Coates: “Trump’s Ideology is White Supremacy”

For your must-read list this week: Ta Nehisi Coates’ new piece at The Atlantic, entitled “The First White President.” Here is a taste:

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

Really, if you aren’t reading everything Coates writes, you are missing out. He is the preeminent public voice in the United States.

Read the whole piece here.


Trump Voters: This Is On You

There is a point I keep trying to make, that I’m not sure I’ve made very clear yet. It has to do with President Trump, and it popped in my head again last week during his morally (and intellectually) vapid response to the Nazis in Charlottesville. Here it is:

Brought to you by President Trump. Just like we predicted.
If you voted for Donald Trump last year, then everything crazy that’s happening in our country right now is on your shoulders.

All of it – Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in the streets, the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, Russia buying an American election, and most of all, the emotionally stunted man child in the White House who has the approximate attention span, moral compass, and anger management skills of a 2-year old- that’s all on you, folks.

Now, I know what you are saying: “But this isn’t what I voted for!” Baloney. This is exactly what you voted for; stop acting all surprised that Donald Trump continues to act like Donald Trump in office. This isn’t a big shock; we (those of us who opposed him) predicted every last thing about him. The temper tantrums. The appalling lack of moral direction. The non-existent attention span. The failure to grasp even the most rudimentary policy ideas. The disregard for any and all American institutions and governing norms. The intense self-absorption. The tweeting. (Oh god, the tweeting.) The war mongering. The coddling of racists, extremists, Nazis, and criminals. The skin so thin you can see the overbearing insecurity cower beneath. The overall failure of this presidency. We saw it all coming, and honestly, we spent the better part of two years yelling about it. And now you want to act all surprised? Nope.

And how, might you ask, did we know? Because we had eyes and ears to see and hear! The way the president acts today? It’s the exact same person he was throughout his campaign! All this bullshit about how if elected, he would become more presidential? We saw it for the bullshit it was, and we warned you.

But you didn’t care. Because you were convinced that his opponent was somehow worse. I’m not sure in what way. I guess abortion?

And maybe you still believe the long-discredited and absolutely nuts Clinton conspiracy theories, about murder in Arkansas? It’s insane. During the course of the 2016 election cycle, you allowed yourself be hoodwinked, by a life-long scam artist, into thinking that a well-known woman politician – probably the best known and most transparent (thanks to the intense media scrutiny over the last 30 years) politician in America- was somehow unfit to hold the office of the President of the United States because of what server she saved her emails on. And, not only that, but you believed this to disqualify her despite the fact that he opponent was the kind of guy who openly bragged about sexually assaulting numerous women!

I mean, can you wrap your mind around that for a second? You made the calculus last year that a private email server was worse than sexual assault and blatant ignorance and racism.

Again, all because of, mostly, abortion.

Because you wagered that pinching your nose and voting for Trump would bring an end to legalized abortion in America. The same long right-wing con you’ve been falling for since Reagan. “Supreme Court justices!” you screamed.

And you’re right, Trump did appoint a right wing justice in Neil Gorsuch. But guess what? You still don’t have the Supreme Court votes. There are still four liberals and Anthony Kennedy standing in the way, and if you think Kennedy or Ginsburg are gonna let themselves be outlasted in office by President Cheeto – if you really think they are gonna let their legacy be overwritten by an in-over-his-head reality show hack- well, you’re gonna be surprised. I know the Notorious RBG is 84 years old, but I guarantee she has the force of will to keep on going until at least 2020.

To act like there was some kind of moral equivalency between Trump and Clinton – to continue to insist that, yeah, Trump is bad, but Clinton would have been bad, too – is to engage in willful ignorance. It’s like equating Neo-Nazis with those protesting Neo-Nazis. I mean, what kind of monster would do such a thing?

Anyways, back to my original point. Trump voters – strong Trump voters, reluctant Trump voters, bargaining Trump voters, GOP-loyal Trump voters – this is all on you. You don’t get to wash your hands of this presidency. You don’t get to act surprised and shocked by what is happening. Because we warned you. And, apparently, you just didn’t care enough about your fellow citizens to care.

