Why Smart People Support Trump (And Why They’re Wrong)
No one is more obnoxious than "I see both sides of the issue!" guy. It somehow combines smugness and laziness. "I hear what you're saying about the pack of wolves that ate your wife, but I can also see their side of the issue!" Yes, you're so enlightened.
And yet ...
I recently wrote a thing about how a younger version of me would probably have voted for Donald Trump, and then that thing got read by 10 million fucking people. Then Trump, much to everyone's surprise, actually got elected, and now my most treasured friends are talking about concentration camps. To them, that article now looks like the confessions of an actual former Nazi.
Only ... I never felt like I escaped a hate group or cult. All of that stuff made sense to me at the time, and the people I know on that side don't sound like brainwashed monsters to me, they sound ... well, like a younger me.
So, I'm going to try something. I'm going to reach back in time to have a bitter but productive debate with the 1999 "Fight Club really speaks to me!" Republican version of myself. Will this result in the most obnoxious "I see both sides!" article ever written? Am I actually chronicling my own descent into madness? You tell me!
First question, gents ...
"What Does Your 'Side' Believe, In 30 Seconds?"
Younger Right-Wing Me (YRWM): WHASSUP!!! So, I've heard people say "the right" is just a collection of random, hateful positions ("Why are you required to support the death penalty but oppose abortion?") but it's really all based on one simple idea:
A society is a collection of individuals that will survive or collapse based on the quality of those individuals. A team of superstars can win the NBA title even if coached by a golden retriever; a team of cranky, lazy drunks will lose no matter how smart the coach or how clever the system*.
*Does not apply to hockey.
That means the government's job should be to A) force citizens to become quality individuals (for their own good) and B) protect the borders against foreign invaders who would interfere with that process. This is why we want harsh punishments for criminals and severe consequences for laziness or shortsighted choices, as well as maximum benefits for those who do it right. All of these should serve as examples to the rest -- if the sight of one homeless man scares a hundred passing kids out of being homeless, so be it. "The lesson, kids, is that choices matter."
The role of government should otherwise be minimized -- good people, if left alone, will barely need laws. That goes all the way back to our founding fathers, who made it clear that government, if allowed to grow, will become tyranny. We call ourselves conservatives because we are upholding their vision and aren't about to change the rules just because they might seem harsh or intolerant. The rules aren't meant to be cruel, they're meant to help us survive.
Yes, I drive a pickup truck, but my favorite band is the Digital Underground. Do not stereotype me!
I've gotten busy in Burger King AND Cracker Barrel bathrooms.
Older Left-Wing Me (OLWM): Yes, I remember thinking all that stuff, and also thinking that a sequel to The Matrix could not possibly fail. But here's the thing: That team of NBA superstars would not win the championship if their opponents were allowed to wear rocket boots -- someone has to set rules to keep it fair.
Society is actually a bunch of flawed primates guided by selfishness, fear, and superstitious bullshit. It's the government's job to organize us into a whole that's greater than the sum of those parts. These days, that means preventing powerful individuals from preying on the weaker via unfair advantages, religious beliefs, or bigotry.
Therefore, the government's role should be to A) prevent a few wealthy people from seizing all of the resources for themselves, B) force issues that private businesses would otherwise not care about, such as protecting the environment and preventing discrimination, and C) keep the most vulnerable citizens from falling through the cracks (your hypothetical homeless man most likely has a serious illness that had nothing to do with "choice").
"In retrospect, I did this to myself the day I decided to contract lupus."
The size of government is otherwise irrelevant; what matters is how effective that government is at solving problems and how accountable it is to the citizens. Also, very soon you're going to find out that both lead rappers of the Underground were actually the same guy in different costumes.
"Why Do You Think The Other Side Is Wrong?"
OLWM: I'm going first on this one, so you can't accuse me of giving myself the last word every time.
I now know that the right really believes in a sort of Darwinism -- let the rich stay rich, let the rest die without health insurance. It's roughly made up of two groups: A) the wealthy, who simply want to rewrite the rules so that they remain at the top and B) the rank and file citizens who either resent or ignore their less fortunate neighbors for petty reasons, often related to some form of prejudice. The former takes advantage of the bad urges of the latter in order to stay in power.
If the right gets its way, the poor will continue to grow up with inferior schools, nutrition, and medical care, thus robbing them of almost any chance at success. The party's endless talk of "personal responsibility" and "morality" is really just cover for their most cruel tribal instincts -- to put poor minorities, addicts, and even the mentally ill in chains purely because they find those people to be disgusting, inconvenient, and unprofitable.
Oh, and their kids. Never too early to start paying for your parents' problems.
Their talk of minimizing the size of government is equivalent to a cheating athlete who wants fewer referees -- they don't want the public to find out that society's "winners" usually got there via a system that is heavily skewed in their favor.
