I have bad news for Joe Scarborough, George Will and Rick Wilson: You gentlemen have not done enough. I recognize and appreciate your public stances in rebuking Donald Trump and renouncing the Republican Party. But you have to ditch the “conservative” moniker as well if you really want to help the country shrink the cancerous tumors of racism. Its time for you to go all in. As difficult as it may be to acknowledge, Trump now owns conservatism and by extension he owns all conservatives. He’s got them all packed tight into giant bird-cages like that terrifying scene out of The Screwtape Letters. Don’t be fooled by the black beggars hanging around the Republican party looking for the bones and scraps that get thrown their way sometimes. Sane black folks and other people of good conscience see “conservatism” and “racism” as two sides of the same coin and Trump has proven us right in doing so. He has undercut your spirited protestations permenantly over the last four years. And you know it.
You should also know that as long as guys like you continue to call yourselves “conservatives” you are unwittingly giving cover to the Trumpists while they burn down the progress that has been made over the last century. But they are not just burning down the progress. Just like the howling racist mobs in the Tulsa 1921 Race Riot, they are destroying the infrastructure so that a complete recovery is virtually impossible. You gentlemen must understand that the cover you provide is most valuable because it gives them their favorite justification of all for cosigning on even the worst Trump conduct: owning the “Libs.” You men are smart enough and creative enough to come up with another name for your political belief system. Choose something that doesn’t have the stink of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms all over it. Being able to claim kinship with respectable guys like you is all that rust-belt white-guys need to repeat in 2020 what they did in 2016.
And one thing that each of you has said repeatedly is that would be a bad thing. If Donald Trump gets re-elected America will have re-established open racism and white-supremacy as legitimate, acceptable mainstream doctrines in the 21st century. It will not matter what the popular vote tally is because we do not elect presidents by the popular vote. We will live under whatever energy and ethos the Electoral College chooses and if it selects Trump again America will be set back 100 years. Literally and figuratively.
We cannot claim to be shocked or surprised by anything that an unchained, lame-duck Donald Trump does- and we should expect the absolute worst. We know this because about midway through the current presidential term, his administration literally began rounding up people in camps and breaking up their families- many of whom will never be reunited again. Pause and let that sink in. How long has it been since that was even in the news? By the time Stephen Miller and Trump’s other minions began implementing that policy we were way past due to stop bullshitting ourselves about who and what America is.
What was reported as a harrowing humanitarian crisis and a moral outrage was also just a return to form. American governance had abused non-white people in this way for more than two-hundred years. It had just been a while since we witnessed it in live action and living color. But we all know that America has never and would never warehouse innocent white people and steal their children, don’t we? That is the reddest of red flags but it was absorbed into an acceptable policy reflecting “conservatism.”
Our finest American scholars have been warning us nicely and professionally and even artistically for well over a century. From W.E.B. DuBois to Ta’Nehisi Coates and all the big brains in-between, we may celebrate them but we don’t really listen. Or America hears them but doesn’t heed them. So here we still are; languishing in a dark and dangerous place when it comes to racism in America and how it functions in our daily lives. And it is almost entirely because racism has been so successfully branded as “conservatism.” With our 45th president egging it on, it has gotten even darker and even more dangerous as America’s racism has again become an open sewer stinking up the world. By exposing himself during the Obama presidency, Trump succeeded in exposing the underlying character of the nation. Whether we like it or not, our lowest lows always reflect more on who we are than our highest highs.
So Trump’s election has brought more discredit to America than Barack Obama’s election brought credit to us on the world stage. And there is at least a coin-flip’s chance that we could see him re-elected and re-infecting us with his rancid racism over and over for another 1,460 days. It will surely feel more like 1,460 years for those of us who survive the ordeal but if there was ever a time to figure out how to escape that fate, this is it.
America can’t solve its racial problems because America still won’t admit its racial problems. And “conservatism” is the problem. The title and the very concept itself. Conservatism has housed and hidden, and aided and abetted racism for so long that we have to collapse any distinctions that politicians and pundits try to make between the two. Racists have only gotten away with calling themselves “conservative” because we have allowed them to. But no more. Going forward the title “conservative” must be synonymous with “racism” and “white supremacy” in our mainstream public discourse. The bottom line is conservatism has been inextricably tied to institutional racism since the Civil War and that has not changed to this very day. The direct oppression and/or neglect of every marginalized and exploited group in America- starting with black folks- has been the single salient theme and governing principle of “conservative” Americans. And that includes those that have yet to realize it- like Scarborough, Will and Wilson. These guys probably still believe being conservative is about taxes and abortion. Until we call conservatism what it really is and until those involved walk away, the cancer of racism will continue to grow and we will all pretend not to know why.