Why am I insisting on this? Because it’s important that you realize that your vote has consequences for the lives of other people. It’s not a game. It’s not all about you. When you go and vote for someone like Trump, you have to own up to the consequences of that vote, you have to realize it matters, and you have to learn from it, so that we can avoid this kind of thing happening again in the future. Want to make America great again, like for real? Then realize you have blame in this, and that you have a responsibility to your fellow citizens to help make it right by making sure it doesn’t happen again.

So understand: everything that is happening right now, all the craziness and anger and insanity: this is the fruit of Trump support. Even if this isn’t “What you voted for,” it’s what you voted for. Own it. And next time, when you enter that ballot box, do better. You owe the rest of us that now.

“Let Obamacare Fail” Is Immoral

Health care has been at the center of the news recently. President Trump and Congressional Republicans are determined to do….something, mainly centered around repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it’s known.

These guys have your future in their hands. Yikes.

Yet, they keep failing to do so, lacking the necessary votes to get it done in Congress. So, after last week’s debacle, Trump decided he had enough, declaring that he would just “let Obamacare fail” and that he wasn’t going to own it.

The concept of “letting Obamacare fail” is highly immoral. It strikes against the oath at the very heart of the medical field, which states “First, do no harm.”

Obamacare has real problems with the way it is built and the way it has worked in the real world. But these problems are all fixable. The mandate needs to have better enforcement. Subsidies could be more generous. CSR (cost-sharing reduction) payments to insurers need to be assured and generous as well. Medicaid expansion needs to take hold in all fifty states.

The three-legged stool of Obamacare – universal coverage, subsidies, and the individual mandate – is a proven model. It’s not perfect; we would be better off with Medicare-for-all, with the eventual goal of single payer. But Obamacare, when it is funded and not sabotaged, works. No one can deny it: more people are insured under Obamacare than were before, and that is a unqualified good. No matter what your opinions on health policy, no one can deny that more people (24 million more people, to be exact) having access to affordable, decent health coverage is a good thing for this country, politically and morally.

That’s what makes the attitude of Trump, and the all-out drive of the Republican Party to repeal Obamacare no matter what, so morally problematic. The talking points about rising subsidies and infringements on liberty and massive tax hikes and death panels are wrong and disingenuous. Subsidies are rising no more than they were before Obamacare. Taxes were raised modestly on a few of the richest Americans. Death panels are just a stupid lie perpetuated by national joke Sarah Palin. And the only liberty Obamacare repeal promotes is the liberty of millions of Americans to die without health care access.

As much as they want to talk about Obamacare failing, the facts are just not with them. It’s not failing; the only way it fails is if they continue to undermine it (i.e. by refusing to pay CSRs, or to enforce the mandate.) And in their drive to undermine and repeal it, they are ensuring that those 24 million Americans who got health insurance will now lose it, and put their lives at risk in the process. All so they can cut the very modest taxes Obamacare imposed on the rich.

In essence, the GOP policy outcome is that millions will lose their health insurance so that a handful of the richest people in America can pocket more money. This is highly immoral, and terribly un-Christian. The GOP is choosing mammon over human beings. It’s callous, and history will judge them harshly.

There are those who will accuse me of being partisan, who will try to posit a moral equivalence between both political parties in this health care debate. That argument is wrong. The Democratic Party is far, far from perfect. I have my gripes with it, trust me. But, in the case of health care, there is only one party trying to take health care away from millions of working families, and it ain’t the Democrats*.

Health care is a basic human right. The fact that America is still the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee coverage for all it’s citizens puts us as a moral disadvantage on the world stage. Obamacare was a small step in correcting that shortcoming. The fact that a sizable portion of Americans thinks that providing health care to everyone – something the richest country in the history of the world can easily do, if we have the will – is wrong and undesirable is a sad commentary on the state of the American soul.

Here’s hoping Trump and the GOP fails, and we continue on the path towards a better future.

*And don’t try to talk to me about abortion. I have a really hard time believing you are “pro-life” if you support and vote for a party that wants to take away life saving health care for millions of people, including millions of children. You can’t be pro-life if you care more about future hypothetical fetuses than you do human beings alive right now.