November 23, 2017

THE RIGHT IS THE LEFT:

The Nationalist's Delusion : Trump's supporters backed a time-honored American political tradition, disavowing racism while promising to enact a broad agenda of discrimination. (ADAM SERWER, NOV 20, 2017, The Atlantic)

Duke's strong showing, however, wasn't powered merely by poor or working-class whites--and the poorest demographic in the state, black voters, backed Johnston. Duke "clobbered Johnston in white working-class districts, ran even with him in predominantly white middle-class suburbs, and lost only because black Louisianans, representing one-quarter of the electorate, voted against him in overwhelming numbers," The Washington Post reported in 1990. Duke picked up nearly 60 percent of the white vote. Faced with Duke's popularity among whites of all income levels, the press framed his strong showing largely as the result of the economic suffering of the white working classes. Louisiana had "one of the least-educated electorates in the nation; and a large working class that has suffered through a long recession," The Post stated.

By accepting the economic theory of Duke's success, the media were buying into the candidate's own vision of himself as a savior of the working class. He had appealed to voters in economic terms: He tore into welfare and foreign aid, affirmative action and outsourcing, and attacked political-action committees for subverting the interests of the common man. He even tried to appeal to black voters, buying a 30-minute ad in which he declared, "I'm not your enemy."

Duke's candidacy had initially seemed like a joke. He was a former Klan leader who had showed up to public events in a Nazi uniform and lied about having served in the Vietnam War, a cartoonishly vain supervillain whose belief in his own status as a genetic √úbermensch was belied by his plastic surgeries. The joke soon soured, as many white Louisiana voters made clear that Duke's past didn't bother them.

Many of Duke's voters steadfastly denied that the former Klan leader was a racist. The St. Petersburg Times reported in 1990 that Duke supporters "are likely to blame the media for making him look like a racist." The paper quoted G. D. Miller, a "59-year-old oil-and-gas lease buyer," who said, "The way I understood the Klan, it's not anti-this or anti-that."

Duke's rejoinder to the ads framing him as a racist resonated with his supporters. "Remember," he told them at rallies, "when they smear me, they are really smearing you." [...]

A few days after Duke's strong showing, the Queens-born businessman Donald Trump appeared on CNN's Larry King Live.

"It's anger. I mean, that's an anger vote. People are angry about what's happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they're really in deep trouble," Trump told King.

Trump later predicted that Duke, if he ran for president, would siphon most of his votes away from the incumbent, George H. W. Bush--in the process revealing his own understanding of the effectiveness of white-nationalist appeals to the GOP base.

"Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Pat Buchanan--who really has many of the same theories, except it's in a better package--Pat Buchanan is going to take a lot of votes away from George Bush," Trump said. "So if you have these two guys running, or even one of them running, I think George Bush could be in big trouble." Little more than a year later, Buchanan embarrassed Bush by drawing 37 percent of the vote in New Hampshire's Republican primary.

In February 2016, Trump was asked by a different CNN host about the former Klan leader's endorsement of his Republican presidential bid.

"Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. Okay?," Trump said. "I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know."

Less than three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump declared himself "the least racist person you have ever met."

Even before he won, the United States was consumed by a debate over the nature of his appeal. Was racism the driving force behind Trump's candidacy? If so, how could Americans, the vast majority of whom say they oppose racism, back a racist candidate?

During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate's remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans--those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue--had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters' most profound beliefs--combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.

It was not just Trump's supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation--outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety--to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump's most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

Shame is, after all, a conservative construct.  Accept that there is no such thing as morality and there is no basis for shame.


Posted by at November 23, 2017 12:14 PM

  

« CAN'T HAVE A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS WHEN THERE'S ONLY ONE: | Main | LUBBERLY IDIOT: »