- Victor C. Bolles
The Trump Supremacy
After the tragic mass murders in both El Paso and Dayton, a number of the Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and others) blamed President Trump for his divisional rhetoric and even accused him of being a racist and white supremacist. At the very least, they said, he had been an enabler of white supremacy.
I am not so sure. After those attacks, he gave a speech denouncing hate crimes, racism and white supremacy. But the speech was scripted and he appeared uncomfortable while speaking it (as he always does when he is speaking from a script). He did not appear sincere or impassioned while speaking as President Obama was famously able to do. He appears much more honest and forthright in his extemporaneous campaign speeches and in his tweets.
These accusations of racism against the President followed soon after the President had lashed out against US Representative Elijah Cummings that also drew accusations of racism and bigotry. But Representative Cummings has been a harsh critic of the president and his policies and recently viciously excoriated one of President Trump’s appointees in a congressional hearing. Cummings ripped into the acting head of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, over the horrible conditions detained immigrants were forced to suffer at border detention facilities.
President Trump lashed back accusing Cummings of having done nothing to improve the horrible conditions in his home district of Baltimore, which President Trump described as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and where “no human being would want to live.” But was that a racist attack on Cummings or just tit-for-tat for Cummings attack on McAleenan? Trump does not refrain from counter-punching his critics. As he tweeted in 2012, “When someone attacks me, I always attack back...except 100x more.” His attacks on Cummings were 100x more, but does that make them racist?
I don’t think so. He not a racist, he’s a Trumpist. Donald Trump is a narcissist and he thinks everything in the world should revolve around him. He didn’t attack civil rights icon Cummings because he was black. He attacked Cummings because Cummings attacked him. When his friend Kanye West asked him that same week to go to bat for black rapper A$AP Rocky, who had been arrested in Sweden for street fighting, he did not hesitate.
That’s because Kanye is one of Trump’s crew. Part of his entourage. President Trump likes to be surrounded by beautiful women and famous people. He is equally happy to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods as Dustin Johnson (or Hideki Matsuyama, for that matter). He likes people that agree with him. People who agree that he is a “very stable genius.”
Trump lashes out against anyone who opposes him or doesn’t accord him the proper subservience to his stable geniusness. He lashed out against Republicans that opposed his policies and relished their defeats in the primaries. My God, he even lashed out at John McCain.
Although after his election he appointed many highly qualified people, many of them did not share the adoration of the president that Mr. Trump demanded and so they are gone now. Qualified people like Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John F. Kelly. He is currently lashing out at Jay Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve who can only be fired for cause, and not for being independent. He even lashed out and eventually fired Jeff Sessions for appropriately recusing himself from the Trump Russia investigation, because Mr. Trump thought the job of Attorney General was to protect the president.
So I don’t think that President Trump is a racist or white supremacist – at least in the normal sense of those words. He is a Trumpist and a Trump supremacist. I don’t think that he cares what race or gender preference you are as long as you give him the appropriate adoration of his stable genius. But not being a racist or white supremacist does not mean that he is good for America.
The greater danger – greater even than the presidency of Donald Trump, as hard as that is to believe – is that many progressives are trying to equate the Enlightenment with white supremacy. New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie writes “We still live in a world shaped by Enlightenment ideas of race and white supremacy. These notions of inherent inferiority still hold purchase in our society. And political liberalism is still too compatible with both.”
The Enlightenment and its (classically) liberal ideas on the nature of man, government and economy are the foundation of American principles of government and the free market economy. The Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason) was an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation, where independent protestant religions arose in opposition to the all-powerful (at least in Western Europe) Catholic Church which led eventually to new ways of thinking about man and nature.
The Enlightenment’s use of reason and science replaced the medieval foundation based on faith and tried to think up new ways of looking at the world, beginning with Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Newton and other Enlightenment philosophers (they weren’t called scientists until the 19th century) tried to discover truth through observation rather than pure reason or faith.
But Bouie turns scientific observation into racism. He writes, “Race as we understand it—a biological taxonomy that turns physical difference into relations of domination—is a product of the Enlightenment.” It is true that Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish inventor of taxonomy relied on observation to differentiate between different species (see, Blame it on Linnaeus). It was the only scientific tool he had. And it is true that Linnaeus divided humans into four groups, white Europeans, red Americans, brown Asians and black Africans. Which only makes sense if you don’t have the tools to discover the genetic differences and similarities among peoples. The most controversial critique of Linnaeus at the time of his writing (and for quite some time afterwards) was his claim that humans and monkeys were related because he observed similarities in the bones of men, monkeys and other primates.
But Bouie asserts that this was done in order (or as an explanation) to justify the domination and enslavement of black people. I am sure that Linnaeus would be shocked at that interpretation. All he was trying to do was to better understand why things were the way they were.
Some black advocates believe that everything white people do has the sole purpose of trying to dominate and enslave black people. But we have to remember the times that Linnaeus, Locke and Newton were living in. The European continent was wracked with religious wars between Catholic monarchies and protestant nations that were not yet democracies but were experimenting with new forms of government. England had just gone through a period of civil war. And the common people were just beginning to emerge from the status of virtual slaves as serfs to the landed aristocracy. In this turmoil, Enlightenment philosophers were thinking of better ways for humans to live together in a civilized society.
Bouie also asserts that John Locke’s opinion on slavery is clearly illustrated by his drafting of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, a document outlining the governance of the colonial Carolinas that gave slaveholders “absolute power and Authority” over their slaves. Bouie notes that Locke had changed the wording of an earlier version of the document to give slaveholders even greater power. But others have noted that a young Locke was drafting a document at the orders of the aristocrats being granted land by the King and not writing a document to reflect his own private thoughts. I have often directed my lawyers to redraft documents to better reflect what I wanted them to say and not what the lawyers wanted them to say. I was paying their bills. When twenty years later he wrote the Second Treatise on Government he wrote extensively about slavery, but always in the context of monarchs usurping the freedoms of the people or conquerors as a consequence of war.
And this new philosophy didn’t reflect how businessmen, politicians and soldiers (most of whom had never heard of John Locke or the Enlightenment) went about their daily business. The Enlightenment (like any political philosophy or ideology) suffers from the flawed implementation by human beings. And slavery and the Enlightenment-based Constitution of the United States co-existed uneasily for far too long. But millions of Americans fought a bloody war to free the slaves and bring the governance of the country more in line with our principles.
The Constitution of the United States and the Enlightenment principles on which it is based may not be perfect – but they’re pretty darn good. There may be a better system but I have not yet seen it. Many progressives are pushing theories based on Marxist principles (also developed by white men) but socialist governments have never worked. Socialism is an idealistic system that is doomed to fail because it must be implemented by flawed human beings. Representative democracy and the free market economy is a system that takes into account the flawed nature of humans and has been very successful because it builds in checks and balances to limit the accumulation of power.
If black people (or at least their self-appointed leaders and community organizers) can come up with a better system for everyone (including white people) more power to them. I am willing to listen and learn. But until I discover a system that offers more opportunity for everyone than the Enlightenment based principles of the American system I am sticking with that.