Trump May Be a White Nationalist, but American Racism Is Bipartisan
The wealthy, white, establishment-Democrat Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, had no choice but to outwardly defend the House’s four leftish first-term women of color against the nation’s white nationalist president. Donald Trump had just used his Twitter account to launch a vicious nativist assault on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. On the same day his administration had marked for a major round-up of undocumented immigrants, Boss Tweet weighed in on “the Squad’s” recent conflict with Pelosi over border security legislation:
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe … now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came? Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
This was worse than the usual eye-rolling filth out of the president’s Twitter feed. It was the malicious rant of a frothing white nationalist.
As liberals pointed out, with the exception of Omar, all the congresswomen were born and raised in the United States; Omar has lived here since age 10. Trump’s wife, Melania, who was born and raised in Slovenia, didn’t make it to the U.S. until her 26th year.
But the congresswomen’s lands of origin and naturalization were beside the point. For Trump and his supporters, the key facts are that, unlike Melania Trump, they aren’t white and are speaking up against racist, sexist and capitalist oppression in the United States. In the white nationalist worldview, the United States is a white country and citizenship here is a racial, not a civil, matter. People of nonwhite identity and ancestry are viewed as inherently broken and inadequate, incapable of civilized self-governance. If they want to be tolerated and taken seriously in “our country,” they need to play by rich and powerful white males’ rules and know their place. Those who get uppity need to “go back where they came from.” It’s a very old racist and nativist trope.
Never mind that North America’s original inhabitants were brown-skinned people who were almost completely wiped out by European invaders between 1500 and 1900. Or that the genocidal white (un-)settlers—those Native American writer and activist Ward Churchill understandably labeled simply as “Predator”—brought black slaves in chains from Africa—people who never chose to come here in the first place.
American leftists will recognize the notion that people who criticize social and political arrangements and oppressive policies in this country should leave the country, as in “go to Russia,” or Cuba, “if you don’t like it here.” For good measure on that score, Trump’s Senate pet and golf buddy Lindsey Graham joined many of his Republican colleagues in defending Trump’s racist tweets and then added his neo-John Bircher opinion that Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are “a bunch of communists.”
Pelosi was right to call Trump’s tirade “xenophobic” and, more importantly, to say something many of us have been saying since 2015: Trump’s slogan, “make America great again,” really means “make America white again.”
Of course, nobody who has followed Trump’s record over the years should have been surprised at the virulence of his outburst. His history as a vicious racist is well-documented, from his days as a discriminatory landlord through his opening campaign attacks on Mexicans as “rapists,” his embrace of the claim that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S., his vile mockery of Asians, his claim that a distinguished U.S.-born judge of Mexican ancestry could not be fair to him because of his ethnicity, his references to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocohantas,” his Muslim immigration ban, his reference to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries,” his defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people,” and his call for the execution of the falsely accused Central Park Five (whose exoneration he has disputed despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence). John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Hotel and Casino, recently told The New York Times that Trump “has always been a racist,” adding that “anyone around him who denies it is lying.” White people, O’Donnell notes. “are Americans to Trump; everyone else is from somewhere else.”
At the same time, nobody who has paid attention to Trump’s Amerikaner base and his takeover of the Republican Party should be surprised that very few Republicans inside and outside of government have responded to his revolting harangue with the disgust it deserves. As Times columnist Charles Blow noted Monday: “We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens—possibly a third of them—reveal to us their open animus for [nonwhites] through their continued support of him.”
It may have been politically foolish for her to say it during her dismal and disastrous 2016 campaign, but Hillary Clinton was not wrong to call that third of the U.S. citizenry “deplorable.” Trump’s heartland base is a proto-fascistic cohort that poses grave threats to what’s left of democracy and decency in the U.S. today.
That said, what about the Democrats, the party Blow and his fellow Times and MSNBC liberals would have us support in 2020? It is worth recalling that many of the brown-skinned migrants and asylum-seekers currently penned up in Trump’s deadly concentration camps hail from Honduras, a Central American nation whose misery was deepened when the “liberal” Democratic president Barack Obama and Clinton, his secretary of state, aided and abetted a right-wing coup that removed Manuel Zelaya, the nation’s democratically elected, left-populist president, from power 10 years ago.
