September 25, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
They’re not hypocrites. They’re liars
Trust us, they're saying. We won't turn our backs on America.
Since at least Robert Taft’s heyday, the Republican Party has faced a conundrum. Things sounding just great to Republicans tend to sound just terrible to everyone else. Tax cuts for the rich. Contempt for the poor. Corporations permitted to do anything for profit. Control of women. Control of Black people, people of color and LGBTQ people. Control of civil society generally, even how Americans worship. In other words, the conservation of a white-Christian-man-on-top brand of partisan politics.
When your real interests are those of a small homogeneous minority (think of them as not just white men but super-white men), the trick is making them sound like the interests of a large heterogeneous majority. And for the most part, since 1968, the Republicans have succeeded by inflaming white race hatreds. To end there would be overlooking the party’s broader rhetorical success, though. White supremacy is only part of it. The GOP is masterful at hiding its true goals behind neutral values and principles. When you want to control women and LGBTQ people, appeal to “family values.” When you want to control Black people and people of color, appeal to “law and order.” When you want to punish the poor for their poverty, appeal to “the American work ethic.” When you want to empower corporations, appeal to “market efficiency.” And do all that while claiming to be in the service of liberty, God and country.
Debating whether the super-whites are hypocrites overlooks a long public record of contempt for the people’s trust.
To take a specific example, the super-whites wanted to depose President Clinton. Not because he did anything wrong, though it’s certainly debatable whether he did. They tried deposing him, because they wanted to depose him. Yes, this is a logical tautology, but that’s how super-white thinking works. You don’t do X, because Y. You do X, because X. Reasons are not causes. They are effects. You find an excuse, a rationale, then do it. In Clinton’s case, the excuse was morality, the rule of law, or whatever. It didn’t matter what. What mattered was whether it obscured from majority view the super-whites’ real goal. If they don’t cover their tracks, they risk losing the American people’s trust. Without trust, they can no longer manipulate the American people.
In the case of Clinton, they failed ultimately. They succeeded, however (perhaps more than they ever could have hoped they would), in the case of Merrick Garland. The super-whites wanted to stop Barack Obama from getting a third justice on the US Supreme Court. That was the goal. They couldn’t say that, though, because a majority of Americans weren’t going to wholly accept a naked power play. So the super-whites invented a “rule” of out thin air. The president shouldn’t get a confirmation during an election year. The American people should decide. Anything short of that is anti-democratic. Mitch McConnell would in fact block Garland no matter what. (He was going to do X, because X.) But to win, he needed a Y. He was so successful a majority now thinks he and Donald Trump should wait, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement should be decided by the election’s winner, according to a Reuters poll.
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It should be clear McConnell and the super-whites are not hypocrites even though they’re going to confirm a new justice during an election year when they said last time that the American people should get to decide. Remember, they don’t do X, because Y. They do X, because X. Reasons are not causes. They are effects. The super-whites don’t believe anything has higher value than defeating their enemies. Strictly speaking, McConnell and the Republicans are not hypocrites. Strictly speaking, they’re liars. True lovers of citizenship, liberty and democracy should not give them the time of day. Debating whether they’re hypocrites overlooks a record of contempt for our trust.
They lied when they said Bill Clinton should be removed because Y. They lied when they said Merrick Garland should be blocked because Y. They lied when they said Trump should not be impeached and removed because Y. They did what they did, because they wanted to do what they did, not because of some higher principle. And they are lying again in the wake of Trump’s vow to accept the election’s outcome only if he wins. Senate Republicans (the whitest of super-whites) have been scrambling all week to reassure “white normies” who don’t want to be seen supporting a criminal extortionist president that everything’s OK. The peaceful transference of power will happen no matter what. The super-whites are asking us to trust them. They won’t turn their backs on America if Trump decides the power transfer should be bloody. Their assurances, however, should be seen as weak and insincere. They should be seen as more cover for the super-whites’ goals, which could end up being treasonous.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.