There’s an ongoing debate among the left concerning the Never Trumpers. You know who they are, Republicans who woke up one day and realized that the Republican Party was filled with, well, Republicans! Can we trust them? Or will they stab liberals the back the second Trump is gone?
It’s impossible to make such a grand, sweeping judgment on the entire group as every person and their motivations is different. For instance, David Frum burned his bridges with the conservative establishment long before Trump waddled into town. Yes, he was an integral part of the Bush regime but he saw where the movement was going and wanted no part of it. He has spent years pushing back on the rapid acceleration of the right into a cesspit of ignorance, hate, and racism. Frum is unlikely to go back to being a right-wing operative any time soon.
The media’s false equivalence ignores reality — a president and one party have adopted thuggishness, threats, bigotry and admiration for violence as mainstays of their rhetoric. It’s not both sides that have taken to encouraging violence; it’s the Republican Party. It’s not both parties that treat the media as a threat to the United States; it’s only the Republicans. It’s not both sides of the aisle that call to lock up their opponents; only Trump does that.
Those are not the words of someone who is going to jump back on the GOP wagon the moment Trump is out of the picture. She’s also been upfront about how blind, willfully or otherwise, she’s been to the moral rot of the right. Rubin is also not a good candidate for “Repatriated Republican of the Year 2020”
But then there’s Tom Nichols, who just fled the GOP cult two months ago and doesn’t seem to have quite shaken the programming loose:
This "it's not your fault, the system has it in for you" bullshit pioneered by Bannon and weaponized by Trump is something conservatives castigated liberals for saying to minorities years ago. And rightly so: it deprives people of agency and responsibility. /5
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) December 3, 2018
This would be true if it wasn’t for the fact that, for minorities, the system actually does have it out for them.
Where do I even start? Nichols has to know as well as I do about the historic practice of redlining. That’s when banks literally drew a red line on the map and decided which parts of the city black people (and Jews and Asians and Latinos, but mostly blacks) would not be allowed to buy. It was “bad” for property values, you see. Of course, it was only bad because white America was racist, but that didn’t matter; entire sections of cities were de facto “whites only.”
This lead to a massive wealth gap between white families and black families. While white families were able to build equity and pass that on to their children, black families couldn’t. Over a few generations, the gap has become brutal and it’s getting worse:
Between 2013 and 2016, net worth increased 46 percent for Hispanic families, 29 percent for black families, and 17 percent for white families, according to Wednesday’s Fed report.
But the wealth gap between black and white families grew by 16 percent during that time, and by 14 percent between Hispanics and whites. In 2016, white families had a median net worth of $171,000, compared with $17,600 for blacks and $20,700 for Hispanics.
And that’s not even factoring in that businesses abandoned the inner cities where minorities were forced to move because they weren’t allowed to buy homes in the suburbs with all the nice white folk. So not only were they systematically denied the opportunity to build wealth, they were systematically denied the opportunity to move where the jobs were. And on top of that, without the tax base to support their schools, they were systematically denied a proper education.
That is the literal definition of “it’s not your fault, the system has it in for you.”
And then there’s the institutional violence visited on brown skin by the police and courts. Here’s a fun set of facts from the NAACP:
- In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
- African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
- The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
- Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
waived to criminal court.
- Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.
- If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites,
prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.
- In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.
- African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.
- African Americans represent 12.5% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.
That didn’t happen by accident. That is clear and institutional racism on a massive scale. The spill down effects are legion. Felons have an incredibly difficult time finding jobs. They have difficulty assimilating back into society, particularly when deliberate steps are taken to make it difficult for them to do so. This is even more pronounced when they were locked up as juveniles and did not finish school, something that magically happens to blacks far more often than whites. Again, this is the literal definition of “it’s not your fault, the system has it in for you.”
Nichols may very well argue that black men (and children) shouldn’t do the crime if they don’t want to do the time but I find it unlikely that he would argue that we start locking up white men at a commensurate rate.
Clearly, Nichols is downplaying or ignoring the obstacles set against minorities in America. I only went back a few decades and out popped all kinds of systemic oppression. I didn’t even touch on discrimination in the workplace, how much harder it is for blacks to get hired, the lack of representation in popular culture, the lack of representation in politics, Jim Crow, racialized voter suppression, the years of terrorism that forced millions of blacks to flee the South, race riots, slavery, etc.
When the left tells minorities that it’s not their fault, it not a matter of stripping minorities of their agency or responsibility but rather lifting the burden that we as a society have been placing on them for generations. When we say it’s not their fault, we literally mean it’s not their fault because according to the dogma of white supremacy, it’s all and only their fault. We’ve been telling them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps while cutting the bootstraps. And stealing the boots. And breaking their kneecaps. And sitting on them.
Does that mean that Tom Nichols is not to be trusted? I don’t know. Well before he broke with the GOP Nichols wrote “The Death of Expertise,” a book blasting the disastrous dismissal of experts in favor of “everyone’s opinion is valid.” While this is not a phenomenon limited to the right, they’ve certainly taken it to an extreme no one else has, particularly in the realm of policy. Obviously, Nichols wasn’t a frothing right-wing lunatic to begin with so there’s always the hope that the longer he’s out of the Republican cult, the more clearly he will see. The same can be said for every Never Trumper. When you’re part of the machine built to push the conservative agenda, your livelihood, indeed, your entire social life, revolves around maintaining absolute loyalty to the machine. This is a fairly well-documented system and why the word “cult” is less a slur than it is an accurate label. This is why Never Trumpers like Glenn Beck have slunk back into the fold. They simply could not survive outside on their own.
But people break free of cults all the time and realize just how badly their worldview was distorted. When that happens, it’s up to that person to chart a new course in their life and accept their new reality. Maybe now that he’s free from the dogma that once told him that minorities are not being systematically crushed, Nichols will start to see how wrong he is. Or not. That’s his choice. But it will tell us an awful lot about how trustworthy he is down the road after Trump is gone and the GOP tries to rebrand itself as the “New” and “Moderate” Republican Party.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.