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The Racially Egalitarian American Meritocracy

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It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

The only flaw in Coates’s analysis, which has only gained power in the succeeding months, is that “half as hard” was far too generous:

Three new reports highlight the laziness problem. First, Trump is acting cranky and resentful in anticipation of his journey to faraway Canada. “President Trump is planning to fly to Canada on Friday. He is not exactly happy about it,” reports the Washington Post. “Trump is a homebody president, preferring to sleep in the White House — or at one of his signature properties — than in hotels, so he is generally reluctant to take long journeys. Furthermore, he prefers visiting places where he is feted — such as on his trips last year to Beijing, Paris and the Saudi capital — over attending summits where the attending leaders are treated as equals.”

Apparently nobody informed Trump that the job involves foreign travel. He also has little patience with domestic functions. The Post obtained audio of his meeting with FEMA to discuss preparedness for hurricane season. You might think Trump would grasp the importance of the issue given that thousands of Americans died on his watch in the wake of a bungled hurricane response in Puerto Rico. You would be wrong. Trump was totally unable to concentrate on the task at hand.

Despite the fact he was at FEMA, and supposed to be planning for disasters, “President Trump had a lot else on his mind, turning the closed-door discussion into soliloquies on his prowess in negotiating airplane deals, his popularity, the effectiveness of his political endorsements, the Republican Party’s fortunes, the vagaries of Defense Department purchasing guidelines, his dislike of magnetized launch equipment on aircraft carriers, his unending love of coal and his breezy optimism about his planned Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.”

There is a certain irony in using a meeting to deal with the natural disasters that are amplified by climate change to ignore the disasters and praise the virtues of coal.

Perhaps most frightening of all, in the lead-up to a summit with North Korea, an erratic nuclear state, Trump’s national security apparatus does not seem to be functioning. “National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with North Korea next week, a striking break from past practice that suggests the Trump White House is largely improvising its approach to the unprecedented nuclear talks,” reports Politico.

Hey, but Trump always wears a dark suit, so he earned it, and indeed has restored dignity to the Oval Office.

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