YRWM: Wait, it took less than two decades of watching The Daily Show for you to start seeing my side as mindless Captain Planet villains? I'm you! A younger, sexier you. Well, two can play at that game, you old piece of shit -- please read the following in a mocking voice:
The left really just wants to have their cake and eat it too -- a system in which they somehow have all of the benefits of the free market (lots of cool stuff on the shelves, including cheap food and clothes) but without any of the risks or sacrifices that make it possible (the people who sell uncool stuff losing their jobs, the low wages required to keep the food and clothes cheap).
Try sewing a shirt sometime and then let me know if $9.99 seems like a reasonable price.
The left is roughly made up of two groups: A) power-hungry bureaucrats who want a bigger government upon which the populace is utterly dependent and B) the rank and file citizens who are simply lazy/naive, or otherwise resent their more successful neighbors for petty reasons. The former takes advantages of the bad urges of the latter in order to stay in power.
If the left gets its way, the citizens will continue to grow more entitled, slothful, and immoral, demanding more and more free handouts while becoming more dependent on the government in the process. There will be no motivation to learn new skills or take risks on innovation.
On social issues, their endless talk of "tolerance" is really just cover for indulging their most base animal instincts. They insist that all lifestyles are equally beneficial to society, purely so that no one will criticize their choice to indulge short-term pleasures at the cost of long-term benefits. They'll spend four years in college smoking weed and getting laid, then whine that it's the system's fault their degree in women's studies didn't earn them a high-paying job.
Their talk of having the government correct inequalities is equivalent to a losing athlete who is constantly whining to the referees that the winner cheated -- they don't want the people to find out that society's "losers" usually got there because of poor impulse control, lack of talent, and a bad work ethic.
Also, am I crazy, or have video games somehow gotten worse? Does your Final Fantasy game really open with pushing a car that ran out of gas?
"Buy the AAA DLC for $9.99."
"Why Are Conservatives So Friendly To Big Business And Corporations?"
YRWM: Since this is secretly an accusation against my side, I'll start.
Let me ask you, Future Me: do you prefer the experience of getting your driver's license at the DMV, or ordering something from Amazon? One involves spending hours in a run-down office with a tattered crowd looking like they're waiting for Immortan Joe to turn on the water, the other requires tapping a few buttons on your phone to make goods appear magically at your doorstep the next day. I don't know why I'm familiar with either of those references since I'm answering from 1999, but whatever.
The point is, private businesses tend to be clean and full of neat stuff and government offices are soul-crushing wells of misery because the latter is, by default, a monopoly. They have no motivation to improve or innovate. While private enterprise smartphones are streaming all of the nudes in the universe into the palm of your hand, the federal government's Veterans Affairs office keeps mountains of paper records in piles so high that the building storing them is in danger of collapse.
And don't even get me started on the nuclear missile situation.
So, to improve the quality of life, we need to put more and more functions in the hands of private enterprise and less and less in the hands of government. The former Soviet Union and modern day North Korea are examples of what it looks like when everything is the DMV. And don't tell me you're worried about the poor -- if that were true, you would celebrate the fact that Walmart lowered the prices of everyday goods in a way that no government agency ever could. You'd be thanking the oil industry for inventing fracking and thus massively dropping the price of gasoline for all those working-class commuters. In communist countries, the middle class wait in line for bread. In America, the poor have iPads. That is what the free market has done for us.
I can see you're about to interrupt me for using North Korea as my comparison -- fine, let's look at the socialist wonderland of Sweden, where citizens objectively have less money and a lower quality of life than Americans.
The hippies declaring the whole system corrupt due to investment fraud and shuttered factories is like declaring your hands a useless failure of evolution due to an ingrown fingernail. Private enterprise is what created those factory jobs in the first place, in addition to the very computer upon which you are typing your complaint.
OLWM: Nobody wants to get rid of private industry.
But without government regulation, the free market eats itself -- soon you get dangerous sweatshops full of children and stores selling sugar water as cancer drugs. A corporation will only deliver satisfaction to the consumer up until the exact microsecond it discovers a way to extract money without it -- or did you not notice you just paid a $3 ATM fee for the right to retrieve $20 of your own money?
"Damn. I needed that $3 for the monthly fuck-you fee."
Successful companies don't want to win a competition -- they want to end it. If not held in check, the wealthy can just parlay their assets into greater and greater advantages until we're left with a world of impoverished slaves working around the clock to enrich a small cabal of plutocrats. That's not a hypothetical -- it's what most of world history has looked like. Tyranny does not require a government -- a corporation can enslave, rob, and kill you just as easily if given the chance.
In a perfect system, corporations would fear the government and the government would fear the people.
"Why Are Most Christians Republicans?"
