Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Compelled to Choose.

Heroic Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, flanked by his trusty shirtless abject minority attendants, American Indian at his right and African at his left. Photo by The Researching Librarian.
Shorter David Brooks, "How Trump Kills the G.O.P.", August 29 2017:
There was a notable absence of racism in the Republican party in the period from 1984 through 2003, when I worked for Republican journalistic organs and most of my friends were Republicans. It arrived sometime after 2005, when the party became the vehicle for white identity politics, which is not the same thing as simple racism but overlaps with it. White identity politics is probably worse than identity politics on the left, though I can't be sure. It is certainly wrong to make a parallel between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter, because claiming these are comparable ignores history and current realities. Nevertheless I just compared them. The worst thing about white identity politics is that it forces Republicans to choose whether they embrace it or not, which could lead to the party's dissolution.
I don't know, I'd say it's an even bigger problem for members of minority groups facing employment and housing discrimination, shut out of opportunity networks, casually harassed by police and sometimes murdered by them, imprisoned for crimes that members of the majority aren't imprisoned for, and deprived of voting rights, than it is for Republicans, on the whole, maybe that's just my opinion. Members of minority groups are remarkably missing from today's column, though. Indeed, all sorts of people were missing during the period when there was no racism in the Republican party, since it consisted only of the pleasant and urbane people in Brooks's social circle:

In that time, I never heard blatantly racist comments at dinner parties, and there were probably fewer than a dozen times I heard some veiled comment that could have suggested racism. To be honest, I heard more racial condescension in progressive circles than in conservative ones.
Oh, by all means, do be honest. "To be honest, I think my opponents are more evil than my comrades, though they insidiously claim they aren't." Speaking of identity politics. That's political identity identity politics. It's practically the oldest kind of identity politics there is, but you don't see me whining about it.

But I think it's important that Brooks makes this assertion, confidently, without wondering whether the members of minority groups felt the same about it.

Via FactCheck.org.
African Americans seem to have concluded between 1944 and 1964 that they felt more comfortable as Democrats, and not changed their minds since. I'm sure if more of them had shown up for dinner parties with the National Review and Wall Street Journal staffs the story might have been different.

But then it was 1989 when Brooks's National Review literary mentor (and Ronald Reagan's political mentor) William F. Buckley, Jr., most recently reaffirmed the sentiments of the famous 1957 editorial:
A 1957 editorial written by Buckley, “Why the South Must Prevail” (National Review, 8/24/57), cited the “cultural superiority of white over Negro” in explaining why whites were “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where [they do] not predominate numerically.” Appearing on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1989 (rebroadcast 2/28/08), he stood by the passage. “Well, I think that’s absolutely correct,” Buckley told host Terry Gross when she read it back to him.
You see, Buckley was not a racist. He was a culturist. That's a totally different way of saying that black people are intrinsically inferior.

The other thing is, I hate to break it to Brooks, that the pleasant and urbane and not at all racist people he was going to dinner parties with in the 1980s and 1990s were not in fact the entire Republican party. That wouldn't have been enough to win an election. In order to win elections in those days, the country club and chamber of commerce had to look somewhere beyond its traditional base of dairy farmers and retirees and the like for some fresh blood.

They went, as we know, for what Nixon liked to call the "silent majority", meaning fundamentally what we now call the White Working Class, or white people not in the highest ranks of educated society, fed up over racial integration efforts in housing and education and the workplace and the receipt of government benefits, which they saw as giving a leg up to people who didn't deserve it, because if they deserved it they wouldn't need it, because nobody ever gave me anything (other than the vast government spending of 1945-75 that reduced wealth and income inequality among white people to unprecedented lows in the United States, for a while). The Southern Strategy, which led to the mass Republicanization of white people in an entire large geographical region, was only the most spectacularly successful part of this.

But the country club and chamber of commerce never had any intention of doing anything for those people, other than providing them with an emotional outlet, and at long last the silent majority/WWC figured this out and nominated Trump for the presidency. Which was not the best way of furthering their interests, but after 50 years of miseducation and being lied to over what their interests were, it's not surprising.

I’d love to see more research on the relationship between white identity politics and simple racism. There’s clear overlap, but I suspect they’re not quite the same thing. Racism is about feeling others are inferior. White identitarianism is about feeling downtrodden and aggrieved yourself.
When Brooks says "I suspect" you can guarantee he's about to say something really stupid. White racism is about fear.

It's fear that the Other can take away your privileged status, from Haman knowing that in a just world Mordecai would have his job and he'd have nothing to Joe Schlub tormented with the belief that his wife would rather go to bed with the black dude. White identity movements are political or paramilitary organizations to frighten and control the people white racists are afraid of. Those cheerful souls who merely "feel others are inferior" are too silly to worry about.

identity politics on the right is at least as corrosive as identity politics on the left, probably more so. If you reduce the complex array of identities that make up a human being into one crude ethno-political category, you’re going to do violence to yourself and everything around you.
If "identity politics on the left" is a thing outside the fearful minds of Mark Lilla and David Brooks, it is the working together of black/Latino/Asian/Pacific Islander/Muslim/poor/ female/LGBTQ/disabled/ETC. people, an actual majority if you think about it, IN MUTUAL SOLIDARITY against the oppression of some group wielding power. It's not corrosive! It's repairing the world! White people are invited! In fact white leftists are an oppressed minority, as evidenced by the fact that nobody from the New York Times ever interviews us. "Identity politics on the right" in the US would be only white people of the type the New York Times interviews four or five times a week, the heirs of centuries of positive discrimination, who probably ought to be angry with the mostly white members of the ruling class but have decided to be angry with the members of all those oppressed minorities instead.

Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead. It’s what Trump cares about. The identity warriors on the left will deface statues or whatever and set up mutually beneficial confrontations with the identity warriors on the right. Things will get uglier.
Of course it's a bothsides affair, as if the contingent of potential statue defacers could be anywhere comparable in numbers or influence to what Brooks estimates (conservatively estimates, heh) at 40% of the Republican party.

It's funny that the focus comes down to Brooks's resentment at being compelled to choose. Trying to walk the fine centrist line between being a racist and not being one. Jeez, I wonder how hard it can be?

Update: Driftglass doesn't say it straight out, but the year he started the blog was the same year, 2005, that racism, in Brooks's retelling, crashed the Republican party, broke all the wine glasses, and clogged the toilet with dozens of condoms that had been used only as water balloons. Coincidence? You be the judge.

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