The White American Dinosaurs

Graduate school at Duke was fine. North Carolina was a bit problematic. There were the Lost Cause folks sure that the South would rise again – they hadn’t really lost that war. There was the New South crowd – forget all that and build a new high-tech economy with shiny tall buildings everywhere. And there were Jesus folks everywhere, from the vibrant black churches to the whiter than white giant evangelical megachurch complexes, with slick telegenic pastors rolling in money and Republican to the core. Their people were Republicans too, the Makers who hated the Takers. Somehow the Takers were always people of color – any color would do – and those people wouldn’t do. Give them nothing. Charity begins at home. And of course Jesus was a Republican, or will be one day when He returns, any day now.

The theology was a bit shaky and some saw that. See How Raleigh’s John Pavlovitz Went from Fired Megachurch Pastor to Rising Star of the Religious Left – this guy had had just about enough of that nonsense. And he writes quite a bit now, in short bursts, like The Extinction of the White American Dinosaur:

I love the look I saw this week.

It was the look of terrified dinosaurs realizing that the meteorite is on its way; the dilated pupils in the eyes of leadened, lumbering prehistoric monsters that’ve had their run of the house, now finding themselves at the precipice of extinction…

They can see the change in the weather and the light in the sky – and they are scrambling to avoid the coming impact because they can sense it will not end well for them.

They know what’s coming but they’ll say it’s not coming:

It’s why Mitch McConnell is holding the Government hostage over an ineffective, multi-billion dollar monument to racism of a border wall that two-thirds of this country doesn’t want.

It’s why men like Tucker Carlson, rant mindlessly about successful women ushering in the “decline of men.”

It’s why Jim Mattis and Michael Cohen and General Kelly and Mike Flynn, and a perpetually revolving door of men are leaving or being forced out of positions of influence and leadership.

It’s why Republican leaders have spent the past year creating a massive straw man out of exhausted migrant families and refugee children, as though they were wealthy foreign adversaries rigging a Presidential election.

They’re all in a scalding panic, because they understand that their brief moment in history to have their way and impose their will is quickly coming to a close.

John Pavlovitz knows what is really coming:

America’s history is being rewritten in real-time by a fearless, disparate, interdependent humanity of every creed and orientation and nation of origin. And despite a reign that seemed like it would never end, the once mighty white dinosaurs are running out of real estate – and time.

Their eyes tell the story.

They see extinction coming.

We all do.

But they will fight extinction. They’re not all racist jerks. They can rejoin the living world. They can evolve. They just tried:

A panel of Republican leaders voted unanimously Monday to keep veteran Iowa lawmaker Steve King off House committees, a firm rebuke to an influential opponent of illegal immigration who sparked outrage last week after openly questioning whether the term “white supremacist” was offensive.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the decision by the Republican Steering Committee, which seats lawmakers on House committees, followed his own recommendation and was meant to send a message about the GOP at large.

“That is not the party of Lincoln,” he said of King’s comments. “It is definitely not American. All people are created equal in America, and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”

But why do that now? That multi-billion dollar monument to racism of a border wall might have something to do with that. More Americans blame Trump for the government shutdown over that wall than blame Democrats, and most oppose a border wall – the polls are clear. Trump has already lost this one. The public has turned on him, and on Republicans, and now the Democrats hold the House. They were going to slam King, so Republicans had to get there first:

King, who was elected to a ninth term in November, served on the House Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees in the last Congress. The decision to effectively strip him of those posts came as House Democrats pondered rebukes of their own and as leading Republicans across the party spoke out against him.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there is “no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind,” while Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a former presidential nominee, called on King to resign.

That preempted the Democrats, but this was still a mess:

The recent controversy was touched off when King asked in a New York Times interview published last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”

It followed a long string of remarks disparaging of immigrants and minorities, as well as a seeming embrace of far-right foreign politicians and parties that have been openly hostile to those same groups.

And the Democrats already claimed the high ground:

House Democrats could bring up a measure condemning King as soon as Tuesday. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the party’s No. 3 leader, on Monday said he would introduce a resolution to express “disapproval of Mr. King’s comments and condemnation of white nationalism and white supremacy in all forms.”

“I do so invoking the words of another King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, if he had been allowed to live, would be celebrating his 90th birthday” Tuesday, he said on the House floor. “Dr. King counseled that, ‘We are going to be made to repent, not just for the hateful words and deeds of bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people.'”

Well, there had been silence:

Shortly before the November election, for instance, King lashed out at the media after The Washington Post reported that he had met with members of a far-right Austrian party with historical Nazi ties after flying to Europe for a trip financed by a Holocaust memorial group. Republican leaders largely remained silent.

King is a figure of prominence in the House GOP, not only due to the controversies he has stoked but also as a former Judiciary subcommittee chairman, a leader in opposing legalized abortion and chairman of the Conservative Opportunity Society, an internal caucus of right-wing House Republicans that meets regularly.

