Sunday, August 13, 2017

Is the President a Racist?

SPOILER ALERT:  No, I truly don't think so.  But that shouldn't make you feel any better.

I'll get more to the president in a moment.  But first, let's lay a few things out there.

First, there's a big difference between the political spectrum of ideologies and actual legitimate political parties.  Let's have the sophistication to separate the two.  Not all ultra-conservative (reactionary) ideologies are related to (or welcome in) the Republican Party, just as not all ultra left-wing ideologies are related to (or welcome in) the Democrat party.  Sovereign Citizens, anarchists, eco-terrorists, Marxists, and other fringe ideologies do not have a foothold in either party.  Just because someone is classified as "far left" or "far right" in ideology doesn't merit legitimate actors and parties being pasted and smeared with their acts or words (Anybody who does is lying to and manipulating you and should not be trusted.)

Extremists on either end of the political spectrum are fundamentalists, with binary values (I'm right, and everyone else is wrong), and prone to violent expression (whether physical or just in rhetoric).  The "conventional" political spectrum, in which the Republican and Democrat parties operate are, in effect, the moderate middle (I know that's hard to believe).  Because, no matter how much we disagree, we all believe that participation in the processes and institutions of our Constitutional Democracy is the way to effect change.

Second, you either operate within the political apparatus (parties, PACs, votes) or outside of it.  There are people who have extreme ideologies who operate inside the apparatus, and those people tarnish anybody or any organization that suffers them.  David Duke espouses ideologies (white supremacy) that are FAR outside any party platform, but is tolerated within Republican circles.  That brings into legitimate question how tolerant the Republican Party is of such attitudes.  Conversely, there are moderate groups with mainstream ideology and sentiments that are not directly involved in party politics.  Non-profits, advocacy groups, churches: these are all examples of institutions that share certain ideologies but don't operate primarily in the political machine.

Recapping:  You can be an extremist insider or a moderate outsider or any combination of them.  It's important to understand where players are on the spectrum.

Third, let's be clear about the difference between violent political ideologies and incidents of opportunistic violence.  A march by the non-violent and social justice #BlackLivesMatter movement that is co-opted by hooligans and thugs is not the equivalent of anarchists or white supremacists harming people and property as a vehicle for their ideology.

Thanks for your patience.  Now to the matter at hand.

I do not believe the president is a racist.  That's no vindication; I actually believe that his inability to empathize with other human beings makes racism basically irrelevant to understanding him.  But he's the president, and he's accountable for the environment and people around him.  And that's where we get to the root of the current situation.  I said before that fringe groups are basically binary; so is the president (albeit for different reasons).  And therein lie the inescapable parallels and attraction between the two.

The president has inarguably surrounded himself with racists and advocates of racist (and generally hostile toward all marginalized groups) policies.  Bannon, Miller, Gorka, and Sessions have clear records and agendas.  No sugar coating it: they're straight-up racists.  There haven't been so many race-hostile people in the executive branch in decades, and that makes a clear statement.  He can't possibly distance himself from racism philosophically when he can't distance himself physically.

And then there's the president's policy agenda, starting, most significantly with his absolute determination to erase everything about this nation's first black president.  There is nothing that white nationalists want more than to eradicate Barack Obama's legacy from the annals of American history.  It's easily thrown off as pettiness (and to him it probably is), but make no mistake, this is a bright neon sign to those fringe so-called "alt-right" elements.  His "victims of Obamacare" charade is like a guestbook of aggrieved whiteness.

Simultaneously, in his "win or lose" brain, the president has bought in to key elements of the white nationalist "America under attack" mantra.  That is, immigrants from Central and South America, and Middle Eastern Muslims.  And he has laid down aggressive policy agendas to "fight back" against these false threats.  Again, he's gone so far as to create "victims lists" and "undesirable" lists and published them.  These policies are precisely the sort of "victories" that politically-minded fringes are looking for.

So, if he's not a racist (according to me, anyway) why won't he denounce, by name, the white supremacists who support him?

Those who have examined the president most closely describe him has having an insatiable need to be adored.  That's why he loves the rallies so much.  It's why he also constantly speaks in superlatives.  That hole will never be filled, no matter how much money he makes, how many buildings bear his name, or how many votes he gets.  It will never be enough.  Many have posited that the president might be a "useful idiot" to Putin.  That has yet to be proven.  But, undoubtedly, he is being used as a vehicle for white nationalist/supremacist ideologues, in return for their adoration.

The president is binary, win/lose.  And right now, he's losing.  His popularity is historically, stunningly low.  Who's sticking with him, though?  The nationalists.  He can't let go; that would be admitting defeat.  He's trapped, both by his own psychosis and the team he put around him.  But those nationalists are also operating freely and openly through the edges (but definitely inside) of the Republican political apparatus (see Iowa Congressman, Steve King, for example).  They've been quietly, distastefully tolerated, because they bring votes and money.  They have a seat at the table, even though nobody will admit they invited them.  And that's the ugly elephant in the room for Republicans (no pun intended).

Bottom Line:

There is no place for hate or violence in America in 2017.  The First Amendment gives you the right to spew this garbage, fine.  I served to defend that right.  But let's not kid ourselves.  It doesn't belong here.  And nobody who espouses hate or violence, for any reason in any form, should have a welcome seat in any mainstream political group.

Any reasonable, semi-informed person (let alone seasoned political operative) should be able to distinguish between extremist and mainstream ideology.  Likewise everyone should be able to distinguish between politically-motivated violence and opportunistic rage.  And if you can recognize it, you can tell the difference between righteous condemnation and ridiculous smear tactics.

It should be easy, therefore, to reject and condemn extremism and violence, no matter what your party affiliation or ideology.  Nobody should think for a moment that rejecting white supremacists should have any political implication.  But when the rats are in your midst, it gets a lot harder to deal with the traps.

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