Trump barely talks about race, while his adversaries are obsessed with "whiteness" and "white privilege"
As New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet made clear last week, the Democratic strategy to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020 is to tar him with the brush of racism. Asked in early August whether Donald Trump is a "white supremacist" — i.e., one who believes rule by whites is the natural order of things — Elizabeth Warren replied, without hesitation, "Yes" and fellow Democratic hopefuls have responded similarly.
So far, the strategy of labeling Trump as a racist is paying off, with half of Americans, according to some polls, agreeing that Trump is a racist. (All matter of hilarity breaks out when college students are asked whether a certain "Trump statement," actually made by President Obama, is racist.)
As usual, those seeking to portray Trump as a racist have received assists from the president, who is often his own worst enemy. Just as Democrats had gathered in a circular firing squad — with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of singling out "women of color" for disrespect — Trump stepped in to distract attention from the internecine fight.
He tweeted that the same four first-term congresswomen, the Squad, who were attacking Pelosi, should "go back" to the "broken" countries from which they came and fix them before offering criticism of the United States.
Trump mentioned neither the race of the Squad members (two are black) nor their religion (two are Muslims). He focused almost entirely on their nonstop denunciations of America and of its support for Israel. His comment was but an updated form of the barb directed at white anti-war demonstrators in the late '60s and '70s: Love it or leave it. Still the tweet could not help rankle, inter alia, any Jew whose ancestors suffered taunts of "Zhid to Palestine." And it was characteristically factually challenged as well: Only one of the four is not native-born.
Next up in Trump's sights was an African-American congressman from Baltimore, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has repeatedly called for impeachment of the president. His district, the president opined, is a "disgusting, rat- and rodent-infested mess." Though not inaccurate with respect to parts of Cummings's district, wouldn't one would expect the president of the United States to be embarrassed if any part of the country he leads merits such a description? Had he wanted to, President Trump could have made the valid point that black inner-city residents have been poorly served by the Democratic monopoly in nearly every major city in America. Perhaps that's what he meant.
ACTUALLY, I don't think President Trump is a racist. He does not order the world in racial categories. In his world, there are only two categories of people — for me or against me. Race has nothing to do with it. As Heather Mac Donald pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, Trump barely talks about race, while his adversaries are obsessed with "whiteness" and "white privilege."
His appeal is not to racists — at least not primarily to racists — but rather to what I would term anti-anti-racists. Those are the Obama-Trump voters who put Trump in the White House.
Their ranks include all those tired of being lectured about their "white privilege," especially if they live in areas of widespread hopelessness, where all the manufacturing jobs have disappeared and a rash of opioid overdoses have caused life expectancies among middle-aged white Americans to decline.
The jury in Lorain, Ohio, that recently returned a verdict of over $32 million in real and punitive damages against Oberlin College might stand in for any number of whites sick of being called racists for the crime of being white. The jurors showed little taste for a bunch of snotty, mostly white, rich kids (annual Oberlin tuition $60,000) accusing the owners of Gibson's Bakery of being racists for insisting on prosecuting three black students (all of whom pleaded guilty) for shoplifting two bottles of wine, presenting fake IDs, and assault; or the Oberlin administrators who aided and encouraged them. (The Gibson family originally came to Oberlin as part of the underground railroad to help fugitive slaves escape.)
Many hoped that the election of an inexperienced black man as president — twice — would allow America to finally put the legacy of slavery behind it, or at least remove the presumption of ineradicable racism from white people. While deeply skeptical of Obama from the start, I cried during his inauguration tears of pride that America had elected a black man as president.
But things did not work out as we hoped. Every poll during the Obama years showed downward perceptions of race relations on both sides of the divide. Every current Democratic candidate for the presidency has declared America to have been founded upon racism and still infected with racism in every aspect of life today.
They ignore that the aspirational ideal of the Declaration of Independence — "all men are created equal" — deeply informed Lincoln's thinking long before the Civil War and made the eventual success of the Civil Rights movement inevitable. They also ignore that the institutions created by the US Constitution — Congress, which enacted the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Supreme Court, which ruled in Brown v. Board of Education — removed the formal indicia of slavery.
To avoid being called a racist today requires having to affirm what no one actually believes — e.g., that differential rates of incarceration or school discipline have nothing to do with different patterns of behavior, but are rather inexplicable as anything other than the result of "systemic racism," in Elizabeth Warren's constant refrain.
The election of Barack Obama, it seems, did not represent the fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a "nation where [my four little children] will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Or perhaps a colorblind society no longer represents the ideal for those on the left. On campus after campus across the United States, black students are choosing in large numbers to resegregate themselves in all-black dorms.
Gender, we are informed, is only a social construct. But race, it seems, is an essential characteristic, which determines what a black man or woman must think. "We don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice. We don't need black faces that don't want to be a black voice," lectures Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley. To be black means to think just like Ayanna Pressley.
Not only does race, according to the theoreticians of intersectionality, determine what blacks must think, but what whites must think and do as well. As Peggy Noonan points out, that is the most depressing thought of all, for it means that nothing can ever get better:
"In the past, whether you were racist could be judged by your actions. You held ugly biases, you said or did things that were definitionally discriminatory. The bad news is that you were this way, but the good news is that you could change. You could widen your lens, let some love in, say, think or do better things. You could improve.
"And as you did, so would the nation. So there was hope.
"Now the idea has taken hold that the charge of racism doesn't derive from thoughts and actions, from what people say and do, but from who they are. If you are white that accident of birth left you racist, and there's nothing you can do about it. You've got white privilege. You are unconsciously favored, and unconsciously assign disfavor. Either way you're guilty. No action or word can turn this around.
"So change is not possible; improvement will not happen. There's no way out.
"This is demoralizing. America can never become a better place if it isn't even allowed to think it can."
Happily, however, at least two groups have not yet been sold on President Trump's racism. He is polling between 18 percent and 33 percent among blacks — Republican presidential candidates typically struggle to win 10 percent of the black vote — and above 40 percent among Hispanics.
Economic expansion has reduced black unemployment to the lowest levels in decades. Many in both groups recognize that the open borders favored by Democrats will suppress first and foremost the wages of low-income workers.
Apparently, many blacks and Hispanics have not swallowed the instructions from progressive elites telling them how they must think.