But forcing equivalencies that don’t really exist is all Trump’s got, and it could work at least enough to make things closer than they are now
Why do we say that?
• Because a relative of ours, who’s hardly a Trump supporter, commented to us over 4th of July weekend:
“I get the Civil War Generals, but Washington and Jefferson? C’mon!”
We don’t think anything’s going to get our relative to vote for Trump. But he is suddenly thinking at least partly in the way the President wants him to think. And all the President needs is a few people thinking like him flipping his way to get him back to a competitive place. (They also have to start caring next to not at all about the President’s horrendous Coronavirus response, which of course, also has a huge racial component.)
• Because the Washington Post publishes an article entitled: “Trump’s push to amplify racism unnerves Republicans who have long enabled him“. But at least not publicly, they’re not. Which means they think Trump’s approach even now may still turn out to be a “winner”. “The President is stepping forward“, says Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who’s up for re-election.
These themes worked for President Nixon in 1968, as he squeezed out a win. Nixon referred to the supporters acquired through stoking fears of “others” taking over American heritage at first as “The Silent Center”. Who then become his “Silent Majority“, a term Trump frequently borrows in Tweets. Sometimes only Tweeting those two words.
We took a lot of heat prior to the 2016 election when we suggested Trump could win, at least partly because a lot of people who would never publicly admit they were going to vote for him will turn out and vote for him. (And also because of maps, which we’ve got some thoughts on this time around, and will write a column about soon).
Thing is, this time around we think there’s also an opposing current: people who will never publicly admit voting for Joe Biden, but will. We think these people will primarily be women in pro-Trump households. But we don’t know how strong this push back will be.
And, wait: does that mean we’re implying Joe Biden’s gonna need maybe even some people who maybe share beds with racists voting for him too in order to win? Yeah, kinda. And while we don’t in any way advocate for cutting these folks any breaks, we also don’t see value in those who intend to defeat Trump burying them (and themselves) with labels and divisions ahead of time. It’s complicated. If someone is willing to come over, let them come. And use that to start a conversation.
Still, the Post’s contention that Republicans are feeling angst to the point of shifting maybe, worries us. Because while if some actually did that, it’d be a strong sign of real weakness on Trump’s part. But if they don’t, which they haven’t (and it may be a little early even if they might), it still may be a strong indication mainstream media might have the same type of blinders on they did in 2016.
The Post says:
“Over the years, some Republicans have struggled to navigate Trump’s race baiting and, at times, outright racism…”
Except they haven’t, really. Even if it’s been a struggle, they’ve landed time and again on Trump’s side. Or the few that haven’t, whether in the White House or in Congress are mostly gone now. And as the Post itself points out, this has been the case for years.
If we’ve seen nothing else in the past couple of months is that America is still very racist, and white people will go to great lengths to hang on to power they will invariably eventually lose as the U.S. invariably becomes majority minority. Which is a good thing and something that was always meant to be! Where everybody gets a voice!
(And BTW, we were never taught in school to hate America, nor do we. We were taught we can freely exchange ideas. In large part because of that, we love America and are proud to be American! Why else do you think we’re working so hard for change?)
So the only game now for the Republican Party under Trump is extending the expiration date on when that happens for as long as possible, and as far as possible beyond when it should in the natural course of both politics and demographics.
That’s why Republicans like Tom Cotton of Arkansas get their backs up even at the suggestion Washington, D.C. should be a state. (Which It should.) And how that would mean the Republican Party “losing” this country forever. Which is ridiculous. Yes, it might mean the Republican Party would have to adjust with changes within the country, but they’re big and got lots of money, so they should be able to, no? But of course that’s not really what he’s talking about.
That’s why Trump works so hard at extinguishing and undoing “everything Obama”. Because a Obama becoming President really freaked him out and also instead of shining a light on how America will proceed into the future, his version twists it into a dystopian (and ultimately losing vision) of the horrors of an America that is not dominated by people like him. Or “us” as he puts it, as he gestures to his neatly all-white audience on 4th of July eve at Mount Rushmore (as you can see in the photo at the top of this piece). And by that we mean race, primarily. Since many political philosophies will endure.
And the only way to extend white people staying in power past the date of inevitability, whenever that is, is to institute or extend a form of apartheid in this country, where white people’s votes and lot of other things count for more. And all the activities since the death of George Floyd have shown us in very stark terms how that is already actively perpetuated in many corners of society. And really does needs to be torn down.
So forget about statues. We’re biased anyway: after visiting North Korea about a decade ago, we became convinced statues of any kind are stupid. Except maybe the Lincoln Memorial and Statue of Liberty.
Young people have illuminated the path forward for us, at least, in recent weeks and months. But a message of holding on to the old—strangely sometimes, even if you don’t agree with it—can always be put forth in an impactful way. Change of any kind often scares people. Especially if they have families.
So let’s hope younger people follow up their actions with votes, and older people see through Trump’s rhetoric not as a defense of America, but as the words of fool, motivated by racism and naked self-interest. (And hey, he’s not even really pretending that isn’t what his re-election bid is about anymore.)
Actually “let’s hope” is not enough. Let’s get out there and work hard at it however you can.