What does it mean that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are the GOP’s frontrunners (other than the path to Hell is fully visible)? What does it reveal that they are dominating non-Pope Frank headlines?
As the GOP firm of Bush, Perry, and Walker wax nostalgically for 2004 or 2008 when their kind got a little love, Carson and Trump—along with Carly Fiorina—continue to rise in the polls. It might seem like a joke or satire, but it’s real. And we’d better pay attention to what’s really going on.
Bewildered, pundits have sought to explain (and contain) the duo’s Iggy-like popularity among Republican voters. Seeking to downplay the potential statement on GOP voters (that racism, sexism, xenophobia is driving the appeal), the punditocracy continue to focus on Trump and Carson as genuine political outsiders who are tapping into the widespread animus among voters. Pundits see their rise as a symptom of a larger frustration with power-mongers: elected officials and the wealthy 1% who pull the strings on so much political and financial policy. But the fact is, Carson and Trump are as American as rotten apple pie.
Beyond their destructive potential, on the surface, Carson and Trump have little in common: One is a neurosurgeon, and the other seems to lack a brain. One is bald, and the other has something resembling hair. One is boorish and a braggadocio, and the other is calm and soft-spoken. One is a Seventh Day Adventist, and the other clearly doesn’t wear religion on his sleeve, yet he claims to like the Bible. One is a billionaire and the other, a millionaire.
Looking beyond the surface, beyond each candidate’s public identity, background, and résumé, what becomes clear is they aren’t the Fred and Ted of the GOP. They aren’t counterpoints or opposites.
When it comes to the issues of the day, which we are told is what election’s are about (although watching the GOP debates one has to wonder), they’re slightly different sides of the same ugly coin, political siblings sprung from the same corrosive root grabbing hold of the nation’s politics.
Both candidates have railed against immigration. Trump wants undocumented rapists and criminals immigrants deported. He wants to change the Constitution to bring an end to granting automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S.
Trump’s Black political bro is firmly sitting on this xenophobic train. He says he would seal off the borders within the first year of his presidency:
“You also turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies, so that people don’t have any incentive to come here. Then those who are here, we have to recognize that we can’t just round them up, but we can give them an opportunity to register. I would give them a six-month period. If they register, and if they have a pristine record, they haven’t been causing problems, I would give them an opportunity to become guest workers — not citizens, not voting people, not people who get goodies. I think that would be a fair way to do it. In terms of them becoming citizens later on down the road if they’ve done things the right way, we the American people will decide what the criteria for that ought to be.”
The political brothers from another mother are both pushing Islamophobia. Carson went on Meet the Press and said that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation” because Islam is a faith that is inconsistent with the Constitution. In response to a firestorm of criticism, Carson told Sean Hannity of Fox “News” he would accept a Muslim who rejects Islam “and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion.”
At a stop in New Hampshire, Trump did not correct a supporter who suggested that President Obama is a Muslim who wasn’t born in America. “We have a problem in this country,” said a man in the audience last week during a Q-and-A session with Trump in New Hampshire. “It’s called Muslims.” He went on to ask, “When can we get rid of (them)?”
Trump’s response: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”
You know you’ve got problems when the media is citing as a good example John McCain—who, in 2008, grabbed the mic from a voter offering a similar comment at a rally, and corrected her—to demonstrate Trump’s lack of compassion, level-headedness, and rationality.
Carson’s and Trump’s 1898 politics are not limited to the global isolationist playbook. Both promote a White supremacist, patriarchal status quo that have Huey Long and George Wallace smiling in their graves.
At a 2013 prayer breakfast, Carson warned from the podium that, “The p.c. police are out in force. “We’ve reached a point where people are afraid to say what they think because someone might be offended. People are afraid to say ‘Merry Christmas’ at Christmastime.”
Meanwhile, Trump brands himself as a straight-talker who doesn’t give a damn and will say all the racist, sexist, and disgusting things that enter his nonsensical brain. “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” he told a crowd of South Carolina business leaders. Making clear that “political correctness” is not being racist, sexist, or an asshole, Trump continues to exhibit his anti-p.c. ethos at every turn. He has said that the Reagan era was a time when “you really felt proud.”
What the fuck is he talking about?
Of course Trump felt “proud.” Reagan was a racist who pumped propaganda about Black food-stamp cheats and Cadillac-driving welfare queens. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and every other act that protected the rights of communities of color.
Reagan gutted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which required all recipients of federal funds to comply with civil rights laws. He opposed the creation of MLK Day, supported the exploitation of Mexican farm workers, and launched a racist drug war against Black people that continues to destroy communities. His embrace of deregulation and trickle-no-where economics resulted in significant increase of unemployment. He initiated the destruction of public education first as governor of California and then as president.
Wait, I ain’t done …
President “let-the-poor-kids-eat-ketchup-because-it’s-a-vegetable” cut social programs, crippled labor unions, weakened legal protections for the working class, and set the stage for the growing income inequality that plagues our nation today. He refused to address the AIDS crisis which left millions dead, defunded mental institutions, contributing to the rise of homelessness, added trillions to the national debt as he redistributed wealth from the poor to the rich and to the military. No wonder the GOP namedrops Reagan as a hero.
That is the candidate Trump wants to hark back to, and what he wants to do more of. The Reagan era represents the golden years for a man like Donald Trump.
