A crime scene. The aesthetics of a horror movie. Sinister music. This is the latest Trump attack ad exposing Joe Biden’s “racism problem,” released a day after rioting in Chicago. The Trump campaign is engaging in offense archaeology, digging up a Biden statement from all the way back in 1973. Other Trump ads criticized Biden’s opposition to busing and his support for a 1994 crime bill that incarcerated a large number of African-American men. The Trump camp called out Biden’s association with Robert Byrd, who was a member of the KKK — in 1946. It was desperate stuff, and reinforced the notion that racism wasn’t just bad, but the worst evil imaginable — and should be used as the main determinant of whether to elect someone to the most powerful position in the world. America has shut down over a pandemic and is in the midst of a recession, but racism still overwhelms all other issues. Several American cities resembled warzones in the aftermath of rioting and looting, but the official GOP Twitter account was labeling Biden as “the architect of mass incarceration” — because being tough on crime is racist.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2020
The Republican campaign strategy has for some time been to claim that “Democrats are the real racists.” Republicans paint themselves as the genuine defenders of black people, whereas Democrats, we’re told, keep blacks on the “Democratic plantation.” Dinesh D’Souza is the master of this style, producing overblown propaganda that intercuts footage of the KKK with Hillary Clinton. Conservatism has been, in the words of Gregory Hood, “reduced to claiming it is actually the true version of American liberalism, and even to claiming past Leftist triumphs as its own.” The Republicans are mirroring and amplifying the PC hysteria of the Left, playing their part in turning America into a nation of hyperventilating racism hunters. They co-opted wholesale the liberal tenets of anti-racism, reframing their own causes as racial justice issues: damning abortion as responsible for “black genocide,” to take one moronic example. Every time they call a Democrat racist, they are pushing the whole debate leftward, positioning racial justice as the primary arbiter of legitimacy to govern. D’Souza’s overblown propaganda doesn’t stop at calling the Democrats racist. The blurb of his book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left reads: “In a sick inversion, the real fascists in American politics masquerade as anti-fascists and accuse the real anti-fascists of being fascists.”
Everybody accuses everybody of being a fascist, all the time.
To borrow the absurdist hyperbole of D’Souza, if the Democrats are the real racists (they aren’t and who cares), the Republicans are the real Social Justice Warriors and Trump is a shrieking blue-haired Antifa in Chief. It’s from this febrile milieu of bipartisan hypersensitivity to racial issues that movements like Black Lives Matter and Antifa emerged.
Republicans respond to Black Lives Matter
BLM was successfully undermining the legitimacy of American institutions and demonizing the country’s history. The BLM website claimed African Americans are “systematically and intentionally targeted for demise” while the umbrella group Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) claimed the United States is waging “war on black people” and subjecting them to “constant exploitation and perpetual oppression.” It was extreme rhetoric that required a full-throated response of unapologetic moral clarity, but was met instead by stupefaction. The responses ranged from cowed silence and acquiescence to total capitulation. Mitt Romney and Senator Mike Braun outright supported the movement. In a cringeworthy video posted to Twitter, Marco Rubio presented the anger of the rioters as a fully rational response to the racism of white America: “Their lives are held with less value because of the color of their skin. This is an ongoing problem that has haunted us for much too long and it must be addressed. The anger you saw spill over in these protests across the country: that’s where it comes from.” In a speech on the Senate floor, Rubio called for “a full reckoning with racial inequities that still plague our nation” in order for us to become “more fully American.”
George W. Bush released a craven and mawkish statement that spoke of “injustice and fear that suffocate our country.” It was “not the time for us to lecture” but rather “time for us to listen.” George Floyd’s drug overdose “raises a long-overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?” The most violent ethnic group is presented as the victim: “It remains a shocking failure that many African-Americans are harassed and threatened in their own country.” This was unsurprising from a President who has spent his retirement painting amateur portraits of immigrants with a hope to “focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.”
Republicans have been keen to blame the looting and rioting on Antifa rather than Black Lives Matter. Ted Cruz pointed to “skinny white trust-fund ANTIFA kids” who he alleged were “burning black-owned small businesses and murdering black police officers.” In Portland, most of the violent activists were white, but they were targeting a Federal court building — not black businesses. In every other city, this was a lie whose sole purpose was to get black people off the hook while smearing whites. If Republicans criticize BLM at all, it’s for their alleged Marxism — never for their anti-white animosity. Criticism of BLM itself is framed exclusively in terms of black interests. The looting and rioting “damage black-owned businesses” and “hurt black communities,” we’re told — even though much of the rioting targeted wealthy non-black precincts. Lindsey Graham complained that the organization “hurts minority families.” In an interview with OANN, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler bravely spoke out against BLM — for anti-Semitism. Republicans will get animated and passionate when it comes to condemning anti-Semitism but are AWOL in the face of anti-white hysteria. However perturbed they may be feeling, white Americans recognize that defending white people is the ultimate taboo. Rudy Giuliani was a lone voice saying the obvious, yet unsayable: “These are people who hate white people.”
