If ethnic and religious minorities are worried, it’s in part because Donald Trump and his intimates have spent the last several months winking at one of the ugliest political movements in America’s recent history. – Ian Tuttle, National Review, November 14, 2016 (longer excerpt below)
On the same subject Mona Charen writes that “some of the fear, however overwrought it may seem, is clearly sincere.”
One thing we know about America’s political culture is that the tendency to live within our own news echo chambers has intensified in recent years. Liberals are reading and hearing about swastikas scrawled on synagogue walls by suspected Trump supporters, while conservatives are seeing stories about protesters carrying signs reading “rape Melania” and about people wearing MAGA hats being beaten up. We scarcely speak to or hear one another at all.
As Bill Maher, Frank Bruni, and other Democrats have acknowledged, the Left has a wolf-crying problem. When you denounce every Republican or conservative as racist, you lose credibility. But the Right also has a problem this year, in that Trump truly has transgressed certain taboos. Whipping up a crowd against a Hispanic judge on the grounds of his ethnicity (or for any other reason, actually) is indecent and destructive. Falsely insisting that “thousands” of American Muslims celebrated after 9/11 and retweeting false statistics about black on white crime is irresponsible.
While many of those in the streets deserve no sympathy, others who are fearful about a Trump presidency could use reassurance. There is no greater megaphone than the presidency, and some signals of magnanimity and unity coming from Donald Trump could go a long way. They might even penetrate the news silos we’ve erected. After one of the ugliest campaigns in history, Trump has an opportunity to offer reconciliation. All but the most bitter partisans would welcome it.
I suppose we’ll learn soon enough, if his pick to replace Scalia is Sykes and his UN Ambassador is gay. He has already dialed back the rhetoric on immigration. But his selection of “chief strategist” does not inspire confidence. As Ian Tuttle nicely summarizes:
The Left, with its endless accusations of “racism” and “xenophobia” and the like, has blurred the line between genuine racists and the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump because of a desire for greater social solidarity and cultural consensus. It is not “racist” to want to strengthen the bonds uniting citizens to their country.
But the alt-right is not a “fabrication” of the media. The alt-right is a hodgepodge of philosophies that, at their heart, reject the fundamental principle that “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” The alt-right embraces an ethno-nationalism that has its counterparts in the worst of the European far-right: Golden Dawn in Greece, or Hungary’s Jobbik. (It’s no coincidence that Bannon spent time this summer praising “the women of the Le Pen family” on London radio, referring to the head of France’s National Front and her niece, a FN member of the French Parliament.) And while this by no means excuses smashing shop windows to protest a legitimate election result, as rioters spent the weekend doing in the Pacific Northwest, it’s also the case that not every Trump detractor is as devoid of cerebral matter as Lena Dunham. If ethnic and religious minorities are worried, it’s in part because Donald Trump and his intimates have spent the last several months winking at one of the ugliest political movements in America’s recent history.
Furthermore, as some on the left have been more attuned to than their conservative counterparts, the problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream. The U.S. is not going to see pogroms or “internment camps” spring up in January. But countries require bonds of trust among citizens — including those citizens elected to be leaders. The Left gnawed at those bonds with its thoughtless commitment to cosmopolitan virtues. But the Right threatens to sever them entirely if it continues to court the proponents of ethno-nationalism, or trade in their rhetoric.
Principled conservatives, especially those in leadership positions, have a political and moral duty to condemn, and to work to eradicate, the animus that is the alt-right’s raison d’être, and to uphold the pillars of the American project. That project is more than metaphysical abstractions; but it is also not a simple matter of blut und boden. No, Steve Bannon is not Josef Goebbels. But he has provided a forum for people who spend their days photoshopping pictures of conservatives into ovens.
To conservative and liberal alike, that he has the ear of the next president of the United States (a man of no particular convictions, and loyal to no particular principles) should be a source of grave concern — and an occasion for common cause in the crucial task of the years to come: vigilance.