“Conservatives” in the United States often have a problem with learning to drop a subject. So now, not too long after Republican House member Steve King got himself into trouble for waxing too, um, philosophical about “nationalism,” in particular white nationalism, we have a new entrant in the competition to see who has the least grasp of history and political philosophy.
Our competitor is one Candace Owens, one of Donald Trump’s African American supporters, so we’re off to a winning start. It’s a free country. She should support whoever she thinks will do the best job. She is free to ignore the mounds of evidence for what a lousy job Trump is doing if she wishes.
In the run up to the 2018 elections, Trump proclaimed himself a nationalist, which is pretty funny, given how little he understands about the one thing that makes the United States distinctive as a nation state, our Constitution. He seems not to understand what constitutions are for, or much of anything about our Constitution.
Neither does Ms. Owens. She apparently has very little grasp of the history of the United States, or of Europe, especially in the twentieth century. Here is her mercifully brief disquisition on nationalism, which she likes, in contrast to the “globalism” of “the elites” — straight out of Steve Bannon — and, um, on where Hitler went wrong. Please sit down and refrain from ingesting any beverages until you finish:
Mildly stunning. Her ignorance, that is. Poor thing. What she doesn’t seem to understand is that Hitler’s definition of “nationalism” involved conquering neighboring countries to give good Germans more room to live (“lebensraum,” or room to live, was an explicit component of Nazi policy), and, much more importantly, to define “good Germans” in an *explicitly racist* way. Germany had no history of “racial difference” in the sense that we think of it in the United States, with a historic mudsill class that is easy to distinguish because of skin color. Instead, they were happy to rely on the racial distinction Christians had relied on for centuries, making Jews the abjected class who were supposedly at fault for all of the nation’s problems and whom the transcendent German nation should eradicate entirely.
Closer to home, we should look at how the United States has defined itself as a nation. It started with the Revolutionary War, removing the new nation from the government of England and adopting a few years later a new Constitution. At the moment, a lot of U.S. citizens are dissatisfied with some of the provisions of our Constitution, especially the ways in which it does not enable majority rule, such as allotting two Senators per state and, more pressingly, the electoral college, which allots votes in part as the Senate does and allowed Trump to become our disaster of a president.
More specifically, with respect to the use of “nationalism” by the likes of Trump and King, is the point that they have no concerns about how racism has been a defining component of the United States as a nation from well before our founding. Race based chattel slavery — “white” people claiming ownership in “black” people, including freedom to abuse the slaves however they wanted, including killing them — had existed in British North America for 157 years when the Revolutionary War broke out. The new Constitution nowhere uses the word slavery explicitly, but it clearly assumes the existence of slavery, almost immediately, in defining the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives, which allowed the slave owning states an extra dollop of representation by allowing them seats for “three fifths of all other persons,” which, in context, can only mean slaves.
This provision of the Constitution no longer operates. The abolition of slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment nullified it. Another one hundred years would elapse, but after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, descendants of the freed slaves finally had something like full opportunity to participate in politics and government in the United States.
Until Owens’ fellow Republicans from Alabama, one of the states where slavery was most prominent when it existed and which still has more descendants of slaves living in it than almost any other state, pursued a case to the national Supreme Court to eliminate a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which allowed it and other states to take various steps to minimize African American voting, and therefore political participation. Um, whoops.
It was one of Owens’ fellow Republicans who stated, as a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, that the United States was great when we had slavery.
Nationalism is like any other concept. It can have better and worse versions. Context is everything. In the context of Trumpism, whether Owens wants to admit it or not, Republicans seem far too happy to consign her to sixty percent citizenship because of her skin color. In 2016, Trump won 8% of the black vote. In 2018, his fellow Republicans made it all the way to 9% of the black vote. It looks as if most of Owens’ fellow African Americans are not as happy with Trump’s 60 percent citizenship as Owens is.
One hardly needs to be black to find Trump’s racism offensive. Recurring to our, um, national Constitution, again, Trump became president only because of our incompetent, archaic electoral college. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. The nation as a whole (!) did not want Trump. Indeed, Trump’s invocation of nationalism is actually characteristically stupid of him, since the national verdict was to have the other candidate serve as president instead of him, and the interim verdict on the Party he leads was a resounding restatement of that judgment, which only looks more correct with each passing day.
There were many reasons not to want Trump as president. His overt racism should be at the top of the list. Lots of people noticed this and pointed it out. Somehow Owens just missed it.
I guess if she can’t see Hitler’s racism after decades of denunciations, she’s an expert at missing racism when it stares her in the face.