Black Lives Matter owe more to the Republican Party than to Karl Marx
Civil Rights have become America’s new civic religion and conservatives helped to make that happen. Kevin D. Williamson, writing in the National Review, referred to the Republican Party as “the Party of Civil Rights.” In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that made Martin Luther King the only American with his own national holiday. The King holiday wasn’t trivial. It didn’t just cement King as a national icon in the pantheon of American history. It helped to refocus the narrative of America. No longer was it primarily the story of the founders but rather a forever-ongoing story of racial justice in which white people are the malefactors. Republicans have come to mythologize and eulogize King every bit as much as the Democrats. George W. Bush called him a “second founder,” while Charles Krauthammer deemed him a “prophet.” King became the protagonist of the new deeply emotive morality play of American history and the defining icon of American political ideology — the lodestar of what it meant to be an American. In 1998, Sam Francis wrote stridently about what the holiday represented, in terms that to most people would have, until recently, sounded paranoid and overblown, but have proven to be prescient:
It is hardly an accident that in the years since the enactment of the holiday and the elevation of King as a national icon, movements to ban the teaching of “Western civilization” came to fruition in major American universities, Thomas Jefferson was denounced as a “racist” and “slaveowner,” and George Washington’s name was removed from a public school in New Orleans on the grounds that he too owned slaves. In the new nation and the new creed of which the King holiday serves as a symbol, all institutions, values, heroes, and symbols that violate the dogma of equality are dethroned and must be eradicated. Those associated with the South and the Confederacy are merely the most obvious violations of the egalitarian dogma and therefore must be the first to go, but they will by no means be the last.
Having instilled the Civil Rights Movement with moral grandeur, it is unsurprising that today’s radicals feel endowed with moral authority as they assault people and destroy property. Commemorating the holiday in 1987, Reagan pioneered cancel culture, urging Americans to “be totally intolerant to racism anywhere around you.” Black Lives Matter and Antifa have taken that to the nth degree. While the mainstream conservative media recently made a show of railing against cancel culture, they had themselves purged everybody with anything sensible to say about race long ago. With their hyperfocus on a single line from a single speech (“they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”) the Republican establishment fundamentally misrepresents what Martin Luther King stood for. King unequivocally supported affirmative action, writing that “a society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him” and arguing that blacks deserve “special, compensatory measures.” Christopher Caldwell, in his new path-breaking book The Age of Entitlement, writes:
Republicans and others who may have been uneasy that the constitutional baby had been thrown out with the segregationist bathwater consoled themselves with a myth: The “good” civil rights movement that the martyred Martin Luther King, Jr., had pursued in the 1960s had, they said, been “hijacked” in the 1970s by a “radical” one of affirmative action, with its quotas and diktats. . . . None of that was true. Affirmative action and political correctness were the twin pillars of the second constitution. They were what civil rights was.”
Trump derangement syndrome
Trump has been the primary figure of hate in these protests, his existence provoking the worst extremes from the Left. Trump is an almost singular aberration to the liberal norms of Conservatism Inc. Looking at the Never Trumpers — the “principled conservatives” trying to “save the soul of the movement” from anybody that articulated the interests of white people — it’s inaccurate to describe them as RINOs. They are the Republican Party, and Trump is the outlier.
The Republican establishment had wanted Jeb Bush to win, a man who referred to illegal border crossing as “an act of love.” Gov. Nikki Haley tried to link Trump’s style of rhetoric to the terrorist Dylann Roof. Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState, called Trump a “fascist” and a “racist” while Lindsey Graham called him a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.” To Graham, the greatness of America is defined by its anti-racist activism: the true way to “Make America Great Again” was to tell the racist Donald Trump to “go to hell.” In 2016, Graham believed “we’ve lost the moral authority to govern” the country if Trump gets elected. Black Lives Matter agrees, seeing no legitimacy in the current administration or the institutions of the state. Yet Donald Trump himself was a cuckservative all along.
