Trump’s Hate is Honest and Strategic

In a recent post, I shared that, while Mitt Romney probably doesn’t like racism as much as Trump does, he’s willing to invoke it when he thinks it’ll rustle up white voters.

But there is more than hypocrisy in Romney’s recent Washington Post op-ed. There is consistency, too, with Republican values of racism (not just the language)–and that may be worse.

Romney will vote with Trump on a variety of terrible conservative policies, just like all the other Republicans lamenting Trump’s bad manners voted with him on the disastrous 2017 tax bill. He’ll support the appointment of indisputably ill-tempered sexual predators like Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court even when other conservative options are available. (Romney specifically said during his Senate run that he would have supported Kavanaugh.) He’ll encourage “self-deportation” of immigrants–which just means making life in America so miserable for them that Haiti or El Salvador looks like a better options. (Heads up: the establishment of “virtual chokeholds” that make life unpleasant for immigrants will quickly bleed over to anti-immigrant hate crimes.)

That makes Romney just another Republican, and those of us not cheering on his op-ed are supposed to accept this limitation.

But I don’t find the same racist policies presented with fewer racist (and better spell-checked) tweets to be good enough. Romney’s critique that Trump–who, this entire time, has been clear about his racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism–has not “risen to the mantle of the office” is not really the issue. (Also, no, those words are not “scathing,” as if it is particularly brave or insightful or harsh to call a man who is proud of his racism racist.) As Romney says, the presidency is only partly about policies; it’s also about the public face of the nation. Romney’s op-ed lets us know he’s mostly cool with the meanness (I mean this both ways–the cruelty and the selfishness) of Trump’s policies, just not his word choice.

For years now, I’ve studied Westboro Baptist Church, American’s most famous anti-gay church. You know the biggest criticism that WBC gets from other conservative Christian groups? It’s not that they’re wrong to say that gay people go to hell. It’s that they’re wrong to say it so openly. They should just teach the devaluing of gay people to their children, enforce it in their church policies, and try to make it the law of the land. But preaching at funerals is rude–and it’s embarrassing to other Christians churches, which prefer to say that “God loves you, which is why he’s sending you to hell” rather than “God hates you, which is why he’s sending you to hell.”

Don’t get me wrong: Trump’s language matters. It does real harm, just as funeral pickets by WBC do. But, ultimately, for Trump, the language is accurate: He’s the face of the Republican party, and he’s saying the racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist things that the party is trying to turn into policy.

Romney’s performance of statesmanship is frankly boring, though I know lots of Utahns who, needing to see themselves as good people even as they want to still be racist, sexist, xenophobic, and classist, will find it inspiring.

But, literally, it won’t be. Like, it won’t inspire the voters who like Trump’s policies but wish he were a little less honest about his prejudice to actually fight him when and where it matters, which isn’t in an op-ed but in Congress.

See the source image

That look on your face when you knew your grandpa was racist, but you didn’t realize that his hearing had gotten so bad, and now the whole restaurant is glaring at your table. You’d just hoped for a free dinner, but now you’re worried that the Mexican waitstaff might spit in your food, and you know you deserve it.
Trump won more popular votes than Romney did, by a lot. In fact, Trump won more Republican votes than any previous GOP candidate. This is despite the fact that the Republicans have had a pretty stable platform for a long time: pro-gun, anti-immigrant, pro-war, pro-life, pro-business and anti-labor, anti-taxes, anti-gay rights, climate change skepticism… If, as Romney said, he and the president stand together on so many policy issues, why did voters so roundly reject Romney and, before him, McCain even as Trump captured a record number of Republican voters? We have to go back to 1980–almost 40 years ago–to find a Republican who wasn’t an incumbent or a VP who won the popular vote. American voters don’t want the garbage the GOP tries to sell us.

And yet Trump won–and that is because of, not despite, the things that Romney criticizes about Trump. Republican voters like the racist and xenophobic language. They were energized, not dismayed, by Trump’s bragging about sexual violence. They admire him for having an affair with a porn star. Imagine! She is usually paid to have sex with men with the world’s largest penises, and he is such a powerful figure that he made her do it for free! They love that he cheats on his taxes, and they will be thrilled to learn that he hired undocumented immigrants and gave them fake greencards and social security numbers to work for him. All of these are signs that he is powerful.

