Remember (or not) #NotAllMen? It was a viral Twitter hashtag, mostly shared in 2013-14, in which men pushed back on what they perceived as feminists’ ungenerous characterizations of men generally. Perhaps meant by some as a good-faith way to point out that many men are feminists themselves and shouldn’t be lumped in with all the misogynists out there, what the hashtag ended up doing was shifting the conversation away from that very misogyny and towards overly-defensive men’s insecurities. In trying to distance themselves from criticism, these men proved the point. (The phrase was largely taken over by feminists who used it satirically to shift the conversation back to sexism and male arrogance.)

“There’s more to life than politics.”

I’ve heard a lot of that in the last few years.

“Don’t let politics consume you.”

Former Democratic Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle: “Half the country are not horrible, racist, mean-spirited people who are different from everybody else. It can’t be. And roughly half the country voted for Trump.”

He may as well have tweeted #NotAllTrumpVoters. “Surely,” the argument goes, “even though some Trump voters are bad people, most of them probably had good, virtuous reasons that I disagree with but respect.”

The problem is that any supposedly justifiable reason—lower taxes, slashing the administrative state, etc.—is inextricably tied up in the broader problem of Trump’s array of bigotry. I know people who voted for Trump at least once, and I don’t think they’re racist, bad people. But they are, at best, normalizing and propping up all the people who are.

“I would hope my vote won’t affect our relationship.”

Joe Biden has received the most votes ever cast for a US president and has likely won the election. (That these are two separate questions is an infuriating topic for another day.) I’m happy about that, even though Biden was among my last choices during the primary. There are a lot of stories to come out of this election, from the repeated and significant polling failures to Democrats’ relatively abysmal showing among Latinos (an imperfect, overly broad category, to be fair). But the story I cannot move past is that after four years of showing us what kind of person he is every single day, four years of blatant corruption and incompetence and cruelty, tens of millions of Americans went ahead and voted for Donald Trump to have a second term.

“He’s a bad person, but so are lots of Democrats.”

Please don’t insult me or yourself by claiming that Trump’s support comes from working-class “economic anxiety.” If that were the driving factor he would have lost in a landslide, given the plummeting economy caused by his indifference to an ever-worsening pandemic. Trump’s support—Republicans’ support—comes from white people and rich people, not the diverse working class. No, the single factor that most accounts for ~69 million people’s votes is racism. The Republican Party sustains itself on racism and xenophobia, and Donald Trump is their White Knight.

“Many people will be unhappy that Trump lost, and they’re not all bad people.”

I can’t just be happy about a (likely, not yet official) Biden win because America is a white supremacist state. I can’t let this go because at the end of the day, voting for Trump means you’re either on board with the perpetuation of white grievance politics, with stealing brown children from their parents, with egging on neo-Nazis, with casually making racist comments to staff—or you’re indifferent to it as long as you get a tax cut. We live in a country where nearly 70 million people made that choice, and we need to talk about it.

“Not all Trump voters.”

Yes, all Trump voters. This has not been “politics as normal” for the last four years. Tell the 13,000 unaccompanied children seeking safety at the border, summarily expelled back to gangs and trafficking at Trump’s order, that there were good reasons to vote for him. Donald Trump gave supporters all across the country license to display Confederate flags, to storm state capitols with assault rifles, to march with torches and Nazi chants, to commit murder—and loudly approved of it all. Those who voted for him regardless owe the rest of us an explanation. Backpedaling and deflecting, saying that politics isn’t everything, doesn’t cut it when that politics is premised on racism and cruelty. As I wrote three months ago, many people don’t have the privilege of viewing political debate as an intellectual abstraction. Politics is not a parlor game: it is life or death.

 

Cover image from the New York Times’ presidential election coverage.

5 Comments

  1. Geneva Langeland

    Yes, yes, and more yes. The rot runs much deeper than the corrupt figurehead that we can (and are hopefully about to) vote out.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      This is the content I want to see

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I am curious to hear what specific policies that Trump implemented that were racist? I’m also curious if you, yourself (a white man who attended a private Christian college in a primarily white area) are a racist?

    The Democratic Party has historically and traditionally gained power from the oppression of black and brown people.

    The founder of planned parenthood, wife of a man on the Klu Klux Klan, was outspoken in her claim that abortion is intended for eugenics and to destroy the black race. Abortion – the democrat sacrament – happens at drastically higher rates in the black community.

    The Democratic Party fought to keep slavery, and later, fought to keep segregation. Their claim was always that black Americans were like children, and unable to take care of themselves.

    In 1694 when the Democratic Party realized they could take the black vote LBJ, a notorious bigot, offered free housing to impoverished, black community’s. This became another form of segregation as these communities were not policed and violence and crime soared. The welfare state was created and the black vote shifted democrat.

    So, in an age when parroting the phrase racism is the “cool” thing for young, white, and woke people to say – I would like to know – how do you know that you’re not a racist?

    Because to me – your vote to abolish police, expand abortion, eliminate school choice, and redistribute wealth – to me, that is the most racist vote you can cast. You put an old, white guy in power “to make black and brown lives better”, because, as the Democratic Party has long claimed – they know what’s best.

    And, for the record, wouldn’t you agree that these statements are racist?

    “You ain’t black if you don’t vote for me.”

    “Poor kids should have just as much as the white kids.”

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi there “Racist” (?)

