Wednesday, May 31, 2017

For Trump supporters, "patriotism" and racism are inseparable

Back in the old days of television, comedian Red Skelton was a self-promoting “patriot” who lectured television audiences about, well, “patriotism,” and such things as the meaning of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” But his “patriotism” could be of a singularly avaricious nature; for example, he opined against the act of charity, because giving to the less well-off means “taking” from you, and what is yours is not yours to give away. In effect you are “stealing” from yourself. The irony of his “Freddie the Freeloader” character is that if he didn’t rely on the “charity” of others, then how exactly did he live? But we shouldn’t be too surprised by this insular ideology; Skelton claimed as a “dear friend” John Wayne, who revealed an ugly strain of racism in an infamous Playboy interview. The reputation of these two “icons” of the entertainment world have remained untouched by such views, but then again they were not politicians and never ran for public office.

For some people, “patriotism” and racism has always been synonymous concepts. We saw this today in a Portland courtroom, where a white supremacist charged with killing two men shouted that he was a “patriot” and not a terrorist, but this has been a part of the American fabric practically since the creation of this country. Outside the South, where racists draped themselves in the flag, most avoid overt displays of racial rhetoric, some because they were at heart “moral” persons, but mainly because they were concerned about how they would viewed by history. After all, who wanted to share a seat in the history books with Adolf Hitler, who also styled himself as the ultimate “patriot” of his country?

But the line between “patriotism” and “racism” began to blur as the Republican “Southern Strategy” initiated in the late 1960s adopted the “white identity” movement within that party, although usually in racial “code” words that offered a degree of “deniability” when confronted, However, what was once said privately behind closed doors is now an “accepted” part of the public discourse, thanks to Donald Trump. Never in the history of this country has a major party candidate openly embraced the violence and hatred of the so-called “alt-right,” or so white supremacists and neo-Nazis prefer to fashion themselves as. Never in this country’s history has the “white identity” movement been given a reason to vote for a candidate who “speaks” their “language”—and has been so loath to denounce their terrorist ideology and activities.

Naturally, “mainstream” Republicans, as if they exist outside the likes of John McCain, are only too happy to use the support of domestic terrorists without actually embracing them publicly. Look how slowly it took for Trump to respond to former CBS anchor Dan Rathers call for him to make a statement on the recent killings by a neo-Nazi on a Portland commuter train.  According to police, Jeremy Christian was “yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” but directed at two apparently Muslim female passengers. Onlookers tried to stop Christian, who pulled out a knife and stabbed three men, Ricky Best, Taliesin Meche and Micah Fletcher; Best and Meche died of their wounds. 

What did the tweet-mad Trump have to say about the incident? He intended to say nothing. He was too busy praising Greg Gianforte, a Republican businessman who won a House seat in a Montana special election despite the fact he went bestial on a British reporter for the UK The Guardian, for the “offense” of simply asking a question. Gianforte was apparently disturbed by the fact the Guardian had the gall to do what no one in the American media—even the so-called “liberal” MSNBC—would do, and that was to demand that he answer questions about his policy “positions.” Once more, Trump justified and even praised the violence of supporters, as he repeatedly did during the past presidential campaign.
The day after the killings in Portland, “centrist” CNN and “progressive” MSNBC had already moved on from the story, the former back to debating Trump’s Russian connections, the latter still bemoaning Hillary Clinton’s loss (one female commentator insisting that Clinton lost Wisconsin because of “voter suppression,” as if laziness  wasn’t the greater factor). The old school Rather was having none of this breach of duty to the public, writing on his Facebook page of the victims:

One was a recent college graduate. The other was an army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you (Trump) say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist.”

This story may not neatly fit into a narrative you pushed on the campaign trail and that has followed you into the White House. They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or a ‘radical Islamic terrorist.’ They were killed in an act of civic love, facing down a man allegedly spewing hate speech directed at two young Muslim women. That man seems to have a public record of ‘extremist ideology’ – a term issued by the Portland Police Bureau.

This ‘extremism’ may be of a different type than gets most of your attention, or even the attention in the press. But that doesn’t make it any less serious, or deadly. And this kind of ‘extremism’ is on the rise, especially in the wake of your political ascendency.

Trump was clearly annoyed by the attention that Rathers’ missive generated; instead of posting his belated “condolences” to the victims of the hate he has fostered on his personal tweet-monster page with its millions of readers, he hid it on his less traveled POTUS page (without naming the victims, as Rather suggested). Portland mayor Ted Wheeler brushed-off Trump’s response, pointing out that “violent words can lead to violent acts.” We of course recall the many acts of violence perpetrated by Trump supporters on lone protestors at his campaign rallies which he found ways to “justify.” Obviously taking his cue from Trump’s attitude toward hate and violence that served his “interests,” local Republican county chair James Buchal took the opportunity to pour gasoline on the flames, asserting that he would consider “employing” such white supremacists as “security” at Republican-sponsored public events. So this what this country has come to? 

Yes, I too was disgusted by the photo of comedian Kathy Griffin holding up a depiction of a bloody, decapitated head of Trump; but why is this more “disgusting” than the scene of the Portland butcher in court, who is apparently otherwise a vagrant with no income or home and in need of scapegoats like so many haters are, shouting racist epithets and that anyone who thinks he is a terrorist rather than a “patriot” should die? Trump has said nothing about this, but he did of course tweet that the Griffin photo was “typical” of “liberals.” Such is how “freedom of speech” and actual racially-inspired murder by those emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric of hate has become a matter of “relativity.”
Recently The Nation exposed the sordid truth about what this country has become. In the past, the “mainstream” media ignored the reality that the “Tea Party” movement was first and foremost a “white identity” movement like so many that had come before it, only called different names (dating at least from the nativist and xenophobic “American” or Know-Nothing Party from the mid-19th century). Today, the media continues to ignore the racist impetus of Trump’s support, continuing to insist that perceived “economic distress” is the core concern of his support. 