When the Republican party sells itself on its policies, no one votes for it, because its ideas are stupid. The only way it wins is by making it explicit that those policies are for the enforcement of white supremacy. (Also, gerrymandering and voter suppression.) Trump does that; Romney did not. One of those men is president now, and one of them is the junior Senator from Utah.


What is Mitt Romney Doing?

Mitt Romney’s op-ed piece has invited a number of different responses:

  1. He’s trying to lead a return to normalcy in the Republican party. Most GOPers want to go there, but they lack the ability to take us there. Romney, who is old and rich and already powerful and will get re-elected by Utahns until he dies, can take this risk. It’s also believable, because Romney doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet. None of us are worried that, after sternly expressing his disapproval of Trump’s immorality, we’re going to find a Romney pee tape, a Romney Access Hollywood tape, or a Romney dick pic.
  2. He’s the same flip-flopping coward who sought Trump’s endorsement for his 2012 run, felt around for a job in the Trump administration after Trump’s win, and accepted Trump’s endorsement TWO MONTHS ago during his Senate bid. Know who actually criticized Trump while she faced a huge re-election risk? Mia Love, the first black woman to serve in either house of Congress. The Utah Republican found herself on the wrong side of Trump and lost her re-election bid. That means either that Trump tolerates criticism from a white man better than from a black woman, or that Romney wasn’t trying very hard to stand up to Trump. Or, you know, both.
  3. He’s an opportunist who ran in Utah, a state he didn’t live in, because it’s the most anti-Trump Republican state. Oh, and it’s full of reliably (if somewhat diminishingly) conservative LDS voters who are also pretty skeptical of Trump. So being an anti-Trump Republican serves him well here.
  4. He really believes that you can espouse classist, racist policies without using Trump’s nasty language.

I tend toward #4. Romney is far more polite that Trump, and I’d vote for him any day to teach a class on comportment. I bet he’s a good dance partner and a kind grandpa. He knows all the stanzas of the national anthem, which isn’t my thing, but I admire his commitment.

But he’s also deeply classist, and I don’t just mean his support of dressage. (I get it–dressage helped Romney’s wife manage her MS. That’s cool, but it’s still an expensive form of therapy. Wouldn’t it be neat-o if we had a healthcare system that allowed all people with MS to receive treatments that made sense for them? Hint: This is one reason why Obama beat Romney.)

I mean the way he despises people too poor to qualify to pay federal income taxes, even as he sought to the favor of a man who thinks that paying taxes is for chumps.

And he’s racist, either personally or opportunistically as a political strategy, but that difference is irrelevant at this juncture.

He’s racist—and, perhaps just as bad, hopeless–on Israel-Palestine.

He’s racist toward African Americans. During his 2012 presidential bid, he invoked Reagan’s “welfare queen” stereotype of poor people of color by reminding an overwhelmingly white audience in Montana that the black audience he addressed the previous day in his talk to the NAACP mostly wanted “free stuff” from the government.

And he out-Trumps Trump on immigration. During this fall’s Senate race, he bragged that he was more of an “immigration hawk” than Trump is. I am not even sure what that could mean. A higher, more expensive wall? A moat with alligators in it on the other side? Locking Honduran children fleeing violence in their homeland in cages BEFORE they set off on the dangerous journey north rather than waiting for them to get here and locking them up?

See the source image

Above, the super-rich son of a super-rich father who ran for president but lost the popular vote resoundingly, he was the first presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns, likely because he exploited byzantine accounting laws to stash money in shady offshore accounts and thereby avoid paying taxes, which is for idiots who don’t know how to hide their money. Despite having extended family that is foreign-born, he’s draws a hard line against immigration. Steeped in a subculture marked by deep anti-black racism and protected from reality by immense family wealth, he continues to deploy racism and classism to rally his base of voters. The other person is Donald Trump. 

I get it that we’re not supposed to expect Republicans like Romney or Jeff Flake or Bob Corker to not vote for the conservative policies that Republicans stand for. But I think we should be able to expect them not to say racist, classist things when what Romney attempted to call Trump out on was saying racist things. 


PS. More soon.



