Charlottesville, Race, and Republican Virtue-Signaling
Why Trump’s condemnation of “all sides” was scorned.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The blood on the ground in Charlottesville hadn’t dried before the race industry was fulminating full blast, and anxious Republicans were furiously virtue-signaling. Once more we see the toxic wages of our incoherent and politicized racial discourse.
Trump’s general condemnations of the white supremacists and their rally at which a woman was run-over and killed by a loser with a Hitler fetish was insufficient for both sides. Republicans and progressives alike demanded that he call out by name the various fringe-groups that organized the rally. All were outbidding one another to display their righteous indignation and complete freedom from the slightest taint of racism. Ted Cruz’s statement is typical: “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.” It doesn’t take much bravery to make a statement so obviously true and widely approved outside a tiny fringe movement.
Then followed demands to call the murder “domestic terrorism”; the opening of a DOJ investigation; three days of NeverTrump dudgeon over Trump’s gaffe; and endless progressive analyses of the alt-right and racist moles that have burrowed into Trump’s administration. Long before Charlottesville, the anti-Trump “resistance” had decided he was a crypto-racist issuing “dog whistles” to his knuckle-dragging, gap-toothed base which in Bill Clinton’s day Dems called “angry white men.”
Thus the narrative was set, and any questioning of it considered bad form or even a sign that the critic is a minion of the Imperial Wizard or Grand Cyclops. The endless Two-Minute Hate Whitey was on, and it doesn’t do to interrupt it ritual.
But conclusions should be drawn. First, the eagerness and zeal of many Republicans to put themselves on the side of the angels demonstrate once again how thoroughly they have endorsed the race-hacks’ preposterous and self-serving rules for racial discourse, no matter how incoherent or distorting they are of today’s reality.
For example, both sides agree that “white supremacism” targeted specifically at blacks is a unique evil transcending all others, including anti-Semitism, the on-going jihadist genocide against Christians in the Middle East, or the jihadist terror that slaughtered people in Boston, Orlando, and San Bernardino. Assent to this demand that racism against blacks is the supreme evil––as are all, by the way, reductions of humans to any materialist determinism––is not enough. White racism is America’s original sin from which all other sins derive. But unlike Christianity’s doctrine of the Fall, there is no possibility for redemption. The taint is forever.
No matter that the concrete manifestations of this sin have been mostly reduced to subjective “microagressions” that only the victim can perceive, or statistical “disparities” the numerous causes of which are reduced to one––racism––despite the absence of any evidence that people have consciously or even unconsciously constructed “institutional racism.” The nasty, brutal, widespread racism that once engendered night-riders, lynching, legal segregation, and casual daily violence and humiliation may be gone, but like Jimmy Carter’s adultery, every day all whites sin against blacks “in their hearts,” and enjoy the social order that perpetuates their racism and protects their “white privilege.” Questioning this assumption reveals a stiff-necked indulgence of sin, and a need for public confession and verbal self-flagellation. Hence the heated condemnations of Trump issued by the Republicans, which signaled their acceptance of the narrative and their personal righteousness.
But conservatives who accept that preposterous narrative will never be redeemed. No amount of groveling or rhetorical hair-shirts or preemptive cringing will save them from their endemic racism. They are always and forever racists, because they are ideological opponents of the political aims that the purveyors of the narrative are pursuing––more power to the left, more redistribution of wealth to its clients, more and bigger government to create more socialist cronyism of the sort on which the progressives feed.
The narrative, in other words, is an instrument of political leverage and power, not a description of reality. Identity politics based on grievance and victimization requires that there always be grievances and victims. Progress cannot be admitted, no more than any of us can be born free from Original Sin. The permanence of racial sin, and the need for whites to act in ways that advantage the “victims,” forbid such reconciliation.
Thus the reflexive and hyperbolic condemnations of white racism are instruments of power. If a faction can make people do what it wants them to do to benefit itself, that is power. Campus protestors coercing from the president or administration scholarship money, programs, research centers, and more black-studies faculty hires, is power. Making public officials passionately and anxiously demonstrate their absence of racism is power. Getting the president to issue the specific condemnation that the faction demands is power.
Moreover, success in achieving one demand breeds more demands. So even though Trump specifically called out the alt-right, the KKK, and the neo-Nazis, Nancy Pelosi is now demanding that the president fire advisor Steve Bannon, and thus tacitly confess the important role the racist alt-right played in his election. This is the essence of political correctness: requiring public obeisance to interpretations of political and social disagreements that benefit the left. Political correctness is power.
The wide-spread acceptance of this ideologically skewed racial logic makes justified complaints about a double standard useless. The fringe groups that assembled in Charlottesville are nationally negligible. They are universally despised and shunned. Their national profile is the result of the progressives and the media weaponizing them against Trump. They have no chance whatsoever of amassing enough of a following to win any national public office. As a threat to blacks they are nothing compared to the thousands of black men murdered by other black men every year. But again, the practical consequences of their despised ideology don’t matter. It’s the political use to which their lunatic beliefs can be put.
That is why Trump’s condemnation of “all sides” was scorned. We all know that Black Lives Matter has played a role in the war on cops that contributed to assassinations of police in Texas, Baton Rouge and elsewhere. Some of the assailants said they were “influenced” by BLM rallies, at which chants like “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” or “Dead cops now” are heard. We know that the Antifa bunch are notorious for using violence to shut down talks or protests they don’t like. As the videos show, they came to Charlottesville armed and ready to rumble, as did the supremacists.
But when have we heard Republicans with similar intensity demand that Obama, Loretta Lynch, the NAACP, the Black Congressional Caucus, or any Democrat leaders call out by name these “domestic terrorists”? Indeed, a BLM official was welcomed to Obama’s White House and fulsomely praised. Obama and his AG Eric Holder serially reinforced the despicable lie that the police target innocent black men for murder, the pretext for BLM’s protests. A few Republicans commented on this abuse of public office, but we heard nothing like last week’s vehemence.
And how do the media get away with calling the Antifa protestors vague “counterprotestors,” when video footage shows them fighting with gusto and wielding weapons like staffs or even ignited aerosol spray-cans? How are the supremacists, who had legal permits to hold a rally and exercise of their First Amendment rights, the sole “cause” of the mayhem? Would that woman have died if the Antifa thugs, masters of the old anarchist “propaganda of the deed,” hadn’t infiltrated the protest and fueled the violence, as they have done numerous times across the country?
This isn’t “whataboutism,” the latest rationalization of NeverTrump apologists hiding their double standards. This is about using a consistent standard based on consistent principle, such as violence or murder should never be used to violate any group’s First Amendment rights, a principle that should be applied consistently without exception or rationalization or making some people’s rights or deaths more equal than others’.
Trump and his advisors need to understand how pervasive the left's racial narrative is, and anticipate it when commenting on events like the Charlottesville killing. Once he has thrown a bone to the identity politics tribunes and fearful Republicans, then he should call out the leftist thugs and demand that their Democrat enablers condemn them by name. And don’t buy into the narrative that historical crimes give the victims’ descendants, no matter how free and privileged, a perpetual weapon to use against their political enemies. That claim is not about justice or morality. It is simply an instrument of political power.