Friday, February 17, 2017

Extremists around Trump

President Donald Trump has surrounded his inner circle with people whom many political observers see as exclusionists, white supremacists and bigots. Obviously, it is not a good sign for a country, which for nearly a half a century has been preaching the value of inclusion, liberality and democracy to the rest of the world. Many world leaders are either very nervous or concerned about the direction Trump may take the USA into.
One such extremist is Michael Anton, a former George W. Bush administration speechwriter— who now works for President Trump. Before the election, he wrote under the pseudonym “Publius Decius Mus,” a remarkable essay in support of Trump.
“The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle,” he wrote, hailing the real estate mogul as the only figure who understood the stakes, who would beat back these “foreigners” and preserve America’s democratic tradition as Decius saw it. Not a tradition of pluralism, but one of exclusion, in which white Americans stand as the only legitimate players in political life. A dictatorship of the herrenvolk.
As Jamelle Bouie, Slates chief political correspondent, recently wrote in the, Anton isn’t the only figure in the Trump circle who holds these views. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, his former aide Stephen Miller, and right-wing media mogul Stephen Bannon occupy prominent positions in the present administration. Like Anton, they hold deep antagonism to immigrants and immigration, opposition to their equality within American society, and nostalgia for a time when prosperity was the province of the native-born and a select few “assimilated” immigrants. But these aren’t just ideologues with jobs in a friendly administration. They are the architects of Trump’s policy, the executors of a frighteningly coherent political ideology.
Bouie writes, "What is that ideology? Most Americans think of “racism” in individualized terms. To call someone a “racist,” then, is to pass judgment on his or her character—a declaration that this person doesn’t belong in polite society. It’s why, when faced with the accusation, Americans often rush to deny any prejudice. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, goes the cliché. But individualized prejudice is just one way to think of racism. There’s also institutional bias or systemic outcomes—the things that lead critics to deem the criminal justice system as “racist.” And beyond the material, there’s racism as ideology—a structured worldview defined by support for race hierarchy and racial caste.
Racist ideology ebbs and flows through our history, changing with the shape of American society and the contours of American life. When the South was a vast archipelago of human bondage and labor camps, racist ideology took the form of a widespread belief in black inferiority and underlay the forceful defenses of slavery. When segregation was law and legislators defended lynching on the Senate floor—even though anti-racism had claimed a small foothold in the national consciousness—racist ideology was a virulent and violent “white supremacy.” America still has white supremacists, and they still terrorize nonwhites with harassment and violence. But now that most Americans share a nominal commitment to racial equality—such that the country celebrated at the election of its first black president, more than eight years ago—explicitly racist ideology has cloaked itself in a kind of “nationalism,” outside the mainstream, but not far from its borders.
This nationalism, white nationalism, was the ideology of Anton’s essay, driven by contempt for immigrants and foreigners of all stripes. A century ago, in the preface to Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, a then-popular work of scientific racism, American eugenicist Henry Fairfield Osborn ably summed up this worldview, which now holds the White House.
Thus conservation of that race which has given us the true spirit of Americanism is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country, of a true sentiment which is based upon knowledge and the lessons of history rather than upon the sentimentalism which is fostered by ignorance. If I were asked: What is the greatest danger which threatens the American republic to-day? I would certainly reply: The gradual dying out among our people of those hereditary traits through which the principles of our religious, political and social foundations were laid down and their insidious replacement by traits of less noble character.
This is Decius’ view. It was essentially the ideology behind Trump's campaign, defined by its hostility toward Muslims, marked by its reliance on racist stereotypes of Hispanic immigrants, and not so subtly contemptuous of black Americans. Now, it all but drives Trump’s administration, voiced by key figures and expressed through policy."
To read his  entire essay, click here.

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