democrats need to do more to stop white nationalism

January 17, 2019
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The House’s resolution to condemn white supremacy and white nationalism sounds like the kind of political move that could be a watershed moment in racial politics. Not so much. Their move was in reaction to Steve King’s (R-IA) recent comment to New York Times: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

Even while being denounced by Republicans and Trump’s spin-woman Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, all that came from King, an elected representative, was an open defense of “western civilization.” Not only is that straight out of the white supremacist playbook but the laughable punishment faced by King is the stripping of his committee assignments by Republicans, according to The Hill.

This resolution should have been historic. A white supremacist flaunts his abashed vindictiveness as he sits in what was meant to be the most powerful office in the world and all a Democratic-led House can muster is a gesture that got a 424-1 vote that doesn’t actually inflict any real repercussions on King. Democratic representatives Tim Ryan and Bobby Rush don’t believe that the resolution was severe enough and think that King should be censured, which is a formal statement of disapproval. Sigh. 

The issue with civility politics and the way it dictates rules of engagement for Democrats is that Republicans have no intention of abiding by any rules that will result in them relinquishing power. King gets to defend white supremacy and not lose his seat because it’s the same system that put Trump in the White House, with help from the Russians, of course. If House Democrats are willing to forego addressing white supremacy then how exactly do they expect to “take back the country” while leaving Trump to thrive with his secret weapon.

We saw it in the midterms and we’ll definitely encounter it again in 2020 — nothing gets Trump’s base excited like bigotry and the promise of Black and brown people suffering. It gives them a sense of purpose. Brings color to their cheeks and lights the dull lamp behind their euphoric glassy eyes. The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer captured it best in his article “The Cruelty Is The Point.” The MAGA crowd choose whiteness because they believe it chose them. Racism is so powerful that King is using the controversy to get a headstart on funding for his 2020 campaign. Hatred is the life-force of Right Wing politics and Democrats won’t even do the real work to fight it and cripple 45’s chances at a second term.

The moral high ground doesn’t solely win elections and I hope Democrats understand that. The privileged parlor politics that worked in the realm of the rich deciding the fate of the poor with no real personal stake is done for. It’s why the new guard of diverse representatives matter. It’s how I know Democrats are in trouble — to focus your time on worrying that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will “call them out” instead of backing the young senator in her denouncing of the president is so damn telling. How exactly are they supposed to beat Trump if they cannot stand up to him now? He’ll still be president during the election.

Democrats care about being right and Republicans care about being in charge because “right” and “wrong” don’t matter when you get to set the rules — they can be whatever you will them to be. Taking back power means identifying where power currently resides and as much as Democrats fear Ocasio-Cortez’s honesty, she speaks to and for our survival. This white supremacist model backed by capitalism can’t last forever. No, it simply will not. It speaks to the lack of sustainability in systems of supremacy and that is where our fight should be. How do we prevent another Trump from happening? How do we shift our thinking away from manufacturing systems of privilege that place the majority of the world in survival mode?

It’s bigger than Red or Blue. America is too powerful for all of us to not be focused on divesting from white supremacy. We’re not dismantling because it is fun. We dismantle to do away with the systems that no longer serve us, and in this case, systems that were never built to serve us in the first place.