Kansas Refutes Political Homophobia

A new Congress gets sworn in today, and I’m giddy with possibilities.

For those who don’t follow Kansas politics (and you should! “Kansas is the Mother Shipton, the Madame Thebes, the Witch of Endor, and the low barometer of the nation.  When anything is going to  happen in this country, it happens first in Kansas,” as William Allen White said.), Davids is one of the first two first Native American women elected to Congress, and she’s a lesbian. She beat incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder, a pro-Trump and anti-LGBTQ+ politician who’s also kinda racist. As just one piece of evidence, Yoder attacked the member of the Ho-Chunk Nation by saying that she didn’t have “Kansas values” because she isn’t “from Kansas,” despite the fact that she grew up here and lives here… And Kelly faced off against one of America’s top white supremacists, Kris Kobach. One of her first commitments? Reinstating protections for LGBTQ+ government employees in the state. 

I rejoice in this, along with my many friends in Kansas, because I understand that the most dangerous homophobia coming out of Kansas has never been the pickets that Westboro Baptists have done near daily for decades now. It’s always been those homophobes with more political power and better manners.

Take it from Davis Hammet, a young man who came to Kansas to participating in the Planting Peace project of building a queer resource center, Equality House, across the street from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka:

Davis Hammet

Political homophobia isn’t dangerous merely because it hurts LGBTQ+ people (though this is reason enough to reject it). Political homophobia as strategy has driven conservative voters to the polls to support  a range of other ugly and damaging policies. It softens people to the idea that you can vote on other people’s rights and dignity, and, once you do that, queer people will be the first but not the last targets. It affirms the wrongheaded notion that religious objections alone are sufficient to make laws that curtail others’ freedoms–and, again, that logic won’t stop with queer people.

See the source image

So it’s exciting to see political homophobia rebutted–and robustly, with Davids beating Yoder 53% to 44% and Kelly beating Kobach 48% to 43%. Not just for the sake of queer Kansans but for all Kansans.


Please stop conflating divorce and same-sex love.

The root of homophobia is misogyny, and this is true within the Christian tradition as without it. Sometimes that is easy to see, and sometimes it appears more benign. In church, one way expresses itself as remorse that we ever let women be pastors or allowed divorce people to marry in the church because these are the things that lead to gay marriage.

And to some extent this is true. In the Mennonite church, it was women pastors who performed many of the earliest same-sex marriage ceremonies. If we hadn’t recognized that Paul meant it when he said that in Christ there is no male or female in relation to pastoring, we might not have recognized it in terms of marriage, either.

Another way we link misogyny and homophobia is by claiming that being gay is like being divorced. Three letters in the recent issue of The Mennonite address this issue via the “Grace and Truth Statement,” an effort in the Virginia Conference to allow congregations to welcome (to the extent they see fit) same-sex couples while still “upholding” opposite-sex marriage as God’s design for humanity. The statement says:

We as congregations will walk patiently with those who choose to follow Jesus and yet find it difficult to live out God’s design for wholeness.

It’s an effort to allow churches that oppose the inclusion of queer people to avoid being called homophobic by rooting their choice to limit the church in “grace and truth” rather than personal animus toward queer people. One letter in The Mennonite defends the statement say that “grace and truth”–allowing gay people in, to some extent, but also saying that their relationships are not God blessed–is “analogous to how Scripture considers such issues as divorce…” an accommodation for our imperfection but not God’s ideal.” Another reminds us that Jesus “did welcome all, but he did call out their sin.”

That’s not loving at all. It sets up a hierarchy of marriages. And let’s really be blunt about what that hierarchy is: at the top, those between virgins who were Christians when they got married, gay marriage at the bottom. It’s a system that is killing churches. It’s invalidating for queer people.

I also believes it injures people who have gone through a divorce.

Even when divorce is the best choice available from a person’s realistic options, it hurts, and it hurts for generations. It raises the risk of poverty tremendously for women and children. It raises the risk of child abuse, including child sexual abuse. It creates legal, financial, and social burdens for people.

