Members Only | July 22, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Make 2020 about Trump’s Racism
We need a liberal, moral and anti-racist vision of nationality.
A month after Donald Trump took office, I thought his administration was so incompetent and dumb that even if it wanted to usher in a Fourth Reich, it couldn’t.
I was wrong.
In Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up, journalist Tom Phillips said Adolf Hitler was a buffoon and his government a mess. “Even after elections had made the Nazis the largest party in the Reichstag, people still kept thinking that Hitler was an easy mark, a blustering idiot who could easily be controlled by smart people.”
Rather than doing their jobs, Phillips wrote, Hitler’s ministers “spent most of their time in-fighting and back-stabbing each other in an attempt to either win his approval or avoid his attention altogether, depending on what mood he was in that day.”
As I said, I was wrong.
The GOP really does not want to be talking about the president’s racism. So the Dems should.
I was wrong in thinking the Democrats should focus less on the president’s racism and more on the fact that he can’t govern. I was also wrong in thinking the Democrats should pay less attention to the “Muslim ban,” and on the administration’s harassment of “sanctuary cities,” and more on issues like health care and the economy in order to unite the largest number of Americans against a bumbling but dangerous president.
I was wrong in thinking that the Democratic leadership should wait for freshmen elected last year in conservative districts to come around to impeachment. I was wrong in thinking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should give these Democrats more to run on than anti-Trumpism. While I never thought focusing on his bigotry would doom Democrats, I thought they should at least offer something more, like health care. I don’t even think that anymore, because the moral landscape is now so clear.
I was wrong, because I was thinking too much in terms of incentives—about politics—and not enough in terms of morality. There’s a reason why more people are paying more attention this early in the cycle, and it isn’t because Americans are wondering (only) about their health care. They are wondering if their democracy will survive.
I think the Democrats in the House, and the Democrats on the campaign trail, should make the president’s white supremacy, and the evil policies that flow from it, the center of their party’s attention, and therefore the center of our country’s attention. Putting the president’s racism front and center provides an opportunity for the Democrats to offer their own moral and anti-racist vision of American nationality.
Trump believes a nation is about borders. Many of his followers believe a nation is about blood and soil. But the Democrats can counter with a liberal vision: nationality as moral character practiced in a political community in which individuals have rights and obligations, and in which each individual is accountable to the other, so that justice prevails, as opposed to the current regime, in which power prevails.
As I said this is a liberal view, but it’s also a nationalist view, just not one obsessed with “western culture” and “commonness” and “assimilation” and all that nonsense.
Liberal nationalism recognizes, tolerates, and celebrates difference, but it also channels tensions naturally arising from difference through a method by which ideals and interests are protected and political decisions made. In other words, democracy.
As Noam Gidron wrote for Vox early last year: “History suggests that progressives have much to gain by returning to the basic leftist theme of national solidarity.” I think the Democrats can do this by rallying a nation against Donald Trump’s white supremacy.
No, this is not what Trump wants. No, this is not what the Republicans want.
The president always doubles down. Whenever he does, he pays for it. A majority recoils. As for the Republicans, they have been spinning Trump’s attacks on four women of color, trying to saying that his remarks were about anything but definitely not racism. That should tell you the Republicans really do not want to be talking about the president’s racism. To me, that’s all the more reason the Democrats should.
Drum roll, please
I asked you to come up with a caption for this picture in which Nobel winner Nadia Murad of Iraq tried explaining how and why ISIS murdered her family.
What was Trump thinking? I asked.
And the winner of the contest is … “Send her back!”
Congrats to Buckles for coming up with the best thought bubble!
Missed your chance? Don’t worry. We’ll do this again next weekend. —JS