It is good that Pelosi and others atop her party had the elementary decency to uphold American civic nationalism in calling out the president and his party as racists. It’s good that Pelosi agreed to lead an unusual House vote condemning Trump for his racist comments. Still, the cold fact remains that Pelosi recently told the four assertive and proudly progressive first-term congresswomen of color to, essentially, keep their social media mouths shut after they had the greater decency to publicly oppose other House Democrats’ depressing, Pelosi-led vote to give Trump $450 billion for “border security,” even though the bill granting the White House the money contained no serious protections or high standards of care for detained migrants, including children in for-profit concentration camps—and despite the absence of any real way of stopping the Trump administration from diverting money marked for humanitarian aid to immigration enforcement.
The eloquent Omar found herself in Pelosi’s sights (not for the first time) after going on MSNBC, the Democrats’ cable news network, to tell some harsh truths about Pelosi’s deeply conservative party after the terrible vote:
“My colleagues decided that they were going to co-sign on this horrendous, cruel process that this administration has engaged in without really speaking on the kind of values that we have. … We said send [Democrats] into the majority so we can be a check and balance to the cruelty of this administration. Now that we are in the majority we are too busy appeasing this administration. …We have people in power who have forgotten the purpose and reason they were given that privilege. I am always surprised every time we are having a discussion in regard to policy how people will talk about the political reality and they don’t talk about the human reality of the policies that we are passing. We take an oath truly, to care for the American people and to make sure we are furthering policies that are in line with our values, and we often fall short. And I think with the Democratic Party we’re oftentimes so busy trying to appease everyone we end up appeasing no one.”
“Appeasement” was a widely used term to describe how much of the Western bourgeois establishment responded to the rise of the Nazi Third Reich in the 1930s. It is an appropriate description of how the Democratic Party—the organization that political theorist Sheldon Wolin aptly termed the “inauthentic opposition”—has responded to the pre-fascist Trump administration on numerous issues, from border security to the Pentagon budget, the surveillance state, the economic torture and demonization of Venezuela and Iran, the coddling of racist Israel and impeachment (or rather, the failure to undertake impeachment proceedings on any number of issues, including obstruction of justice, violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, the abrogation of international human rights laws, the destruction of environmental protections and more). It has spent most of the last two and a half years going after Trump on the dubious and absurdly complicated charge of Russian collusion, rather than attacking his most egregious sins, including his vicious racism, nativism, sexism, classism, corruption and, last but not at all least, ecocidalism.
Now we see the Democratic Party establishment working with corporate funders and media to marginalize the candidate with the best chance of rallying the demobilized constituencies who need to be activated in order to defeat Trump in 2020. That candidate is Bernie Sanders, a sincerely and seriously antiracist (take it from author and activist Cornel West) democratic socialist who is unacceptable to the inauthentic opposition’s bankrollers, operatives, pundits and talking heads because he—alone among the party’s absurdly large candidate roster—is running in sincere, non-faked accord with the majority progressive, social-democratic public opinion.
Don’t like racial oppression? The establishment Democrats’ top contender to stop Sanders (the open aim of the party’s elite) is Joe Biden, a faltering and befuddled corporatist and imperialist who boasts of past legislative alliances with segregationist senators who “never called me [Biden] ‘boy’ ” (maybe because Biden is white?) and stood atop fascist Southern Jim Crow terror regimes.
The next Wall Street darling being promoted, in case Biden proves inadequate, is the fake-progressive Kamala Harris, a longtime prosecutor who went to the corporate Chicago Ideas conference six years ago to openly and viciously mock those who think the nation should pour less money into mass incarceration and more into education when it comes to dealing with poor people of color.
Next in line in “the Wall Street primary” is Pete Butiggieg of Indiana, a silver-tongued, Ivy League- and Oxford-vetted neoliberal mayor, a former military intelligence officer who worked for years for the corporate-globalist firm McKinsey & Co., which has been aptly described by one its former operatives as “the world’s most sinister and amoral management consulting company.” Buttigieg has spent years antagonizing South Bend’s extremely impoverished black community by advancing gentrification and backing a racist police department with an ongoing history of using excessive and deadly force against people of color. Butiggieg’s milquetoast Douglass Plan, offensively named after the great black civil rights and social justice champion, Frederick Douglass, is a tepid, technocratic scheme that promises to expand black entrepreneurship and minority business ownership while minimally reforming credit-scoring and lending practices in race-neutral ways.
The Republican Party is a horrific white nationalist, creeping fascist outfit at this point, but despite its rhetoric and appearance of diversity, the Democratic Party is heavily complicit in the nation’s deeply entrenched structural and institutional racism. Anyone who thinks that the not-so-leftmost of the two major parties offers any kind of meaningful solution to American racism is living in a dream world.
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