OLWM: As the current-day lefty version of myself, for those of you who've already forgotten what the acronyms stand for, I now know that this is a political marriage of convenience.
When the 1960s happened and suddenly the streets were full of hippies, free love, and tolerance for other cultures, the church and the political right formed a partnership in the name of self-preservation. The church got politicians into the halls of power who would look out for their interests (including protecting their tax-free status), and the politicians got churches who would tell parishioners they'd go to hell if they voted Democrat.
Resulting in the rest of us getting 50 years of listening to Jerry Falwell blame every natural disaster on gay people.
Not that this is new -- where you find organized religion, you find politics. One is often disguised as the other.
YRWM: Actually, Future Me, you're committing the first sin of political debate: assuming the motives of the most cynical members of the opposition are secretly the motives of all.
Even if that crass conspiracy exists at the top, that doesn't change the fact that the common folk hold their beliefs honestly. It's actually very straightforward -- being a conservative means preserving the traditional way of life, and traditionally the United States' population was largely Christian. As a famous old Christian writer put it, you don't tear down a fence until you are absolutely sure you know why it was built in the first place.
"Oh right, that fence was the boundary line with the zoo. Well, live and learn. Learn, anyway."
If the ultimate goal of society is to grow clean-living, stable families, then encouraging Judeo-Christian ethics is how you get there. A devout population would barely need a government -- if every American believed in Christian charity, for example, we wouldn't need welfare. Children in stable homes with both parents are better off in almost every way -- a generation of those kids would render many federal agencies moot.
You know, Future Me, I'm starting to think that at some point in the intervening years you've forgotten the central truth of the world: Almost everyone honestly believes their political beliefs are more reasonable and compassionate than the opposition's. This 1999 version of you certainly did.
"Why Is The Right So Opposed To Gay Rights?"
OLWM: Conservatives refuse to recognize opposition to gay rights purely as cover for their simple gut-level revulsion at homosexual sex. The same guys citing anti-gay scripture on Sunday were making fag jokes in the office on Monday -- I was there. It starts with fear and disgust of people who don't act like them, then they build an intellectual framework around it -- it's science.
Note: I'm now pretty sure the authors of the Bible did the same.
That would explain all the Canaanite bashing.
YRWM: Yeah, now we're getting into the bullshit.
Future Me, it's sad to see you pulling that liberal trick of playing the "bigot" card when you disagree on any social issue. Here's the one truth about our side that you simply refuse to acknowledge:
Aside from a few extremists and actual hate groups, we on the right are criticizing behavior, not people.
The left wants to call us hatemongers for thinking gay sex is weird, but that's hypocritical -- those same people would laugh their asses off at a furry orgy and would instantly mock a candid photo of, say, Newt Gingrich in leather fetish gear. Every human is repulsed by some type of sex they find gross, and in many cases would find themselves saying the exact same thing as the supposed homophobes -- "What am I supposed to tell my children when they see two dudes at a hotel dressed as Care Bears in lacy panties?"
I, here in 1999, don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes -- I have gay friends. But don't ask me to change the law to accommodate their sexual preferences -- since when is that the same as being the member of a different race? Otherwise, why can't a guy claim multiple wives as his "orientation"? Or maybe his orientation requires him to masturbate in public? To deny him is bigotry, according to you.
No, in those cases virtually everyone would agree that the public good overrides the individual's sexual preference. Well, in the grand scheme of things, the primary public good is encouraging stable families in which the next generation can be raised -- a gay "family" is biologically impossible. I'm not going to pretend otherwise just to make you feel better.
OLWM: You don't actually have gay friends, you just tell people that when you're having these arguments to hide the fact that gay people are, to you, an abstraction -- a debate point. You'll change your mind when you actually meet some homosexuals, and see what their lives are like.
You once found this terrifying!
See, the problem is that you love to think of yourself as the cold, logical realist holding on to the hard truth while those sheltered hippies get stoned and sing folk songs about world peace. But you go too far the other direction -- you forget that the sappy shit about love and peace is not only real but is in fact the only reason we're doing any of this. If we're not creating a civilization in which two law-abiding people are safe to be happy together, then what are we doing? What's the end goal of society, if it isn't day-to-day human happiness? Just to breed a new generation so they can be bitter and miserable too?
As for what you tell your (completely hypothetical) son when he says, "Daddy, what are those two men doing over there?" How about this: "They're minding their own goddamned business, son, and harming no one. Let us learn from their inspiring example, and do the same."
YRWM: So you're changing the format now to give yourself the last word again?
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 6
"Now Do Abortion!"
YRWM: *Shrug.* What's so complicated?
