Someone posted this long post (is there any other kind?) from Scott Alexander in the comments a while ago. It is a simply PHENOMENAL refutation of what “everybody knows” about Trump being a flaming racist.
I didn’t read it until I was on a business trip and was stuck with my conscience and my phone (so I turned to my phone, naturally). But it was way better than I thought it would be, and it even keeps getting better in the post itself. Some excerpts:
This is just a tiny representative sample, but the rest is very similar. Trump has gone from campaign stop to campaign stop talking about how much he likes and respects minorities and wants to fight for them.
And if you believe he’s lying, fine. Yet I notice that people accusing Trump of racism use the word “openly” like a tic. He’s never just “racist” or “white supremacist”. He’s always “openly racist” and “openly white supremacist”. Trump is openly racist, openly racist, openly racist, openly racist, openly racist, openly racist, openly racist. Trump is running on pure white supremacy, has thrown off the last pretense that his campaign is not about bigotry, has the slogan Make American Openly White Supremacist Again, is an openly white supremacist nominee, etc, etc, etc. And I’ve seen a few dozen articles like this where people say that “the bright side of a Trump victory is that finally America admitted its racism out in the open so nobody can pretend it’s not there anymore.”
This, I think, is the first level of crying wolf. What if, one day, there is a candidate who hates black people so much that he doesn’t go on a campaign stop to a traditionally black church in Detroit, talk about all of the contributions black people have made to America, promise to fight for black people, and say that his campaign is about opposing racism in all its forms? What if there’s a candidate who does something more like, say, go to a KKK meeting and say that black people are inferior and only whites are real Americans?
We might want to use words like “openly racist” or “openly white supremacist” to describe him. And at that point, nobody will listen, because we wasted “openly white supremacist” on the guy who tweets pictures of himself eating a taco on Cinco de Mayo while saying “I love Hispanics!”
So the mainstream narrative is that Trump is okay with alienating minorities (= 118 million people), whites who abhor racism and would never vote for a racist (if even 20% of whites, = 40 million people), most of the media, most business, and most foreign countries – in order to win the support of about 50,000 poorly organized and generally dysfunctional people, many of whom are too young to vote anyway.
Caring about who the KKK or the alt-right supports is a lot like caring about who Satanists support. It’s not something you would do if you wanted to understand real political forces. It’s only something you would do if you want to connect an opposing candidate to the most outrageous caricature of evil you can find on short notice.
and make sure you consider this angle, if you dislike Trump and are really really sure he’s not just a jerk, but also a racist:
I don’t think people appreciate how weird this guy is. His weird way of speaking. His catchphrases like “haters and losers!” or “Sad!”. His tendency to avoid perfectly reasonable questions in favor of meandering tangents about Mar-a-Lago. The ability to bait him into saying basically anything just by telling him people who don’t like him think he shouldn’t.
If you insist that Trump would have to be racist to say or do whatever awful thing he just said or did, you are giving him too much credit. Trump is just randomly and bizarrely terrible. Sometimes his random and bizarre terribleness is about white people, and then we laugh it off. Sometimes it’s about minorities, and then we interpret it as racism.
Before closing, I have to mention one thing. In his zeal to prove how non-anti-Semitic Trump is, Scott Alexander gives a throwaway remark about Pat Buchanan:
Listen. Trump is going to be approximately as racist as every other American president. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll be a bit more. Maybe he’ll surprise us and be a bit less. But most likely he’ll be about as racist as Ronald Reagan, who employed Holocaust denier Pat Buchanan as a senior advisor. Or about as racist as George Bush with his famous Willie Horton ad. Or about as racist as Bill “superpredator” Clinton, who took a photo op in front of a group of chained black men in the birthplace of the KKK.
Unfortunately, here Alexander has fallen prey to the same type of slander that says Trump is “openly white supremacist.” Here’s Wikipedia’s treatment of (part of) Buchanan’s book, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War:
Buchanan claims that Hitler’s ambitions were confined only to Eastern Europe, and citing such historians as Ian Kershaw, Andreas Hillgruber and Richard J. Evans, states that Hitler wanted an anti-Soviet alliance with Britain. Buchanan maintains that British leaders of the 1930s were influenced by “Germanophobia”, leading them to suspect that Germany was out to conquer the world. Citing John Lukacs, Buchanan maintains that Operation Barbarossa was not part of any long-range master plan on the part of Hitler, but was instead an attempt by Hitler to force Britain to make peace by eliminating Britain’s last hope of victory – bringing the Soviet Union into the war on the Allied side. Buchanan argues that the Holocaust only developed the scale it did because Hitler’s invasion of Poland and then Russia meant that he had within his control most European Jews, which would not have been the case otherwise. Buchanan argues that if Churchill had accepted Hitler’s peace offer of 1940, the severity of the Holocaust would have been immensely less.
Now let me ask you two questions:
(1) Does the above count as “Holocaust denial”?
(2) Can you totally see how some people would smear Buchanan as a “Holocaust denier” because of the above?
You’ve started down a great path, Mr. Alexander…keep walking.
P.S. This post was inspired by a libertarian whom I shared Alexander’s post with, but I don’t know if he wants me naming him.