Stop Excusing Trump Supporters
The day after the devastating election, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Michael Lerner, the rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, CA, entitled "Stop Shaming Trump Supporters."
To that I say, No deal.
Lerner makes one good point throughout his essay, however. Many Democrats and liberals are oblivious to classism and class resentment that is partly generated by often-liberal belief in an economic meritocracy. It is absolutely true that the world economy has shifted away from the industrial age, and the new economy of services and technology taking shape in modern, politically-deep blue urban centers has left behind a significant amount of people who built their life before this transition. It should however be noted that that for all the "working class" talk, the vote of people making $50K or less went to Hillary Clinton. I guess that leaves 'white.'
But he fails to acknowledge that the class resentment almost always ends up being blamed on people of color and immigrants by the vaunted "white working class." And this scapegoating of non-whites and immigrants is not limited to this country. Tradephobia, often fueled by liberal and Trump populism alike, is a form of xenophobia, too: it's the fear that brown and yellow people will take white people's jobs even if trade agreements are balanced.
That is shameful.
Rabbi Lerner makes the point that Trump's victory is at least in part due to the fact that the 'shame' of many whites from the rust belt at not being able to 'make it' has been compounded by conservative propaganda of scapegoating, as well as by liberal tendency to blame white people "as a whole" for social sins like slavery.
Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.
What nonsense. Who, praytell Rabbi Lerner, is actually responsible for slavery and the American genocide? It's true that not every white person during slavery may have owned a slave, and not every white person might have been personally shooting native Americans. The vast majority, however, sat and allowed it to happen. And while today's white living population were born after slavery and the American Genocide, they do still benefit from institutionalized racism that is a remnant of those days. It is the understanding of that privilege that this "shaming" is aimed at, as well as the fact that much of today's media culture prefers to pretend those things either never happened or are no longer having an effect.
The case for shaming Trump voters is equally succinct. As many have said, while not every Trump voter may have been a racist, sexist, xenophobic maniac, each and every one of them decided that rank racism, sexism, and maniacal xenophobia was not disqualifying for the office of President of the United States. And for that, they deserve all the shaming they can get.
In fact, the Trump voters who fancy themselves non-racist, non-sexist virtuous actors might deserve even more shaming than the proclaimed racists and bigots. Because it is not so much the violence of criminals but rather the acquiescence of "good" people that gives rise to despotism.
What Rabbi Lerner has done through this column is not speak out against shaming, as much as that was his intent. What he has done - and what many liberals are starting to do with the "WWC" rhetoric - is excuse the behavior of Trump voters who knowingly and willingly handed the reins of power to a selfish, racist snake (apologies to snakes).
Allow me to also interject that when blacks and Latinos and many others suffered in an otherwise rising economy - sometimes because of express and legal discrimination like when at the beginning Social Security excluded most people of color and other times because of neglect like big (and small) white farmers hiring undocumented labor, paying them slave wages, and calling the authorities on them if they protest their work conditions - I hear precious few rumblings from those who so extol the white working class. Give. Me. A. Break.
You want to tell me that pockets of white economic peril is partly the reason for Trump's win? You want to tell me that it is what allowed for the scapegoating? No problem. But stop turning it into an excuse. That doesn't make it okay.
Stop excusing Trump voters.
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