It's just a matter of preserving the value of human life, that's all. It is scientifically impossible to define at exactly what point a fetus attains that value, therefore we must err on the side of caution as much as possible. Otherwise, you create a slippery slope that ends with you terminating any human life deemed inconvenient. If it's OK to do it five minutes before birth, why not five minutes after? Or five months? If independence from the parent is required for personhood, why not terminate the lives of the severely disabled, or the elderly?
Or kids that have to move back home?
And, once again, if the goal is to encourage/force citizens to become productive -- in terms of both employment and child rearing -- then that means no tolerance for behaviors that deviate from that goal, such as recreational sex outside of marriage. Abortion, then, is simply a murderous way to let people escape the consequences of behavior that should be discouraged anyway. Why would any civilized society allow that? It's actually weird that we're even considering this.
And don't tell me this position is anti-woman -- more than half of the terminated fetuses are female. That's more than 20 million little girls who never got to exist, all because their parents didn't want to take responsibility.
OLWM: You didn't need to type out the word "shrug," sonny. Your whole worldview is a shrug.
Remember that bit about how everybody thinks they're a good person? Well, follow that to its conclusion and you'll realize that most of the world's monsters are actually a specific category of "good" person -- they use others' mistakes as a blank check to keep grinding them under their boot, forever. In fact, it's their sense of absolute morality that makes them dangerous -- this is the mentality of the internet commenter who can watch a video of a woman weeping over her black husband's corpse and coldly say, "Well, he shouldn't have resisted." *shrug*
Your whole "pro-life" bit is a perfect example. "You should take responsibility for your actions!" sounds great as a slogan, but you're a hypocrite the moment you say it. You have screwed up so many times in your life, and have so many screw-ups ahead of you, that I can confidently say I got to my current comfortable place via a road paved by the tolerance and forgiveness of others. The terrified woman staring at a positive pregnancy test deserves the same.
Can't let a 16-year-old have sex without her life being destroyed, right? This'll teach her.
The truth is, you are able to draw a hard line on abortion for one simple reason: You are assuming it is never going to affect you. Well, later you'll meet actual women who've faced this choice. You'll understand their fear, you'll see how relentlessly the males in their lives pushed to get what they wanted and how effortlessly they walked away afterward. You'll see how horrible the alternatives are.
And cut the shit -- you don't actually think embryos are people, otherwise you'd be protesting fertility clinics that throw them out by the thousand. It's just a game to you, a rhetorical trump card that lets you claim the moral high ground without having to actually do anything. "Oh, you're upset about this mass shooting? Why aren't you upset about the hundreds of babies who were killed in abortion clinics just this week?!?"
That is, in fact, your privilege -- that you can treat it like a game. Deep down, you never really cared. Not about the unborn "babies" and certainly not about the mothers.
Related: 5 Streams That Went Horribly Wrong
"Why Do Republicans Deny The Science Of Global Warming? Or Oppose Environmental Policy In General?"
OLWM: Easy: It's because climate change is dramatic, apocalyptic proof that Past Me was wrong -- the free market can't solve every problem. No single company has motivation to preserve resources or think long term about environmental damage; they have to catch a certain amount of fish or drill a certain quantity of oil by deadline or else they go out of business.
"That hairspray is destroying the ozone!" is a tough argument to make to a company that also sells sunblock.
Only a third party with the authority to override their decisions -- a strong central government -- can save industry from itself. Otherwise, they'll drill and burn until there's no longer profit to be made, at which point it will be too late to save the planet. It's the same mentality that caused Republicans to insist cigarettes aren't bad for you for decades after that idea was laughable. "If they really caused cancer, they wouldn't have survived in the free market!" Uh huh.
YRWM: Once again, instead of arguments, you bring accusations. You act like Republicans are acting in bad faith in literally every single situation. That's absurd! You know it is, because you used to be one!
I resist the panic about climate change because liberals have been panicking about industry my whole life, acting like "organic" food is better for you than modern farming (it factually is not) or that power lines give you cancer (there's still no evidence). I can see they're still at it today, spreading health scares about cellphones, Wi-Fi, and even freaking childhood vaccines.
So, yeah, I hate alarmists and have a knee-jerk reflex to people trying to control me with fear. I grew up in the Cold War and heard about the imminent Apocalypse every Sunday in church -- forgive me if I roll my eyes when people like Al Gore demand I stop driving my car while he zips around in a private jet. "But I need my jet to get to my important environmentalist meetings!" Well, I need my freaking truck to get to work so I can buy food. You can't do your shit over the phone?
Not that that's a much better option.
As for our precious resources, remember that I grew up with movies predicting we'd be out of oil long before the year 2000 (that was the whole premise of the Mad Max movies). How's that looking today? Oh, you're paying less than $2 a gallon because we've got a massive supply glut thanks to new drilling techniques? Isn't it amazing how technology is able to stay ahead of demand in virtually every situation?