Again, that doesn’t mean it’s not the smartest and even most loving choice for individuals. Few people rush to divorce, and by the time they get there, they’ve endured a lot, so the end of their marriage (and the beginning of being divorced, which never really ends, especially if you have children) is a better choice than continuing it. Given that the majority of divorces are initiated by women and that women, in general, are happier (though poorer) after divorce whereas men, in contrast, are more likely to fall into addiction, we can infer that women, in particular, suffer more from bad marriages. (This is also supported by the fact that single women have longer life spans than married ones but that married men have longer lifespans than single ones. If you are a heterosexual married man, tell your wife thank you–she’s probably shortening her life span to increase yours.)

This means that calling divorce a “sin”–rather than naming abuse within marriage as a sin or rectifying the structural inequalities that make some marriages more likely to fail–has sexist consequences. Women continue to be held responsible for marital health and preserving marriage–from doing the emotional work of relationship maintenance and earning enough money to keep a family out of poverty to “preventing” men’s infidelity to enduring abuse. In this way, viewing divorce as an inherently bad thing is harmful to women. It says that we’d rather have women hurting in bad marriages than divorce.

All of that–the pain of divorce, the fact that women, in particular, are hurt in bad marriages and women, in particular, are held responsible for divorce–is very, very different from same-sex marriage. 

Above, Saint Sergio and Saint Bacchus by artist Tony de Carlo.  In the traditions in which they are revered, Sergio and Bacchus were members of the Roman military in the fourth century. When it was discovered that they were Christians, they were tortured and killed. The close relationship between the two has made them special to queer Christians. 

Same-sex marriages face the same struggles as opposite-sex marriages, plus homophobia. But two people committing to love and care for each other isn’t at all like a divorce. A divorce is almost always the opposite of that: at least one person recognizing that the other is not willing to or capable of living out that commitment. Divorce is releasing them from an obligation they can’t or won’t keep. A divorce is something to mourn not because of what it is but of the brokenness in relationship that it reflects. If we define sin as that which breaks our bonds of love, then it’s not divorce that is the sin but all the reasons for divorce: infidelity, abuse, refusal to address an addiction, failure to treat your partner like an equal.

When conservative churches conflate the end of an opposite-sex marriage via divorce and the start of a marriage for a same-sex couple, they are saying that the same-sex marriage is irredeemable (because divorce is the legal recognition that a marital relationship cannot be redeemed), and that’s just not true. It’s insulting to same-sex couples, and it arrogantly says that God’s protective love somehow just won’t cover queer couples.

But it’s also hurtful to divorced people because it minimizes the pain they have suffered.








Jerry Falwell Jr. is a big fat liar`


You’ve probably seen the Jerry Falwell Jr. interview where he defends evangelical support for Donald Trump. It’s being widely derided and rightly so. I’d like to point out one particular problem that I have with it:

It’s such a distortion of the teachings of Jesus to say that what he taught us to do personally — to love our neighbors as ourselves, help the poor — can somehow be imputed on a nation. Jesus never told Caesar how to run Rome. He went out of his way to say that’s the earthly kingdom, I’m about the heavenly kingdom and I’m here to teach you how to treat others, how to help others, but when it comes to serving your country, you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world. That’s not what Jesus taught. You almost have to believe that this is a theocracy to think that way, to think that public policy should be dictated by the teachings of Jesus.

This is horseshit. The career of Jerry Falwell Jr. — and that of his father — is based on the idea that government should definitely implement a conservative Christian vision of public policy in the United States. It’s why Falwell Sr. created the Moral Majority and established Liberty University, the latter of which the son now runs.

The New Yorker explained the essential vision back in 2007:

In the seventies, Falwell brought together a group of fundamentalist pastors who had independent churches to discuss what should be done. Then, in the late seventies and early eighties, he preached that Christians—by which he meant evangelical Christians—should engage in the world and save America from moral decline and secularism. He essentially said, “Look, we’ve made this false distinction between the sacred and the secular. In fact, everything is sacred. For too long we’ve left business to Wall Street and politics to the people in Washington. We need to train men of God to become lawyers and businessmen and members of Congress. We have to mobilize our people to turn this country around.” It was this message that permitted fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals, who at that time were moving much more into the middle class, to aspire to “worldly” success and to involve themselves in politics.

Falwell Jr. uses anti-theocratic language to justify support for an immoral leader he hopes and believes will implement at least some of his theocratic vision. And he’s hoping we won’t notice.

