This article by Dinesh D’Souza is a fun bit of work. It tries to suggest that Richard Spencer — white nationalist, best-known for being Nazi-punched — really has a lot in common with those racist Democrats, except Democrats suck, so naturally he’s going to make common cause with Trumpists.
It’s a not-so-nifty bit of “having your cake and eating it too” footwork that depends greatly on people not believing what they see with their own eyes.
Take this D’Souza paragraph on Spencer:
Thus Spencer, a man without a party, turns to Donald Trump. Now, there is very little on which Spencer and Trump actually agree. Trump is a flag-waving patriot who cherishes the American Founders; Spencer isn’t and doesn’t. Trump believes our rights come from God; Spencer is an atheist. Trump wants to keep illegals out so legal immigrants and other American citizens—whether white, black or brown—can thrive. Spencer wants more white immigrants, fewer if any black and brown ones. In sum, Trump is generally “conservative” in his ideology and Spencer is clearly not.
Let’s examine that paragraph point by point.
Trump is a flag-waving patriot who cherishes the American Founders; Spencer isn’t and doesn’t.
It may be that Trump is a flag-waving patriot, but I’m not sure what evidence exists that he reveres — or even understands the concepts — behind the founding. The evidence is that Trump isn’t all that familiar with the Constitution nor the rights therein. He might be good at giving lip-service to a crowd that lionizes the Founders, but what Trump most clearly cherishes is Trump.
Trump believes our rights come from God; Spencer is an atheist.
Does anybody really believe Trump thinks this? Not to get tired with this phrase, but I think it’s also clear that what Trump worships is Trump. I’m sure a few Trump supporters might believe in his faithfulness. They’re, to put it kindly, suckers.
Trump wants to keep illegals out so legal immigrants and other American citizens—whether white, black or brown—can thrive. Spencer wants more white immigrants, fewer if any black and brown ones.
Ahem. I refer you to this.
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.
So D’Souza’s three big differences between Trump and Spencer rely on two examples where he has to basically invent Trump’s views to create a distinction, and a third example — the most important, in terms of concrete US policy — in which public evidence is that there’s no real distinction at all!
What about this, then, from D’Souza?
As I interviewed Spencer, I kept saying to myself, obviously this guy is not a conservative, but what is he? He’s not a progressive in the contemporary sense, either. And yet his ideas are so familiar. Only toward the end of the interview did it hit me. Spencer’s views are virtually identical to those of the progressive racists of the Woodrow Wilson era
D’Souza’s whole project is to prove that Democrats are, historically, the party of racism. He’s not entirely wrong: Dems really do have Woodrow Wilson and a ton of Dixiecrats in their history. But D’Souza has to contort himself to translate that racism to the modern age, in large part precisely because of folks like Spencer. (For a thorough debunking of D’Souza, check out Princeton’s Kevin Kruse on the topic.)
How do you make this calculation work?
Democrats are the real racists + Richard Spencer is a racist in the Democratic mode = Richard Spencer is a Trump supporter?
Well, you do it by starting to change the terms of the debate.
Spencer should be a progressive Democrat. Progressive Democrats invented the ideology he espouses, and even today the Democratic Party is the party of ethnic identity politics. Spencer’s problem, however, is that the Democrats mobilize black, Latino and Asian identity politics against that of whites. Since whites are now the all-round bad guy, Spencer’s brand of progressivism is no longer welcome at the multicultural picnic.
So: Democrats are the real racists! Only that racism somehow no longer includes anti-black racism. If you’re Republican, the only real racism is racism against whites.
Here’s how D’Souza rationalizes it:
Look at it from Spencer’s point of view. If you’re a white nationalist who wants racial preferences for whites, would you rather go with the Democrats who want racial preferences against whites, or with the Republicans who want racial preferences for no one? Clearly the latter.
If you’re a white nationalist who wants to eliminate minority immigration altogether—legal and illegal—would you rather vote for the Democrats who encourage more illegals, with a view to gaining more future voters, or for the Republicans who generally support legal but not illegal immigration? Again, the answer is obvious.
It’s not that Spencer is really pro-Trump! It’s that he’s anti-Democrat!
Now: It’s not that D’Souza puts out a red carpet for Spencer, let’s be honest. But let’s be frank about what he’s just done there: He’s declared that in our two-party system, it’s completely rational for a big ol’ racist like Richard Spencer to join the Trumpist cause.
The real D’Souzian math:
Racists are bad + Democrats are worse = Racists love Trump.
And that’s it. That’s the conclusion. There’s no attempt to push Spencer out of the Trumpist coalition, a la Buckley reading the Birchers out of conservatism. Just a conclusion that Democrats are worse. At best, this piece can be read as tacit acceptance of the situation.
The funny thing is, if you read D’Souza’s interview with Spencer, you come away with a realization of how much Spencer sounds like Michael Anton, the godfather of “intellectual” Trumpism, and the author of “The Flight 93 Election” that made the case for Trump.
I’ll give you two quotes. You tell me which one was said by the White Nationalist and which one by the Intellectual Trump Supporter.
I’m against replacement immigration in the sense that I’m against immigration coming in from the Third World that is ultimately going to change the ethnic and cultural constitution of the United States.
The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.
Oooh. Let me throw in a bonus.
In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.”
1. Spencer. 2. Anton. 3. Laura Ingraham.
I don’t think conservatism necessarily equals racism. Truly. But I don’t know how much clearer that Trumpism, at the very least, makes common cause with racism. And yes, Democrats and liberals have their own sins to repent of in this regard. But it’s Trumpists who are running the country, who are gladdening the hearts of Richard Spencer. At some point, there’s no amount rationalizing that’s plausible. It’s exactly what it looks like.