      To start at the top, I’d encourage you to take a look at pretty much any immigration policy from the last 4 years, which have been designed to exclude as many people from non-white countries as possible on no legitimate basis. From the Muslim ban to the public charge rule to calling Mexicans “rapists and murderers,” racism and xenophobia have been at the heart of Trump’s immigration policy (led, not coincidentally, by avowed literal white supremacist Stephen Miller).

      Next, I am in fact a privileged straight white man and do in fact benefit from that enormously. I benefit from a racist system, and I absolutely have implicit biases, as does pretty much everyone. I try to figure out what those biases are and actively change them, which is at the heart of being anti-racist.

      Margaret Sanger was bad and racist and not a single person I know of defends her. If your best attack on pro-choice is that one person a hundred years ago was racist, I don’t know what to tell you.

      The Democratic Party was certainly racist and oppressed Black and brown people for many years. Notably, that shifted roughly around FDR to LBJ (yes, a bigot, no question) and the Civil Rights Act, when the Southern Democrats who had been fighting for the party to continue engaging in that suppression became Republicans. There are libraries full of books and articles about that shift, and I hope you read some of them.

      There’s a lot to unpack with your characterization of the “welfare state” (itself a problematic term), including your implication that Black people only vote for Democrats for what I assume you would term “free money.” Much of the social safety net is incredibly effective at reducing poverty, especially the EITC, CHIP, and SNAP. If anything, they have too stringent of requirements, leaving far too many people behind. Free housing is an objectively good thing, and while the resulting segregation is definitely bad, that segregation is because of historic discrimination like creditors refusing to grant Black families mortgages and city and county-level redlining across the country. Providing subsidized or free housing is meant to combat that, and while imperfect, it’s a step in the right direction.

      It’s also quite telling that you associate abolishing police (not what most people are calling for; “defund the police” refers to lowering their inflated budgets, demilitarizing them, and supplementing them with mental health professionals among other things), “expanding” abortion (no one wants more abortions, we want more access to them in addition to better healthcare and sex education, which would in turn lower the number of abortions and make those that happen safer), eliminating school choice (I assume you’re referring to charter schools, which is a weirdly niche issue to bring up, and my only strongly held belief here is that the government shouldn’t fund religious or discriminatory schooling), and redistributing wealth (yes, good, abolish billionaires) with Joe Biden. Biden is the most centrist candidate imaginable and at best agrees with one of those things (accessible abortion).

      As I say in the piece, I’m extremely not here to defend Joe Biden. He was near the bottom of my primary list and I disagree with him on a lot. (Also, Donald Trump is also an old white man, and at least we have a Black woman as VP?) I and other progressives do not believe that old white guys “know what’s best,” and it’s very odd that you’re claiming we do. I agree that the first statement is racist and the second reflects the pervasiveness of the internal biases I mentioned earlier. Again – not here to defend Biden.

      Finally, if you’re going to write a poorly-thought-out, poorly-researched comment riddled with errors and attacking me, at least have the good grace to put your name on it.

      Reply
  3. Kyric Koning

    Even though there is truth in your assertions, it does seem a bit much to presume to the degree you do the hearts of nearly seventy million people, never having interacted with them. Is there not more to a person than what we see? Isn’t there the possibility of change and growth? Is this not the true rot that affects us as a people–the inability to empathize, the assuredness of our own rightness, the failure to see beyond an individual’s faults, the need to enhance the disparity between differing opinions, the trap of focusing only on what we want to see, the demeaning of others because of their values?

    I read this post and I wonder, where is the faith? Where is the hope? Where’s the love? People are trying to do the best they can, what they think is right. Along that path, they will make mistakes, they will do wrongs. Do we ignore those wrongs? No. Do we judge them by those wrongs, hold them against them and see them only through them? It would be easy to. Satisfying, even. A sense of justice lies there. But that is not our purpose here.

    I cannot help but think how thankless it is to be a leader. No decision ever pleases everyone. Yet we must strive to work together, strive to be better for each other. God can change hearts. I don’t want to give up on anyone. So I will pray for Trump. I will pray for Biden. I will pray for the nearly seventy million who voted for Trump. I will pray for the even greater numbers who voted for Biden. I will pray for the thirteen thousand children separated from the families at the border. I will pray for the thousands upon thousands of children separated from their mother’s in the womb. I will pray for every woman, man, and child of every color and disposition because while they live and I live there is hope for change. That things might be better than they are. And even if my prayers go unanswered, I will pray anyway because prayers are not compulsions but requests and I pray to the only one with the authority to judge, the one who asks that I not be right but kind. And I know that prayer sounds trite when action is favored, but the simple fact is I cannot do all things. I do not have the money, time, or connections. That is why I ask it of the one who can do all things. That is why I believe in the differences among people. So that the ones who have the burden the Lord placed on their hearts will fulfill that drive.

    I am grateful to you, Ben Orlebeke. You are passionate, dedicated seeker of justice, whose zeal propels him forward. You are able to look at politics without rolling your eyes, able to see wrongs and are not afraid to address them. I am glad that there is someone like you willing to call the places we’re lacking, encouraging us to do better. But I would caution you not to let your perception of how the world ought to be detract from the fullness of that concept. This is why differences are so important. Because we cannot see all things, cannot do all things. We need people to be focused on many different things so that we can do more. It will not be an easy road. Maybe impossible, even. Differences are hard to overcome–that is why those moments are also the sweetest.

    So continue your appeals, continue your lament, continue to reveal injustice and the need for reform, but do not give up on your fellow humans. Try to understand differences, not attack them. Do not believe that differences are irredeemable. That others are not fighting for good too. That is my prayer for you.

    Reply

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