How Trump kills the Repub­li­can Party

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It’s

ironic that race was the is­sue that cre­ated the Repub­li­can Party and that race could very well be the is­sue that de­stroys it.

The GOP was founded to fight slav­ery, and through most of its his­tory it had a de­cent record on civil rights. A greater per­cent­age of con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats.

It’s be­come more of a white party in re­cent years, of course, and adopted some wrong­headed po­si­tions on civil rights en­force­ment, but it was still pos­si­ble to be a Repub­li­can without feel­ing like you were vi­o­lat­ing ba­sic de­cency on mat­ters of race. Most of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment, from the Bushes to McCain and Rom­ney, fought big­otry, and racism was not a com­mon fea­ture in the con­ser­va­tive mo­ment.

Be­tween 1984 and 2003 I worked at Na­tional Re­view, The Wash­ing­ton Times, The Wall Street Jour- nal edi­to­rial page and The Weekly Stan­dard. Most of my friends were Repub­li­cans.

In that time, I never heard bla­tantly racist com­ments at din­ner par­ties, and there were prob­a­bly fewer than a dozen times I heard some veiled com­ment that could have sug­gested racism. To be hon­est, I heard more racial con­de­scen­sion in pro­gres­sive cir­cles than in con­ser­va­tive ones.

But the Repub­li­can Party has changed since 2005. It has be­come the ve­hi­cle for white iden­tity pol­i­tics. In 2005 only 6 per­cent of Repub­li­cans felt that whites faced “a great deal” of dis­crim­i­na­tion, the same num­ber of Democrats who felt this. By 2016, the per­cent­age of Repub­li­cans who felt this had tripled.

Re­cent sur­veys sug­gest that roughly 47 per­cent of Repub­li­cans are what you might call con­ser­va­tive univer­sal­ists and maybe 40 per­cent are what you might call con­ser­va­tive white iden­ti­tar­i­ans. White univer­sal­ists be­lieve in con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples and think they ap­ply to all peo­ple and their white iden­tity is not par­tic­u­larly salient to them. White iden­ti­tar­i­ans are con­ser­va­tive, but their white iden­tity is quite im­por­tant to them, some­times even more im­por­tant than their con­ser­vatism.

These white iden­ti­tar­i­ans have taken the mul­ti­cul­tural world­view taught in schools, uni­ver­si­ties and the cul­ture and, rightly or wrongly, have ap­plied it to them­selves. As Marx­ism saw his­tory through the lens of class con­flict, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism sees his­tory through the lens of racial con­flict and group op­pres­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey from the Pub­lic Re­li­gion Re­search In­sti­tute, for ex­am­ple, about 48 per­cent of Repub­li­cans be­lieve there is “a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion” against Chris­tians in Amer­ica and about 43 per­cent be­lieve there is a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion against whites.

I’d love to see more re­search on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween white iden­tity pol­i­tics and sim­ple racism. There’s clear over­lap, but I sus­pect they’re not quite the same thing. Racism is about feel­ing oth­ers are in­fe­rior. White iden­ti­tar­i­an­ism is about feel­ing down­trod­den and ag­grieved your­self.

In the PRRI sur­vey, for ex­am­ple, roughly as many Repub­li­cans be­lieve Mus­lims, im­mi­grants and trans peo­ple face a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion as be­lieve whites and Chris­tians do. Ac­cord­ing to a Quin­nip­iac poll, 59 per­cent of those in the white work­ing class be­lieve white su­prem­a­cist groups are a threat to the coun­try.

But three things are clear: First, iden­tity pol­i­tics on the right is at least as corrosive as iden­tity pol­i­tics on the left, prob­a­bly more so. If you re­duce the com­plex ar­ray of iden­ti­ties that make up a hu­man be­ing into one crude ethno-po­lit­i­cal cat­e­gory, you’re go­ing to do vi­o­lence to your­self and ev­ery­thing around you.

Sec­ond, it is wrong to try to make a par­al­lel be­tween Black Lives Mat­ter and White Lives Mat­ter. To pre­tend that these ten­den­cies are some­how com­pa­ra­ble is to ig­nore Amer­i­can his­tory and cur­rent re­al­i­ties.

Third, white iden­tity pol­i­tics as it plays out in the po­lit­i­cal arena is com­pletely nox­ious. Don­ald Trump is the mae­stro here. He es­tab­lished his po­lit­i­cal iden­tity through birtherism, he won the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion on the Mus­lim ban, he cam­paigned on the Mex­i­can wall, he gov­erned by be­ing neu­tral on Char­lottesville and par­don­ing racial­ist Joe Ar­paio.

Each in­di­vid­ual Repub­li­can is now com­pelled to em­brace this garbage or not. The choice is un­avoid­able, and white re­sent­ment is bound to de­fine Repub­li­can­ism more and more in the months ahead. It’s what Trump cares about. The iden­tity war­riors on the left will de­face stat­ues or whatever and set up mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial con­fronta­tions with the iden­tity war­riors on the right. Things will get uglier.

And this is where the dis­so­lu­tion of the GOP comes in. Con­ser­va­tive univer­sal­ists are com­ing to re­al­ize their party has be­come a ve­hi­cle for white iden­tity and racial con­flict. This fac­tion is prior to and deeper than Trump.

When you have an in­tra­party fight about for­eign or do­mes­tic is­sues, you think your ri­vals are wrong. When you have an in­tra­party fight on race, you think your ri­vals are dis­gust­ing. That’s what’s hap­pen­ing. Friend­ships are now end­ing across the right. Peo­ple who sup­ported Trump for par­ti­san rea­sons now feel locked in to sup­port him on race, and they are mak­ing them­selves re­pel­lent.

It may some­day be pos­si­ble to re­duce the in­flu­ence of white iden­tity pol­i­tics, but prob­a­bly not while Trump is in of­fice. As long as he is in power the GOP is a house vi­ciously di­vided against it­self, and can­not stand. The New York Times

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