When Obama was President, almost every time I walked into a bookstore, I would bump into a book display with a bunch of books telling me that Obama was a no-good bum. There would be at least one, if not two books on how he was subverting the Constitution, there would be another book on how he was some kind of Muslim in disguise, and there would always be at least book about how America was going down the drain.
Then beginning in 2017, this same display case in the front of the bookstore held books which said that Trump was a no good S.O.B., or a Fascist, or worse. The catch-all way that Trump was usually described was as a racist and an authoritarian who manipulated the grievances of lower-class white males to push himself into the driver’s seat in 2016.
The liberal response to Trump as a threat to the democratic system continued throughout his four White House years, even though the threatened democratic system easily withstood his 2020 off-year assault and rejected him entirely in 2020 with the decisive victory of Kamala and Joe.
Of course, the Fascist tide reached a new level of danger on January 6th, but even here, if you happened to be unable to access any kind of media for three or four hours, you missed the whole thing. And even though Trump has boasted that he would pardon all the rioters if he got back into the White House in 2025, if I had a nickel for very promise that Trump has made and never kept….
Yesterday, I read all the way through a brief book published by a Guardian writer, Nesrine Malik, that was published in 2021. The book, We Need New Stories – The Myths That Subvert Freedom, is an argument about how Trump’s conscious attempt to blame the victims of socio-economic inequality rather than the individuals, groups and forces whose behavior creates those unequal conditions, has become the standard political narrative used by the alt-right to push back against the ‘identity politics’ of the alt-left, in particular, anything which promotes gender equality and women’s ‘rights.’
Malik very cleverly argues that Trump promoted his own brand of identity politics, in his case his chosen identity group was men who are also white. If these white males were having a tough time scraping through their daily lives because they didn’t earn enough money or couldn’t succeed in a certain job, all the more reason why they could be convinced that the problem wasn’t them, the problem was all those people who weren’t males and weren’t white.
This nascent racism has been at the top of the GOP agenda since Reagan joked about the ‘welfare queen.’ But even though the socio-economic gap between the races hasn’t changed over the past forty years, what we might call the more ‘polite’ linguistic nomenclature used to talk about race certainly has.
In 1980, I was standing in the field house at the University of Kansas watching my college team – Cincinnati – go through their warmups before taking on Kansas in the game that would determine which team would then go to the Final 4. A kid wearing a Jayhawks sweatshirt came up to me and said, “I can’t wait for the game to start and see how your big nigger does against our big nigger.”
That kind of language and the assumption of shared racist values which it represented disappeared from popular parlance until Trump told his Cabinet that we needed to stop immigrants from those ‘shithole countries’ from coming into the United States. This is how Trump managed to push the rhetorical spectrum of politics to the right, a movement which Nesrine Malik believes can be reversed if liberals become even more committed to defending and promoting the identity politics of gender and race.
The picture above is less than one week’s worth of cartons that held products that are now on the shelves of my local Walmart. There are 4,756 Walmart stores operating in the United States, and I guarantee you that you would find the same pile of empty cartons behind every one of those stores today.
For all her concern about how Trump is spreading around ‘myths that subvert freedom,’ like the myths of identity politics, I would love Nesrine Malik or any of her liberal, spieling colleagues to ask the Trump voters how much time they spend actually listening to what Trump has to say. Then these same interview subjects should be asked how much time they spend wandering around Walmart, Costco, Five Below, Target and all their other shopping destinations each week.
I guarantee you that Nesrine Malik spends a lot more time thinking about Trump than the time spent by all those people who are allegedly helping him subvert freedom by buying into his myths.