Remember: Oil wasn't a natural resource until private industry invented a use for it. Our species of primates got where we are because we're great builders -- you'll find shit we've built floating past freaking Pluto. If we can't use the oil, we'll build something that works without it. That's what we do -- we invent and innovate our way out of problems. Americans didn't reduce paper waste because of environmentalist browbeating -- we just switched to email.
So if this global warming thing is real and you want to fix it, give fossil fuel consumers a better alternative. But don't try to guilt us into bicycling to work in the rain. We're just not going to do that. Al Gore sure as hell doesn't.
OLWM: I'm all about the free market. The problem is that it's bad at accounting for the cost of environmental damage (and global warming will cost us trillions).
Oh, and millions of lives per year too, but you can't really attach a bill to that.
Oil and coal are only cheap because we're not counting those costs -- it's like saving money on trash disposal by cramming your waste into your neighbor's can. You're not saving shit -- you're just sticking someone else with the bill. In order for the free market to work in this case, we have to build the cost of environmental cleanup into the price of fossil fuels -- at which point clean alternatives become cheaper and win in the marketplace. But only the government can force fossil fuel suppliers to take responsibility for their mess. It's not communism, it's patching a hole in capitalism. Environmentalists are here to save the free market, not kill it.
I think you'd have seen that, if you hadn't gotten so annoyed by smug Hollywood environmentalists (yes, Bono has the carbon footprint of an entire small town of working folk -- I get it).
"Racists Tend To Vote For Right-Wing Candidates, Minorities Flock To The Left. Doesn't That Prove The Right Is Racist?"
OLWM: You don't like feeling accused, so let's calmly look at some numbers.
Yes, minorities do overwhelmingly flock to the left; in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the black vote 88 percent to Trump's 8 percent and the Hispanic vote 66 percent to 28 percent. If you are about to say, "Of course she did, the GOP ran the most racist candidate in history!" please note that Trump performed better among both groups than the last two Republican challengers.
Yes, the unanimous choice of neo-Nazis really did outperform a war hero.
Among Trump supporters, about 32 percent told pollsters they viewed blacks as less intelligent than whites, as opposed to 22 percent of Clinton supporters who said the same. Forty percent of Trump voters said blacks were lazier than whites, and about a quarter of Clinton supporters said they agree. So, in polls, there's a 10-15 point jump in negative attitudes toward other races on the right side of the spectrum.
You might say that these numbers are partly due to there simply being more minorities among Clinton respondents (since it's super weird for a person to be prejudiced against their own race). Well, in 2012, when they only asked white voters of each party, the numbers did in fact tighten considerably -- 27 percent of white Republicans expressed negative racial attitudes in polls, and 19 percent of white Democrats did.
No doubt some people were lying as to not come off like assholes, so for all we know the real number is much higher. If so, it's worth noticing that they at least acknowledged racism as a negative to be hidden from public view -- which does run counter to the "openly racist" phrasing the media tend to use. Only 13 percent of Republicans who said Trump "appealed to bigotry" in his campaign also said they were voting for him (but please don't misinterpret my use of the word "only" there).
Because that's "only" about 4 million people.
In summary: Racism is still rampant in the USA, but more so on the right. This is inarguable.
YRWM: First, I've never hated a human being because they were black. I do not believe African-Americans are, as a result of their race, lazy, violent, or less intelligent.
Yes, bigots absolutely exist in my party -- I've met them, I hate them, and I avoid them whenever possible. But their presence doesn't prove the ideology itself is racist, any more than the fact that most felons vote Democrat proves your side encourages law-breaking.
Second, I said that I don't believe blacks are less intelligent (or pick your stereotypical negative trait) as a result of their race. Aren't all of those things a product of education and upbringing? I would actually like to know how many of those 32 percent who judged African-Americans to be less intelligent were, in fact, advocating for better schools rather than ethnic cleansing. But why ask them to clarify, when you can just call them racists and pat yourself on the back for your enlightened tolerance? (If you're wondering, 12 percent of whites tell pollsters they think some races are genetically inferior.)
Aside from some ignorant extremists, my side is consistent at every step: Saving a community always means getting individuals to be better people. If you want to save African-Americans (or anyone else), you need to encourage learning, personal responsibility, and ambition. Create role models. When an impoverished black kid studies hard, learns a skill, excels at his career, and then runs for president in order to fix the system from the inside, hold him up as an example, rather than smugly mocking him on your late-night talk shows.
OLWM: But what you -- and much of the country -- don't see is that even if you're not actively hating minorities, you're still supporting racist policies. Most racism is passive -- you're letting a system ruin people (again, in the name of "one mistake and you're out" moralizing) purely because of the unspoken knowledge that it won't be you or your kids in the line of fire.
