When They Ask If You'll Support a Racist You're Supposed to Say No

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: Twitter

From Esquire

While some Republicans did unequivocally condemn the president's racist tweets without attacking his targets in the same breath, they were few and far between. Granted, some of the more enthusiastic members of the caucus have just doubled down and said they've got no problem with The Leader telling sitting members of Congress to go back to the countries they came from. But the standard response is to grovel that you don't support the tweets, while mentioning the four freshman congresswomen—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley—are socialists who hate America.

They hate America, you see, because they criticized America. Just like when your child behaves badly and you tell the kid they've got to change what they're doing. It's because you hate them! Acknowledging, say, that the United States enshrined the notion that a black person is worth three-fifths of a white person in its founding documents to appease the Slave Power is an unpatriotic thing to do. So is acknowledging that racial inequity continues to exist today in policing, the criminal-justice system, housing, education, or employment. Yes, pointing out ways the country could be better in the future is un-American.

But it's hard to make this point while examining the (valid) critiques, so most conservative critics have avoided quoting the congresswomen directly, attributing outright, blanket hatred of the country to them instead. Senator John Kennedy was an illustration of the form on CNN Wednesday as he defended his comments on Fox News the night before—comments that included characterizing the four as dumb "wackjobs" and "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

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Here Kennedy admits outright that he has no evidence for his claims. He simply says that the four congresswomen "think many Americans—maybe most Americans—are racist, are misogynist, are evil," but when asked what he bases that statement on, he's got nothing. It's because he has not looked at what they've actually said, or had it filtered through the Fox News resentment machine; or maybe he does know what they've actually said but doesn't want to engage it. Never mind that all four congresswomen might have their own individual sets of views, and may not be a monolith of hatred for the country.

But the message from Trump's Republican allies is clear: Use your inside voice. Paint them as The Other—foreign radical socialists trying to infiltrate and undermine the nation. Don't go to Racist 101! It's almost like Trump, because he stomped to the top of the party in one campaign cycle, missed a few classes at Lee Atwater State University.

Or maybe this is just the way things go now. Kris Kobach has dedicated his recent years to suppressing the votes of Certain People, and before that wrote Arizona's "papers, please" immigration law. He also, in his run for Kansas governor in 2018, took money from white nationalists. But even with all that on the record, this was an amazing spectacle:

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Over and over again, you see the suggestion that getting called a racist is worse than being subjected to racism. That was the theme of House Republicans' circus act on the House floor last night, when Nancy Pelosi called the president's racist tweets racist and they fought like hell to have it struck from the record. (Republicans instituted House rules against calling the president—or even his words or actions—"racist" when they controlled the chamber a few years back. What a strong indication you don't have a problem in that area.) But maybe we're witnessing the birth of a brave new world where some people just dispense with the pretense and argue a racist is better than a Radical Socialist Democrat Whose Specific Policies I Will Not Engage With in Any Meaningful Way. 2020 is going to be a blast.

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