The charge of “racism!” has been a convenient shorthand for silencing opposition, deployed almost exclusively by the political left for the last 30 years. But it has become such a reflexive allegation that it has lost all meaning for good-faith political discourse.
It’s not racist to say that people who hate America should go somewhere else and see if they like it better. It’s not racist, regardless of whether or not those people ostentatiously identify as “victimized” minorities. It may be impolite; I certainly don’t think it’s useful or necessary myself, as part of political discourse among public officials. But it’s not racist.
It’s not as if Trump has given time heretofore to talking about or apparently noticing Ilhan Omar’s race, naturalized immigrant status, or religion. What he notices and talks about is what she says and does.
It would be one thing if Ilhan Omar could open her mouth without proclaiming how much she has been victimized in America because she’s – in her view – a marginalized minority. But she can’t. It’s all she ever talks about: her victimization, and that of others.
Yet objectively, she’s one of the most privileged, lionized, excused, and enabled people on the planet. It is she who keeps bringing up her race and religion, and flogging the theme that other people are treating her badly because of them.
In their (slightly) different ways, the other congresswomen in the group – Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley; all American born, all determinedly “marginalized” – do the same thing. Often, they purport to speak for the “victimization” of others. They daily deploy this political lever to try to induce America, through falsely stimulated emotion, to clamor for lawlessness. In the process, some of them have engaged in over-the-top anti-Semitism. Others have outrageously defamed our Border Patrol and ICE. All of them have repeatedly slandered the American people.
A Big Lie has been in concoction for the last several years: that opposing radicalism of this kind equals racism, which equals “white supremacy,” which equals a vicious form of “nationalism” – an innocent word now deployed as if it’s so unspeakable it’s another “N-word” – which ultimately equals “far right”; and everybody who doesn’t recite the radical catechism on cue is “far right.” [Update: Ilhan Omar reminds us that the ne plus ultra of this cursus ignominiarum is “white nationalism.”]
This unhinged syllogistic progression now pretty much rules the editorial perspective of the mainstream media. But it’s a lie. None of it is valid. None of it parses.
And it isn’t winning on the field of public debate. The difference between Trump, with his crude verbal attacks, and the Old Consensus politicians and media who are still trying to keep up with the development of the Big Lie, is that Trump is actually confronting it where it matters. He’s confronting it at the point where it’s trying to outmaneuver and kettle up all its opposition. His method is basically to blatantly oppose it, in aggressive, seam-stressing ways that can’t be ignored.
No point here is made to suggest that it’s right or absolutely necessary to do exactly what Trump does. But here’s the deal. The lie will not do either of the following, not ever: refute or defeat Trump, or change the tone of discourse in the United States for the better.
No matter what Trump says, about anything, any topic whatsoever, the Big Lie is still a lie. As such, it has no moral standing to call people out, and no moral power to heal. Millions of ordinary Americans are not racist white “supremacy” far right xenophobe Islamophobe homophobe whatever-phobe BadTerribleNationalists who hate everyone in the whole entire world and want to kill them all dead with “assault weapons,” due to the preference of those ordinary Americans for the rule of law and secure borders.
Trump quite obviously is not such a person himself. Unlike those of more politically correct speech, however, Trump does have a preternatural genius for forcing contentious issues in attention-grabbing ways.
Trump will not be brought down with a lie, nor the American people be brought to rectitude with unneeded rebukes based on lies. Those who are frustrated that their rebukes aren’t being heard really need to stop and listen before saying more. They have no resonance outside their own echo chamber because their judgments against their fellow men are misdirected.
The American people are not racists, the American people don’t hate immigrants, and the American people are literally the very last people on the planet who need lectures on either topic. Americans are unique in our history of successfully absorbing immigrants and overcoming racial and ethnic antipathies. It is a lie to claim otherwise. (It’s even stupidly pious to add the caveat that we’re not perfect. What is this, fourth grade? Of course we’re not perfect.)
The lie about America will not rule us. Full stop. No reproof of Trump or the American people that starts on its basis will prosper. In fact, trafficking in that lie and in such reproofs will only bring down the traffickers. If we’ve learned anything about the Trump phenomenon by now, it ought to be that. No matter how unseemly Trump’s discourse, it is not as bad as trying to rule the American people with a lie.