After the Times interview was published, King issued a statement trying to clean up the controversy and later spoke on the House floor to say that he had made a “freshman mistake” by taking a reporter’s call and that the comments were “snippets” taken out of context of a large conversation.

That conversation, he said, was about “how did that language get injected into our political dialog? Who does that? How does it get done?”

But members of both parties have become increasingly weary of the repeated cycle of offense and outrage surrounding King. Among those speaking out against King this time include Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the most prominent black Republican in Congress.

Enough is enough, but there was this too:

President Trump professed ignorance Monday about recent remarks from Rep. Steve King regarding white supremacy, while the storm around the Iowa Republican’s inflammatory comments continued to grow and senior GOP officials moved to strip him of valuable committee assignments.

Yet Trump had no qualms about engaging in racially offensive comments of his own over the weekend, invoking the Wounded Knee massacre – which killed hundreds of Sioux Indians on a South Dakota reservation in 1890 – to launch a political attack against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her claims of American Indian heritage…

In a tweet Sunday night, Trump mocked Warren – a potential 2020 presidential candidate – over a recent Instagram Live appearance from her kitchen during which she awkwardly announced that she was going to grab a beer as she spoke directly to her followers.

“If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” Trump tweeted, using a name he has repeatedly used to disparage Warren.

Enough is enough:

The tweet drew a rebuke from the GOP senators who represent South Dakota, as well as a harsh condemnation from the National Congress of American Indians, which denounced Trump’s tweet in the “strongest possible terms.”

“On behalf of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, I condemn President Trump’s racist and disrespectful tweet about this brutal incident, in which an estimated 300 unarmed men, women, and children were rounded up and slaughtered,” said Rodney Bordeaux, the tribe’s chairman.

In an interview, [Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)] Rounds said of Trump’s tweet: “I do not think he gains any points by using the site of that atrocity in a political speech or a tweet. So I think maybe he should reconsider using that one in the future. That’s not appropriate.”

“I wish he wouldn’t do that. I wish he wouldn’t tweet as much, I’ve said many times in the past,” added Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “That’s obviously a very sensitive part of our state’s history. I wish he’d stay away from it.”

He won’t stay away from it:

Before he left for New Orleans for a farm conference, Trump dismissed questions about King, who started a firestorm when he asked in a New York Times interview published last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”

“Who?” Trump responded. When a reporter clarified, Trump responded: “I haven’t been following.”

When asked about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) calling him a “racist,” Trump dismissed the question, saying, “Who cares?”

Trump is the dinosaur here, and Michael Gerson explains why:

In their criticism of King, you get the sense that Republicans are actually relieved to be in the position of attacking racism for a change, instead of being forced to defend it from the president. They seem to be signaling that they are not really the bigots they appear to be. Republicans seem desperate to explain that they are normal and moral – despite all the evidence. Attacking King reveals some sense of shame at what they have become.

Yet, in the end, Republican critics of King manage to look worse rather than better. If racism is the problem, then President Trump is a worse offender.

The evidence is clear:

Take the last days before the 2018 midterm elections. Trump closed his campaign for Republicans with a hysterical warning that brown people were invading the country. He initially suggested they should be shot, adding that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if George Soros was funding the migrant caravan. This is clearly what he regards as his strongest political argument – the racist promotion of animus against outsiders, tied to pernicious conspiracy theories.

Trump feeds ethnic stereotypes of migrants as “rapists” and “murderers.” He makes apocalyptic warnings that Democratic control would “turn America into Venezuela” and “totally open borders.” And his supporters dismiss criticism against him as a personality thing.

Add to this Trump’s attribution of Kenyan citizenship to former president Barack Obama – and his sympathy for the “very fine people” attending a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville – and his attacks on African American athletes and other figures – and his pardoning of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for racial profiling, terror raids and cruel punishment of inmates. And the president’s attempts at a Muslim ban – and his contempt for “shithole countries” and… a list far longer than I can include.

Gerson looks at this logically:

By any standard, Trump says things that are reckless, wrong, abhorrent, offensive and racist. Until Republicans can state this reality with the same clarity and intensity that they now criticize King, they will be cowards in a time crying for bravery.

And they will be dinosaurs. Adam Serwer sees that:

King’s remarks are the latest entry in a long list of similar statements, such as his declaration that “we can’t restore our civilization with other people’s babies,” that “cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end,” and that “we need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed.” He has called illegal immigration a “slow-motion holocaust,” language that echoes the neo-Nazi doctrine that non-white immigration is a form of “white genocide.” Last year, he endorsed a candidate for mayor of Toronto who has a history of touting white-nationalist and anti-Semitic ideas.

It was only after King’s latest remarks that Republicans condemned him with any kind of force.

That is odd:

King drew a rebuke from Iowa’s two Republican senators, House Republicans have said they may take action against the congressman, and other high profile Republican legislators, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, have condemned his remarks. The conservative intellectual Henry Olsen warned that the “seeds of bigotry” could take root in the Republican Party, and National Review called for King to be expelled from Congress, declaring that “one of the glories of American history is how we finally shed our shameful racist past.”