But The Nation’s analysis of polling on economic and racial attitudes blew this hypocrisy up. While the media (because it doesn’t want to alienate right-wing viewers?) explains away right-wing racial animosity (particularly in regard to “Mexican” immigrants) on “economic” fears and anxiety, this is plain head in the sand stuff. Those identifying themselves as either Democrat or Republican both expressed similar economic “fears” and “anxieties”—except that they typically placed the blame in entirely opposite directions. The only conclusions that could be inferred from data was clear to anyone who valued truth above all else:

Our analysis shows Trump accelerated a realignment in the electorate around racism, across several different measures of racial animus—and that it helped him win. By contrast, we found little evidence to suggest individual economic distress benefited Trump. The American political system is sorting so that racial progressivism and economic progressivism are aligned in the Democratic Party and racial conservatism and economic conservatism are aligned in the Republican Party. 

The media and some populist “progressives” have belatedly blamed Clinton’s defeat on her failure to sufficiently speak to white working class voters (as she did in the 2008 primaries, using racial code against Barack Obama). Yet

Although the plight of economically insecure white people has been placed at the center of much of the analysis of the election, our analysis indicates that black and Latino respondents tend to express significantly higher levels of economic peril compared to whites or Asians, who as a group, express below average levels of economic peril. 

The last Democrat to win the white vote was LBJ in 1964, and it is clear that his civil rights and “Great Society” programs caused the party significant damage among Southern voters, who gradually switched their allegiance from the Democratic to the Republican Party, a move that helped Richard Nixon narrowly win election in 1968. It is clear what the “wild card” in this change was, yet the “mainstream” media continues to deny its existence. The Nation further asserts that

Although Republicans and Democrats do not, on average, express different levels of economic anxiety, there are clear differences between Republicans and Democrats on the measures of racial attitudes towards African-Americans and the measure of pro-immigration attitudes. Democrats express dramatically lower anti-black attitudes on both scales compared to Republicans or Independents. On the black influence animosity scale the divide between Democrats and Republicans is even greater than on the racial resentment scale…Both racial resentment and black influence animosity are significant predictors of Trump support among white respondents, independent of partisanship, ideology, education levels, and the other factors included in the model. 

But it is immigration—and anti-Hispanic in particular—that is even more a predictor of racial animus:

The effect of immigration attitudes for white people is even stronger than anti-black attitudes. The results predict an approximately 80 percent probability of voting for Trump for an otherwise average white person with the most anti-immigrant attitudes, compared to less than 20 percent for a white person with the most pro-immigrant attitudes. 

It comes to no surprise, then, that The Nation found that anti-black and anti-Hispanic racial attitudes the most significant indicator of party affiliation:

To put these results in context, the magnitude of the effects of each of the three variables—racial resentment, black influence animosity, and immigration attitudes—is comparable to the effect of partisan identification. The change in probability of a Trump vote for a white person with the highest to the lowest levels of racial animus is similar to changing their party identification from Republican to Democratic. 

The irony is that this resentment is directed at the people with little or no power. Many white people have this bizarre fantasy that being a minority is somehow this magical thing that is endowed with some special power that whites have no access to and is “unfair” to them. But the reality is that for most minorities (blacks and Hispanics especially), there is little that is theirs save what white people allow them, since all the power is in fact in the hands of whites, or at least in the hands of the white political and economic elite.  In the election of Trump, whites have demonstrated the full and vengeful extent of their power. Will anything actually change in their lives now? No, but for white voters for whom hate consumes all sense of reality, the fact that more undocumented immigrants were deported at a faster rate during the Obama administration than thus far during the Trump administration  and still people think that Trump is more “credible” on the issue reveals just how important the very mainstreaming of hate is.

But why should white people—or any non-whites who are enamored by Trump’s racist rhetoric as long as it is aimed against other groups—care? After all, he gives them all the excuses they need to rationalize their bigotry—Trump has a long history of denigrating the work ethic of blacks, and of course Hispanics are all criminals and rapists—and the White People’s Party is there to serve the “interests” of who else? But white voters with any intelligence know that they have more important things to consider rather than simply be consumed with hate for people without power, such as the growing wealth gap between people like Trump and everyone else; the maintenance of civil society, not by more “law and order” but through the support of so-called “entitlement” programs for the poor and working people, made more essential than ever by the increasing disparity in wealth by those who actual decide how that wealth is distributed; the environmental catastrophes that even the Prince Prosperos of the world will be forced one day to reckon with, notwithstanding the James Watts of the world who believe that environmental protection is needless because the “end of the world” is coming soon anyways; and the undoing of hard-fought health care reform that will beget a human disaster that will be only temporarily stayed if Trump and the Republicans get their evil way. 

Unfortunately, as a report by the Guardian on the Montana election that sent a man to Congress despite being charged with assaulting a reporter merely for asking a question of vital interest to this country, many white supporters of the Trump agenda have no clue about the ramifications of their denial of reality, and some are unable to articulate beyond simple prejudice; as one frustrated long-time resident said, they are voting for one thing: A “white man’s country,” and what that means is not something even the white man or woman can count on.