YRWM: How can a policy that doesn't mention race be racist? I realize the current drug laws disproportionally harm minorities, but that's because minorities violate them more often -- again, it's about punishing particular behaviors, not particular races. Otherwise, you could say a tax on soda (favored by many Democrats as a way to combat obesity) is also racist since it would have a greater financial impact on minorities due to their buying habits.
And you know what I really find disgusting? How the left acts like crime victims just don't exist. How is that not racist, considering blacks are more likely to be crime victims? You're going to say that the system treats blacks more harshly than whites who commit the same crimes, but doesn't every community want fewer drug dealers on the streets selling poison to its children? Remember, those "racist" sentencing laws did make streets safer. Statistically, black lives were saved as a result of those "zero tolerance" policies.
If we truly hated them, wouldn't we advocate just letting those communities tear themselves apart?
OLWM: But those people who went to prison got out and then immediately committed more crimes -- probably because our "punish mistakes forever" society makes it impossible for felons to get jobs. We created a permanent underclass of people shut out of the economy who, oh by the way, are a huge chunk of our minority population. Even if you ignore the historical roots of these policies -- and that's some bullshit right there -- at least admit that they're not fixing the problem.
Unless your problem is "I own a prison and need a lifelong source of income," that is.
Consider this: In some other countries, they have these very nice, comfortable prisons that focus on gently reforming offenders rather than punishing them. They are much, much better at turning criminals into productive citizens. Are you offended by that idea? Do you grind your molars at the thought of a "thug" committing a burglary and getting peacefully reformed without feeling the sear of society's righteous vengeance?
I'll tell you: It's because whether you admit it or not, you just can't quite see them as people. You imagine them as movie villains rather than humans whose lives often get derailed before they're even old enough to understand consequences. In lots of cases, all they need are some of those second chances you got but took for granted. And know this: In a true "zero tolerance" society, all of us would be in chains.
Behold your undoing.
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 3
"Why Is The Right So Opposed To Immigration, If It's Not Due To Racism?"
YRWM: The whole thesis of your question is wrong.
Exactly 100 percent of American presidents -- hell, probably 100 percent of American politicians, at every level, always -- have supported having a border. And I don't mean a line on a map -- I'm talking about checkpoints, patrols, paperwork, and laws that say you wind up in handcuffs or worse if you cross without permission. Every nation that has ever existed on earth has this -- it's how you know where one country stops and the other begins, the point at which the laws, culture, and currency switch. So please stop acting like having a border is some kind of weird, racist quirk of the right -- no one has ever not had one.
Your question is, then, why is the right is more worried about controlling immigration than the left. But it's consistent with the rest of our core beliefs, and I don't mean "hatred of brown people." America is not a piece of land -- it's a culture, a series of ideas shared by a group of people. If you picked up every American and set them on the moon, the moon would become America.
The "amber waves of grain" part might need some revision, but otherwise: America.
So, if there is an influx of citizens from cultures that do not share this collection of values (such as immigrants from Muslim countries that restrict the rights of women), then those citizens can change the country from within via their votes, buying habits, and everyday behavior. At the very least, a certain amount of assimilation must occur, otherwise immigration simply becomes a slow invasion -- a literal toppling of the society by a foreign ideology.
You can call that a paranoid fantasy, but just a few months ago a poll of Muslims in the U.K. showed that 39 percent believe wives should always obey their husbands and nearly 1 in 4 favored replacing the British legal system with Islamic law. So your cries of xenophobia and racism bounce right off me -- the issue isn't "Ew, these people are the wrong genetic stock!" It's "These people factually believe things that are going to cause conflict if they don't assimilate."
If you still think this is hateful, I'd like to see how your average leftist would react to a thousand Scientologists moving into their neighborhood.
OLWM: The issue isn't borders or even policy; it's the habit of grossly exaggerating the threat of immigrants in order to appeal to people's most hateful instincts. You're teaching people that love of country is defined primarily by hatred of others -- in any other context, you'd recognize that as evil. This is, after all, the sparks from which genocides are lit. Watch how right-wing outlets carefully filter their news to only show immigrants being criminals -- you don't recognize that as the exact same propaganda used by every hateful regime ever?
Humans have tribalism built into their DNA -- a deep-seated terror of people who don't look, sound, or act like us. The government's job should be to moderate those urges, not inflame them. History is on my side here -- immigration scares have cropped up over and over (such as with the Irish and the subsequent fear of Catholic immigrants that often turned deadly). Each time, propaganda has inflated the danger and later been proven laughably wrong -- among those huddled masses we find future doctors, inventors, and CEOs. You deny racism yet speak of these actual human beings as if they're termites here to chew away at the fabric of our society.
Not to mention you're grossly overestimating how many there are to begin with.