Bag o’ Books: ‘Heartland’ by Sarah Smarsh


Three thoughts about ‘Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in he Richest Country on Earth

• I’m biased. Sarah Smarsh and I both wrote for the website back in the aughts before our careers took us separate places. I knew from her previous writing that this book would be smart and incisive on matters of income inequality. What I didn’t expect: That it would be so beautiful. It’s possible to have lived through tough times and circumstances and still find moments and ideas worth preserving. The tone here could be rueful; it’s elegaic.

• Lots of people think being poor is a choice, but lots of poor folks have that choice thrust upon them: It’s easier to graduate high school, for example, if you aren’t hungry, or if you get to go to just one high school. But if you move from school to school to school — Smarsh was in eight schools by ninth grade — it’s harder to have the stability most people need to find success. Smarsh has become a success, but she’s too smart to believe that because she made it out it’s a simple matter for most folks. She’s the exception rather than the rule.

• I won’t lie. I felt a sense of dread during the reading of most of this. Why? Because I expect 2019 to bring a recession. Because my line of work — freelance writing — has brought me some success and yet feels very tenuous. I want to give my son the chance to be successful. I worry how close I am, how close most of us who are in the middle class or self-identify with a middle class mentality, actually are to living a life that combines hard work, deprivation and insecurity. I’m terrified that Smarsh’s past is the future for many Americans. I’m terrified it’s the future I’m going to give my family.

My Favorite 606 Stories of 2018

Know what I like best about 606? Our readers.

Yeah, I know it’s kinda mushy, but it’s true: I have been participating in 606 for almost two years now, and the best part, every time, is hearing from readers who want to know more about the topics we cover, have a suggestion for a story, find themselves inspired or irritated or challenged by what we publish, or have shared what we’ve written with others and found themselves in deeper, better conversations–and, ultimately, we hope, relationships–for it.

So, thanks friends, for a great year. Here’s a little review highlighting some of my favorites from this year:

Guest writer Kimberly D. Schmidt, professor of history at Eastern Mennonite University and director of the Washington Community Scholars’ Center. She invites us to think again about the most popular story of Mennonite martyrdom–this time, thinking about all those people who stood by as Dirk Willems’ saved his captor in Run, Dirk, Run! Wrestling with the Willems Story 

Here are MY favorite posts by Joel Mathis this year. (Joel may have a different set of favorites, of course!)

In An Open Letter to My Trump-Loving Friends, Regarding those “Shit-Hole” Countries and Conservative Racism, Joel delivers this reminder:

There’s no way around this: If you continue to support this president, it’s not mean or out-of-bounds for other observers to conclude that you’re ok supporting a racist.

And if you’re ok supporting a racist for the highest office in the land, well, it might not be entirely fair, but it’s probably to be expected that people are going to draw conclusions about your character as well.

I especially appreciated the way that this post was in conversation with a post by our friend Ellen Kroeker. Given that the global church is now centered in so-called “Third World” countries, Trump’s assault on people from those places is necessarily an attack on the future of Christianity.

Trump’s damage to Christianity was a theme for us all year. Here’s Joel in If Trumpism is What Christianity Has to Offer, I’ll Happily Go to Hell:

To the Christians who support this stuff: This is your witness. All of us are imperfect — we all fall short of the glory of God, as it were — but seriously: People are forming their view of your God, your faith, based on your support of this man and his cruel policies.

Cruelty is coming to define America, Joel notes in We’re America, Bitch: Mercilessness in the 21st CenturyI’ve italicized the line that has been resonating with me since he wrote it:

This is who we are. This is how we’ll be remembered. This is what we’ll be lying about to our grandchildren when they ask what we did during this era. All we can do is hope that those same grandchildren show us the mercy we’re withholding from those who need it so much.

I blogged daily during the Kavanaugh hearings. (Is stress writing a thing?) Brett Kavanaugh’s Unwilling Exorcism, a brief consideration of his behavior during his confirmation hearing as a scene of casting out demons.

In Boys Will Be Boys, I ask actual boys when it means to be a boy. Surprisingly, none of them make excuses for adult men sexually assaulting women.

Readers, tell us what you liked this year at Sixoh6. What made you smile? What helped? What challenged? What did you share with friends? And, most importantly, what do you want to read more about?