Many of the higher-profile Trump skeptics I follow on social media were gushing over Kevin Williamson’s “The White Minstrel Show” this weekend. It’s an exceedingly well-written indictment (RTWT) of whites adopting the values and behaviors of the underclass (of any color), as well as of politicians who exploit this troubling trend (including, but not limited to Pres. Trump). The gushing, however, made me a little queasy.
Nine months into the Trump administration, I still get the impression that too many of my fellow Trump skeptics are not thinking enough about the fact that we lost to Trump and to the vulgarians who backed him.
Granted, being a Trump skeptic myself, I tend to believe the Trumpian “value” of “winning” at all costs isn’t really a value. But I presume the skeptics would like to win, on their terms. And yet I am still wondering what those terms are.
Williamson himself wrote:
“Nine-tenths of all social criticism involving the problems of the American underclass consists of nice college graduates and policy professionals of many races and religions wondering aloud why they can’t be more like us, which is why so much social policy is oriented toward trying to get more poor people to go to college, irrespective of whether they want to do so or believe they would benefit from it.”
Fair enough. But Williamson’s conclusion also seems to be that the underclass should be more like us (conservatives), minus the dubious educational recommendation. Again, fair enough; the victim mentality is generally destructive. And Williamson is further correct to note that as a political matter, many conservatives/Republicans have not cared about the other, external causes of poverty until it emerged as a political problem for whites.
So where does that leave us, as Americans, or conservatives, or Republicans (for those of you who still identify)?
Williamson isn’t obliged to offer an answer; he’s writing social commentary, with a bit of philosophy, and doing it well. Moreover, he was writing an essay, not a book. But many of those gushing over his acid analysis may have to offer answers if they ever want to regain their power and influence in public discourse generally and within the GOP specifically.
Trump’s talent for making everything about Trump makes the process of thinking about the Coming Apart problem (let alone the problems of the underclass as a whole) difficult. I am likely as guilty as anyone in dwelling on the Trump kerfuffles du jour (tho given my profile, my guilt matters much less).
But for all of the complaining about Trump pandering to white victimhood (and more broadly to those who care about those who have succumbed to the mentality), Trump skeptics need to consider that — as a political matter, anyway — you can’t beat something with nothing. Trump’s ascendancy doesn’t mean that skeptics should cave in and jump on the train; it means we should, at some point, with a spirit of humility, be complaining less and working harder to be a better alternative to Trump or Trumpism (to the extent it exists).
[Note: Work-related writing may preclude me from posting on Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes.]
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