But where does Carson fit into all of this?
As Jelani Cobb notes in his recent New Yorker piece: “That the party responsible for the Southern strategy, the racist populism of the Reagan era, and the current age of voter suppression can count a black neurosurgeon among its most popular Presidential candidate is in itself a form of vaccination against charges of racism. It means one thing when a white billionaire taps into whites’ anxieties about cultural and economic displacement, and something else entirely when a black man from Detroit validates their conspiratorial fears about the Affordable Care Act. Or when, in an oblivious echo of the Dred Scott decision, an African-American states that entire segments of the population are irreconcilable with the Constitution.”
As the Black Ronald Reagan, Carson gives White Americans that best friend they have been looking for to absolve them from kicking everyone else. He is the ultimate race card: Never mind how we are treating people of color, “I love Ben Carson.” They can point to this Black doctor as evidence that neither they nor their program are racist. “See there, we like Uncle Ben.” Carson becomes the political version of those Whites who fall back on “some of my best friends are Black—never mind that my best friend perpetuates racist policies.”
It is no wonder that Trump and Carson have both effectively issued the same clarion call: Make America great again! An alarming number of (WHITE) Americans are falling for it!
Last week Bloomberg released the results of a new national survey, which revealed that 72 percent of Americans thought that this country isn’t as great as it once was. The results, which included 1,001 U.S. adults, including 391 registered Republicans, further noted that 47 percent of respondents felt that this country is “falling behind” and 22 percent thought we’re “failing.”
The same poll found that more than one-third of respondents are fed up with politricks-as-usual, prefer a presidential candidate without a government resume. Asked to name the biggest threats to American greatness, more cited “moral decay” (32 percent) and “our own lagging work ethic” (27 percent) than the rise of the Islamic State (26 percent) and competition with China (21 percent). In other words, people of color inside and outside the United States are ruining the United States. Criminal immigrants, lazy welfare queens, thugs, and the evil Chinese and Muslims are threatening OUR way of life.
Only a quarter of those responding cited a “concentration of the nation’s wealth among a very few individuals.” Never mind, Trump, Fiorina, Carson and others are those few individuals. If they can talk like the boys in the bar or the faux populists on talk radio, ignore the zeros in the bank account. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they’re fed up with politics and think it amounts to “people playing games,” while 59 percent say the political system is broken and the nation needs to “just start over” with a new bunch of racist, sexist xenophobes.
What does all this mean when we look at the Ebony and Ivory of Republican politics?
It’s clear that racism, xenophobia, and sexism comes from all communities, and that the GOP is driven and fueled by an ideology based on the doctrine of inequality from candidates irrespective of race or gender. They’ve co-opted what we call an anti politics of respectability (even though they lament the loss of manners and morals) so that being racist or xenophobic gets repackaged as them “telling the truth” or saying things that others won’t say. Their fear and cowardice gets repackaged as the courage to go against the grain and “tell it like it is.” Propaganda is sold as truth. They are in the name of the great philosopher Dave Chappelle when “keeping it real” goes wrong. As growing numbers of Americans view the federal government and D.C. dynamics as politically correct respectability politics, the Trump and Carson duet seems to be singing their tune.
The GOP’s cosmetic diversity is expanding to include Carly Fiorina, who is also surging in the polls. Promoted as the antidote to Hillary and the Clinton dynasty, she enables people to see the GOP as somehow progressive. “Look we have a woman candidate, we love her, she’s an outsider who went from secretary to CEO to presidential candidate,” they chortle. Cue the music, “America the beautiful.” Never mind that she spews the same rhetoric and perpetuates same policies as Trump, Carson, and the others.
The optics seems timely and progressive: a nerdy African American man; a wealthy White miscreant who prides himself on not taking orders from anyone; and a woman who is feisty but non-threatening. And the GOP laments identity politics. [Sucks teeth.]
Their emergence might appear to be progressive, but this GOP Mod Squad knock-off is dangerous. Their tagline of “Make America great again” equals “making America White again—a classic White supremacist patriarchal nostalgia. It allows them to hark back to a moment where there was less diversity; where male power was not challenged … where police could kill Black people without protests … Latinos could be deported without resistance (at least that was the appearance); a moment where abortion was denied; where the glass ceiling was made of concrete. The “greatness” of which they speak is wrapped up in anti-p.c. ideology. To be “great” again requires what they call truth-telling that defy the dreaded p.c. police.
Despite their claims of being “outsiders,” both Carson and Trump are aiming to press the political rewind button on American life, selling White nostalgia, racial fear-mongering and divisive, oppressive politics like crack.
They are George Wallace and Huey Long, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. They both see nostalgia in the past, in a time when America was a Christian nation, when America was “great” … when Black people were slaves; Asians were denied citizenship; Mexicans were Braceros used and disposed; Natives were put on reservations, and the White House was much Whiter. The embrace of Carson and Trump is also part of a protest against globalization, and a desire to return to the days of American exceptionalism. They yearn for their fantasy of an America so very Christian and unthreatening. One can hope their plans aren’t just rhetorical time travel but that they bring Doc and Marty McFly on board, developing a machine that takes them back in time, leaving them fools and their antiquated world in the past where they belong.
In Black Jesus’ name … let the human church say, “Amen.”