Hardly. While it is heartening to see that King’s antics have finally drawn a unified response of condemnation from the right, the reactions seem to miss the obvious point that there is little daylight between Steve King and the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

There’s a bit of history to this too:

In 2014, as Trump was mulling a run for president, he made an appearance in Iowa with King, calling him “special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything,” and noting that their views on the issues were so similar that “we don’t even have to compare notes.”

Little has changed. The president has defended white nationalists; sought to exploit the census to dilute the political power of minority voters, described immigration as an infestation, warning that it was “changing the culture of Europe;” derided black and Latino immigrants as coming from “shithole countries,” while expressing a preference for immigrants from places like “Norway;” and generally portrayed non-white immigrants as little more than rapists, drug dealers, and murderers at every opportunity.

Unlike King however, the president has the authority, by himself, to make his views into policy.

And that’s what he did:

From his travel ban to his child-separation policy to his revocation of protections for immigrants brought here as children, he has pursued discriminatory policies with a commitment he has shown for few other campaign promises. Even now, the federal government remains shut down, its workforce denied payment for their labor, all in pursuit of the construction of a taxpayer funded symbolic monument of disapproval towards immigrants of Latin American descent.

But wait, there’s more:

As if to remind the world of his similarity to King, on Sunday night, Trump tweeted a column from Pat Buchanan arguing that the president should seize executive power and build the wall without approval from Congress, warning that unless he does so, “the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist.” Such a barrier is made necessary, Buchanan argues, because of the increasing diversity of the United States, which he portrays in apocalyptic terms. “The more multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual America becomes – the less it looks like Ronald Reagan’s America – the more dependably Democratic it will become,” he argues in the same column. “The Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner Democrats inherit the national estate.”

That’s typical Pat Buchanan, and politically stupid:

This genetic determinism – that the sovereignty of America’s white people is threatened by the presence of non-white people – is the logic of white nationalism. It is an argument for treating people as hostile invaders because of the color of their skin. There is nothing preventing Republicans from competing with Democrats for the votes of religious and ethnic minorities, except for this hostility towards them.

And that’s the trap:

Tempting as it might be for Trump supporters to argue that the president doesn’t endorse such sentiments, Trump is fully conscious of Buchanan’s views. After the Klan leader David Duke’s run for Senate in 1990, Trump said that Buchanan “has many of the same theories, except it’s in a better package.” Years later, Trump said of Buchanan, “He’s a Hitler lover. I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays. It’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy… I just can’t imagine that anybody can take him seriously.”

The president has obviously changed his mind about whether Buchanan’s views are morally objectionable. But no one could argue that he is unaware of what they are.

Trump is the giant white dinosaur here, and Serwer had some advice for Republicans:

It’s important that Republicans are taking racism more seriously. But that means not only rejecting backbencher congressmen like King. It means recognizing that King believes little that the man in the White House does not also believe. If the rejection of King is more than political opportunism, more than an attempt to portray the party as rejecting ideas that the president they support has embraced, then the Republican Party and the conservative movement will have to do more than censure King. They will have to reject Trumpism, and all it represents.

They will have to reject Trump himself. They will have to evolve or become extinct, but Paul Waldman sees a third options for them, to fake being all shiny and new:

Steve King was Trumpian before there was President Trump. Not only did King design his own border wall a decade ago, the kinds of things he would say about immigrants are now said by the president of the United States.

But it’s safe to say many Republicans, particularly in the wake of their thrashing in the 2018 midterm elections, are worried about whether their party needs to be a little more subtle than King or Trump is capable of.

After all, for many years, they pulled off a neat trick: Encourage white people to feed their racial resentments at the ballot box, but do it with enough plausible deniability that they could wave away the inevitable charges of racism.

But those days are over:

Trump made that strategy much more difficult. When your party is led by someone who became a political figure by promoting the racist “birther” lie, who says a Hispanic judge can’t be fair in his fraud case because “He’s a Mexican,” who retweets racist memes, who muses about “shithole countries” and wonders why we can’t get more immigrants from Norway, who calls a group of neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis “very fine people,” and who based his entire 2016 campaign and much of his presidency on fear of foreigners and white identity politics, the charge sticks a lot easier.

And that makes extinction more likely:

Republicans are certainly aware that the country’s demographics are changing in precisely the way that King fears, away from the dominance of whites and toward more diversity. The smart ones probably realize that 2016 may have been the last time a Republican could win a nationwide campaign with the kind of racial appeal Trump offered. Even with Trump still in office, they have to look toward the future, when they’ll begin a rebuilding project that includes convincing voters they won’t tolerate overt racism.

But of course, they do tolerate it. All you have to do is look at who’s in charge of their party.

The Great White American Dinosaur is in charge of their party. They do see extinction coming. And now there’s nothing they can do about that.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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