This isn't a matter of opinion; Donald Trump famously began his campaign by implying most Mexican immigrants are rapists and consistently stood by those comments when offered a chance to retract or clarify them. According to all of the data available, this is simply not true. Immigrants -- regardless of how they entered the country -- do not commit more crimes, violent or otherwise. Neighborhoods with high immigrant populations do not have higher crime rates.
If falsely attributing negative traits to a race isn't racism, then what the hell is? Look, you say you're not racist, and I believe you mean it (I don't have a choice). It took me years to figure out that bigotry survives in the brain by disguising itself as common-sense precaution.
Jesus, look how long this is. Commenters who actually read this far into the article before commenting -- put two periods at the end of your comment! It'll be a fun experiment. OK, last one:
"True Or False: Donald Trump Wants To Bring Fascism To The USA."
YRWM: Glad we finally got here. It's the point at which you self-Godwin, when you look back at a young broke journalist who held a second job working with disabled children and say, "Yep, I sure was Hitler back then!"
Well, here is an inarguable fact that has nothing to do with Trump: In America, people are really quick to whip out the "F" word at their opponents. Everygoddamnedbody is Hitler:
I'm only stopping here because the image quality drops once you get to Carter and Nixon.
They're taking advantage of the fact that words like "fascism" have really loose definitions, both in the popular culture and in the dictionary (as the moderator of a message board, I get called a fascist by every teenager I ban). The official definitions generally involve leaders who demand absolute submission to their authority and promote fierce militaristic nationalism and/or racism. This can be most vividly displayed in Nazi Germany's nightmarish national anthem:
Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny's
Bloody banner is raised
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They're coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!
To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!
Everyone but fringe neo-Nazis agree that kind of violent demagoguery is toxic. The issue is that it is a matter of degree -- it is hard to find a large civilization in history that hasn't used some amount of nationalism or xenophobia as way to motivate the people (to wit, the above are actually the lyrics of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise").
So, yeah, you are free to say that the right in America is more militaristic, authoritarian, and anti-immigration than the left, but to say they're thus more "fascist" is a dishonest debate trick no different than when we call the left socialists or communists (which I've always called bullshit on when I catch my side doing it).
Wall Street crony and a communist. Sure, that makes sense.
After all, the left wants more of the economy under the control of the government, which literally makes them more communist than us. Or, maybe it just means they're further to the left, and I could just say that instead of fearmongering about Stalin-esque genocides?
How about that? I won't call you Stalin, you don't call me Hitler?
OLWM: Well ... things are different in 2016. There's been lots of anxiety about immigration, Islamic terrorism, and jobs fleeing to China, plus some truly horrific race-related violence. There is, as a matter of pure fact, a higher level of racial anxiety in the country now -- the headlines prove it. A lot has changed since 1999.
YRWM: You're right, it has -- racial attitudes have gotten better:
The percentage of Americans who see immigrants as a strength rather than a burden on the country is actually at its highest level in 20 years. Hate crimes had been steadily going down:
... with the number of hate crimes against Muslims increasing, but still too few to even appear on the graph (obviously, even one is too many -- I'm only talking about the trend, that's all). It's true that the graph ends in 2014, and it looks like there was a 6 percent bump in hate crimes in 2015, but that would still leave the rates below where they were at the beginning of the Obama administration.
I get that there are troubling trends, but how in the hell did you conclude that you're on the cusp of goddamned concentration camps? The way you talk, those number should be spiked through the top of your screen. Every city should be a war zone right now.
Keep in mind, I'm saying this from the 1990s -- remember the Rodney King beating and the LA riots? Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March? The multiple deadly raids on white supremacist compounds? Holy shit, in 1991 a Public Enemy video called for the assassination of the governor of Arizona. They literally explode him in a car! They showed it on MTV!
And instead of some ultra-right-wing firebrand like Pat Buchanan or David Duke, it's fucking Donald Trump I'm supposed to be scared of?
No amount of alarming T-shirts can turn a steak-slinging game show host into Adolf Hitler.
As in, the guy who the last time he ran said he wanted Oprah Winfrey as his running mate? The guy who plays golf with Bill Clinton and donates to Hillary's campaigns? That's the guy you're saying will usher in an era of fascism? I bet you all the money in my bank account -- $146 -- Trump can't even define the word.
OLWM: Actually, they're talking about Trump's Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, a figure widely hated even on the right whose website breitbart.com admittedly caters to a group of white nationalists who call themselves the "alt-right." The site is full of intentionally inflammatory headlines about criminal immigrants and foreign labor -- all of that "evils of multiculturalism" bullshit.
YRWM: OK, I'm on that website right now and it looks identical to rags like the Daily Mail and New York Post -- lots of screaming headlines about enemies domestic and abroad (POLICE TO MONITOR SOCIAL MEDIA TO PREVENT MIGRANT SEX MOBS), but if they're "admittedly" catering to white nationalists, they're definitely trying to hide it.