On the day of “Civil Rights icon” Rep. John Lewis’ death, President Trump ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in all public buildings, military posts, and embassies. The man who had been voted in on the promise to build a big beautiful wall spent the Republican National Convention presiding over a naturalization ceremony for five new citizens, clearly chosen to represent the full rainbow of diversity: an African, a Muslim woman in a headscarf, an Indian lady, a Japanese man, and someone of indeterminate ethnicity. If, as one of the speakers at the convention claimed, America was “founded on ideas, not identity,” then why not? They’ll all vote Democrat, but who cares? Republican Congressman Tim Burchett tweeted that while he thought Kamala Harris was “wrong on about every Dadgum issue” it was “pretty cool that we live in a country where an immigrant couple can have a girl that can have a shot at being the most powerful person in the world.” Republicans are happy to pass power to outsiders who look back on American history with contempt. Anybody that doesn’t toe the line is maligned. Bill Kristol, to take one example, smeared Tucker Carlson’s show as “close now to racism, white — I mean, I don’t know if it’s racism exactly — but ethnonationalism of some kind.” Republicans have capitalized on white nostalgia and the problems of diversity (gun control, for example, is an emotive issue due to fear of black criminality) yet use their power to quash white ethnic sentiments. Trump had made the occasional rhetorical appeal to nationalists, but that’s proven to be cynical and empty pandering that has given way to the Republican consensus of a post-American America.
The inevitable result of a maladaptive worldview
The egalitarian universalist ideology of America’s nominal conservatives was summed up by the influential political columnist George F. Will, who had once coached Ronald Reagan for a debate with Jimmy Carter. Will believed that “it won’t do to say that a million English immigrants would be easier for Virginia to assimilate than a million Zulus“ because America is “a polyglot nation of immigrants” for whom unity is based solely on “a proposition.” The historian Mark Weber, in a speech delivered in 2015, correctly predicted future disorder as an inevitable byproduct of this elite ideological consensus:
In the months and years to come events will continue to unfold in keeping with the futile efforts to make reality conform to an impossible governing ideology. . . Just as the former Soviet Union eventually fell apart as an inevitable consequence of trying to organize society on the basis of an ideology and principles unrooted in historical social and biological reality, so also this society will and must continue to decline as it tries to force nature and reality to conform to wishful thinking based on an unsound worldview.
The truth is that the insurrection of 2020 is not a perversion of the memory of Martin Luther King. It is the logical culmination of the Civil Rights movement itself.It’s convenient for conservatives to point the finger at the radical professors of critical race theory, as it gets them off the hook. They have no desire to question their Panglossian blank-slate egalitarian worldview. Like an episode of Scooby-Doo, peel back the mask and it was an old dead white guy all along — as if this isn’t a race problem writ large but rather the fault of some nutty professors at the University of Marxism-Leninism. While critical race theory is worthy of critique, to see it as the root cause of the current chaos is wrong. It implies there is nothing intrinsically problematic about diversity: things would have worked out perfectly if only it wasn’t for those pesky Marxists ruining everything. In the mind of George F. Will, if we simply put a Milton Friedman book in the hands of black college students, we’ll be back on track to racial utopia. Beltway Republicans use the long-expired specter of Karl Marx as the scapegoat for their own failed ideology. A million Zulus? Sure, just don’t let them read Das Kapital. As Mike Pence put it, “if we rededicate ourselves to the ideals” of Martin Luther King, we will “see our way through these divided times.” The current anarchy is dismissed as just a blip on the road to “a more perfect union.”
The Republican Jacobins
Mitt Romney didn’t just march with Black Lives Matter. He also expressed support for Antifa. Responding to the violent clashes in Charlottesville in 2017, Romney asserted that Antifa and those he described as “racist, bigoted, Nazis” exist in “morally different universes.” Violence is justifiable, so long as it’s in the cause of anti-racism. John McCain similarly contended there was “no moral equivalency” between nationalists and “Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry.” Charlottesville was a precursor to the current violence and leading Republicans had painted the culprits as morally righteous.
Unable to interpret anything outside of a Republican/Democrat dichotomy, the hyper-partisan Dinesh D’Souza called for an intensifying of the mass iconoclasm: “The only answer to them knocking down our statues (Columbus, Washington, Lincoln) is for us to knock down their statues. I recommend three notorious racists: Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ. If we don’t do to them what they are doing to us, they will never stop.” The protestors didn’t care about political affiliation — they were pulling down every totem of whiteness they could find. Inspired by BLM, Congressman Dan Crenshaw wanted to play his part in destroying America’s past: “Republicans won the civil war. That’s our history. Democrats have a long list of segregationists & KKK members. That’s their history. I’m glad to help them confront that racist past & voted to remove these Democrat statues.”
The founding fathers and the majority of American presidents throughout history were white supremacists. If they’re true to their own values, Republicans should want to detonate and flatten almost the entirety of Washington’s statuary. Perhaps what needs to be toppled is not the effigies of men who presided over a functioning society, but the edifice of Martin Luther King, whose legacy renders America a failed state on the precipice of civil war.