Friday, August 18, 2017

38, 67, and 79 (aka, Charlottesville August 2017)

An Open Letter to Mainstream Republicans and Conservatives

Dear Mainstream Republicans and Conservatives:

I lived in Charlottesville for the better part of a decade -- in fact, I got a history PhD there -- so perhaps you can grant me a few minutes of your time. This is a short entry, for once.

As my high school baseball coach put it, "it's game day." The time has come for your unequivocal denouncements of Trump -- not merely business-as-usual, tepid Tweets about how we all reject racism.

Platitude-laden Tweets that don't even mention the President are unacceptable, and so is allowing the attention to shift from the white supremacists at the base of your party to the issue of Confederate monuments. For those of you who persist with the fantasy that somehow Trump "hijacked your party," or that racial animus is just a tiny part of your support, let me bring your attention to three numbers:

38, 67, and 79.

38 is Trump's current approval rating. Sure, it's pretty low, but that number has in fact increased from 36% since before Charlottesville. Let me repeat that: your party's president has enjoyed a bump in his approval ratings since his reaction to Charlottesville.

67 is the percentage of Republicans who supported Trump's response to the events in Charlottesville. Let me repeat that: 67% of Americans in your party supported Trump's drawing of a moral equivalency between Neo-Nazis and protestors, and his comments that there were many "very fine people" marching and chanting "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and Soil" in the Friday night crowd.

79 is the percentage of Republicans who approve of the President. 

I know many of you are well-educated and -read, and thus watch and read thoughtful pundits ... which means that (with the glaring exception of Fox News) you probably saw nothing but condemnations of the president (however muted). But the reality is, most Americans are not cable news pundits, and 67% of your party approved of Trump cheering Neo-Nazis.

So please, if you have been silent, stop being silent. You already have your conservative majority on the Supreme Court ... now, is that tax cut really worth giving up your moral compass? (Um, and sometime we can talk about that $20 trillion debt anyway.) Is setting back the ideals of this nation and losing you soul really less important than an election cycle or two? Surely if you attacked Obama for such offenses as saluting with a cup of coffee in his hand you can find it in yourself to attack Trump for giving aid and comfort to Nazis.

If you are an elected official, please, stop the business as usual. Apparently the Swamp King Mitch McConnell claimed he didn't offer a strong statement against the president because, given their spat last week, he didn't want to be seen as picking a fight with him. Just think about that for a moment, will you? At the very least, you should have the courage to support a vote of Censure.I promise that Trump will still sign your tax cut thereafter if you can pass it.

Please, stop resorting to calling the GOP the party of Lincoln every chance you get. Yes that's true, and actually I love it when white supremacists are reminded that they support the party that executed the Civil War. But, um, things have changed in the past 150 years. Of more relevance than your being the party of Lincoln is that you have been the party of white backlash since the 1960s. Any honest Republican admits as much.

Just because many white voters turned against the Dems because the Dems embraced Civil Rights does not mean that a corporate tax cut would be wrong, or that some regulations are not onerous. It means that many white Republicans are racist. And it means that Trump embraced, nurtured, and helped get elected by the racism in your base. And by the way, for the record, at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln maintained that if he could save the union by preserving slavery, he would preserve slavery. And, at the very end of his life, he gently suggested -- in a private letter -- that perhaps the very finest African Americans, especially veterans, possibly be given the vote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of equality.

If you think, by the way, that liberals talk too much about identity politics and that the vast majority of Americans have moved beyond these matters, I point you to a recent study on the election that concluded:

"We find that racism and sexism attitudes were strongly associated with vote choice in 2016, even after accounting for partisanship, ideology, and other standard factors. These factors were more important in 2016 than in 2012, suggesting that the explicitly racial and gendered rhetoric of the 2016 campaign served to activate these attitudes in the minds of many voters. Indeed, attitudes toward racism and sexism account for about two-thirds of the education gap in vote choices in 2016."

You might also glance at this article, which confirms that racial resentment was the strongest predictor of the (very small) group of voters who voted for both Obama and Trump. 

There is a model here. Margaret Hoover could not be more of a republican -- I mean literally, she's the great-granddaughter of President Hoover. On TV she issued a blistering attack on Trump that had the basic intellectual integrity to note that her party has long benefitted from racial backlash and that it has come to close to the line of giving aid and comfort to the kind of thugs we saw in Charlottesville. "There's a line in the sand here," Hoover concludes. Moderate and mainstream Republicans, this speech should have been the bare minimum, not an exception. It's a few tweets down here, the video on CNN from August 16. (Note to DH: learn how to download videos from Twitter.)

p.s.: If you still want to deny that racial anxiety goes a long way in explaining the anti-Obama backlash, I have some land in central Nevada to sell you. Though actually, this land is not for sale. As far as I can tell, the picture below is of publicly owned land, the result of Nye County Nevada taking over the ghost town and ghost spa of Warm Springs, Nevada for failure to pay taxes. I promise to look into the matter more, so please don't quote me. But anyway, I took this picture in August 2017.

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