I'm looking at an article blaming liberals for driving black families out of San Francisco (rather than declaring this a victory for whiteness), another one from a columnist decrying how Democratic policies have ravaged inner cities and harmed blacks, and here's a piece taking the side of a Hispanic family trying to get a family member into a "whites only" cemetery.
That stuff is mixed in with plenty of fear-mongering about immigrant violence but ... wait, are you sure this is brand-new American fascism and not the same "use fear to sell papers" yellow journalism that made William Randolph Hearst rich ...
... and Rupert Murdoch a billionaire?
Because it looks to me like they're just deploying the same screaming and bleeding headlines that caused 1990s media to refer to black gangs as "Wolf Packs" and "Superpredators."
That's Newsweek, not The Daily Stormer, questioning the merits of caging children.
Are you 100 percent sure that you're not simply a victim of the same technique, only from the other direction -- carefully filtered stories about hate crimes intended to terrify you into giving them clicks? "Read this or Nazis will come for your family." Considering how surprised you were by those graphs earlier, I think I know the answer.
Meanwhile, I vividly remember after Bill Clinton was elected (with only 43 percent of the vote -- 18 million fewer raw votes than Donald Trump got) that actual armed militias were formed in opposition. They blew up a fucking federal building.
You're about to say that those people were crazy, but were they really? Your panic is over hateful tweets, their panic was over the actual slaughter of 76 men, women, and children on live television. Imagine what Twitter would look like if Trump ordered this:
"This is horrible" and "This is business as usual" aren't opposing ideas. Lots of stuff in your Worst Case Dystopian Scenario has in fact happened before, and you just forgot about it.
OLWM: There's that shrug again, even if you didn't bother to type it out.
That's your bias -- a deep desire to be above all of the hand-wringing, like you're too smart for the panic. It's the same flaw you've revealed over and over here -- you think remaining cool, logical, and aloof means you're being a realist, when all you're doing is denying the reality of the genuine terror minorities are feeling right now. If you went online and faced the abuse of Trump's "alt-right" hate mob for just one single day, you'd stop shrugging and admit that there's a dark, toxic undercurrent in our society and Trump happily let it float him to victory.
Trump's rallies were marked by outbursts of violence, chanted threats, and a buzz of vicious energy I could feel in my gut. What do you think it's like to be a black, Latino, or Muslim person and know you're the target of that hate, to see this smirking billionaire up there stoking it for votes? What must it be like to be a woman and see this guy glibly brag about groping, then to watch America shrug and say, "That doesn't matter to me, as long as he brings back the jobs!"
In the unlikely event that's even possible.
Put politics aside -- the actual events of Trump's own life reveal him to be petty, vindictive, and narcissistic on just a human level. There is a very real danger that those personality traits will lead him to do horrible violence to people he dislikes. The only reason you can sit there and try to rebut that fear with line graphs is because of the unspoken knowledge that you won't be one of his targets.
YRWM: But even if I accept all of that as true, why can't you see that I'm the one who tried to stop this? My whole thing is that the government can't be trusted!
If Trump is a racist womanizer, you think he'll be the first to hold that office? Because I doubt that he's the tenth -- show me a politician and I'll show you a walking, talking asshole. AND THIS IS PRECISELY WHY I WANT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO HAVE LESS POWER, GENIUS. I wanted to make us immune from the Trumps! You tell me you're terrified because Trump now has the power to spy on citizens and start wars without congressional approval, but the problem isn't that he was elected -- it's that any president has that power. Did you think your guy would be president forever?
You know who knew someone like Trump would come along? The goddamned founding fathers. That's why they designed a government based entirely on making it impossible for a guy like that to ruin the country. You decried congressional "gridlock" when Obama was in charge, but over the next few years, you're going to suddenly understand why they built that gridlock into the system -- they were trying to make it Trump-proof.
And now I hear your people dreaming of a future in which every citizen will depend on the government, not just for their health care and college education, but their entire income!?! How can you not see the problem? Here's a hint: A populace that will starve without the government's paycheck doesn't dare rebel. Go ask some of your most liberal friends if they would sign a petition overturning this election and making Obama president for life. You'll be shocked at how many are willing to submit to a despot as long as he has a kind smile and promises to care for them.
Look, you're scared of your government now and your friends have responded admirably -- they're talking about supporting each other, about the need to donate and volunteer for the right causes. To be better, and smarter, and stronger.
Because they know they can't depend on this government.
Guess what, gang: It looks like we agree on something after all.
OLWM: Here's a video of a cat beating the piss out of a stuffed tiger.
David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked. His most recent novel is now in development as a TV series and just came out in paperback.
For more from David Wong, check out Don't Panic and 7 Reasons So Many Guys Don't Understand Sexual Consent.
Follow us on Facebook, and let's hug it out.