nevertheless must somehow be good for jobs and the economy and the stock market. 

It's the economy, stupid. Reason enough for Republicans to vote Republican.


  1. If you define racism as tolerance for racism, you get a different conclusion. There's racism, xenophobia, suspicion of the poor (especially people of color), and anti-intellectualism. Even if a follower exhibits none of those qualities overtly, his/her avid support of one who blatantly does qualifies as racism in my book.

    I agree that people do not see themselves as racists and hate being called that. So what do we do? Pretend we don't see it either?

  2. “Liberalism is white supremacy!”: Our Sophomoric Understanding of “Racism”

    Peter’s post “Not all Trump supporters are racists” shows how clueless we white liberals are about the radical evolution in application of the term “racism” in America.

    In all likelihood, almost every reader of this blog meets the new definitions of “white racist”. Why? Because we cling to the vestiges and tools of “white supremacy”, to wit, “white liberalism”, First Amendment “free speech”, and even the concepts of “intellectual objectivity” and “proper grammar”.

    How do I know this? I read articles in liberal media, and listen to liberal podcasts that describe avante garde teachings at American and European universities. See, The Economist, “Free speech at American universities is under threat”, (“liberalism is white supremacy”); The Claremont Independent (university paper), “Students Demand Administrators Take Action Against Conservative Journalists”, (“white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples”); Challenging White Supremacy (CWS workshop), “White Supremacy Culture-Dismantling Racism”, (cultural supremacy in literature and grammar); and The Hill, “Liberals Abandon Logic to Weaponize White Supremacy”,

    Does this avante garde dogma mean that you are a racist? I’m sorry to say it, but yes it does. You just don’t know it yet, in the same way that our parents did not know their patriotism for the Vietnam war in 1965 meant they were ethnic cleansers. University campuses, probably you included, passed that judgment on your friends’ parents from 1968-72, but exempted your own mom and dad from that verdict. Your parents’ patriotism annihilated over a million Vietnamese justified by little more than an intellectual construct of “anti-communism”, and an ideology of “the domino theory”. That construct and ideology were the exclusive creation of white Americans, and given bloody effect exclusively by white patriots like your parents. Your parents, in other words, were white supremacists, and hence, they were racists.

    Now, according to the university avante garde, it is our turn—your turn-- to wear the label of “white supremacist” and hence “racist”. The evidence is likely overwhelming against you: You hold free speech so dear that you contribute money to the ACLU that defends hate speech and the KKK—that is, you view the historically white privilege of free speech to be more important than the crippling effect it has on black children hearing the ACLU supported messages that belittle them. You sent your children to the “best” colleges they could get into, white bastions of liberal thought that extoll “intellectual objectivity”, an illusion that allows white thought to divorce itself from real world consequences and rejects minority thinking extolling subjectivity. Of course, you also overwhelmingly read white authors and make only the most anemic efforts to be influenced by people of color, other than Oprah, “The Color Purple”, and maybe you regaled your peers with how much you liked “Black Panther”.

    Why are white liberals so comfy or smug in labeling Trump supporters as racists or racist sympathizers? Because it’s easy, intellectually undemanding, and self-reverential. That self-righteousness is likely to be short lived, as a younger generation of university thought passes judgment on us, on you, as we did on our friends’ parents.


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