President Donald Trump loves to call nonwhite immigrants and refugees as “vermin” or “invaders” and to suggest they are the “worst people.” Yet he has no such strong words for the white nationalists and other racists prevalent throughout his administration.
As CNN reported on Sunday, a policy aide and speechwriter named Darren Beattie “has left the White House” after it was revealed he had spoken at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference. Mencken represents an unfortunate chapter in American journalism: He was a prominent satirist, columnist and critic of the early 20th century, whose book “The American Language” marked the first serious attempt to study English as spoken in the United States. Mencken’s posthumously published diaries, however, made clear that he was an ardent racist and anti-Semite, which has made him something of a hero to the far right.
The Mencken Club’s annual conference, launched in 2008, has attracted a range of “well-known white nationalists,” the CNN report continues, including the briefly famous Richard Spencer. “The schedule for the 2016 conference listed panels and speeches by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and two writers, John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, who were both fired in 2012 from the conservative magazine National Review for espousing racist views.”
After CNN inquired about Beattie’s involvement with the 2016 Mencken Club conference, the White House apparently asked the network “to hold off on the story for several days last week.” It’s not clear why CNN complied with that request. Beattie’s email address at the White House was still working on Friday evening, the network reported, but “was no longer active by Saturday.”
“Mr. Beattie no longer works at the White House,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN on Friday. “We don’t comment on personnel matters.”
As for the semi-disgraced Darren Beattie, he told CNN he had indeed spoken at the 2016 Mencken gathering and had nothing to be ashamed of.
“In 2016 I attended the Mencken conference in question and delivered a stand-alone, academic talk titled ‘The Intelligentsia and the Right.’ I said nothing objectionable and stand by my remarks completely,” he told CNN’s KFile in an email on Saturday. “It was the honor of my life to serve in the Trump Administration. I love President Trump, who is a fearless American hero, and continue to support him one hundred percent. I have no further comment.”
Beattie is not alone. There are many known or obvious white nationalists (which is just a more polite or palatable term for white supremacists) in or around Donald Trump’s White House.
Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s senior adviser, has been closely associated with the aforementioned Richard Spencer, perhaps America’s best-known white supremacists. Miller himself has a long and public pattern of racism and bigotry towards nonwhites. His beliefs and behavior are so repugnant that his own uncle rebuked him in a scathing public letter published by Politico last week.
Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, the self-described “platform of the alt-right,” previously served as Trump’s senior White House strategist and remains highly influential in Republican politics. He recently met with far-right groups in Europe and encouraged them to treat accusations of racism as “a badge of honor.”
Michael Anton, one of Trump’s senior national security advisers, is the author of the infamous “Flight 93 Election” manifesto, which explicitly argued that immigration from nonwhite countries and “multiculturalism” are a threat to the West and American values and culture. Anton channels his white nationalist ideology — as do Miller and Bannon — under the cover of such Trumpian labels as “populism” and “economic nationalism.”
In addition to the heretofore little-known Darren Beattie, there are other people in around the Trump White House, including Carl Higbie, Jamie Johnson and William Bradford, who appear to hold white nationalist and overtly racist views.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has actively rolled back civil rights protections for African-Americans and other nonwhites, and has advanced a strategy of voter suppression. He actively encourages police thuggery and brutality by refusing to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their behavior, and is using the Department of Justice and the courts to argue that white people — not black and brown people — are the actual victims of racism in America.
And of course Donald Trump has repeatedly displayed his white supremacist views in both his public and private life. He uses violent, eliminationist rhetoric to describe nonwhite immigrants, migrants and refugees; says that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville included “very fine people”; has called calls black women “dogs” and suggested that black athletes who protest racism should be deported. Let’s not forget that he launched his political career as a prominent advocate of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that sought to undermine the legitimacy of Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president.
Contrary to what Donald Trump’s enablers in the news media might argue, Darren Beattie’s presence in the Trump administration was not a failure of “vetting” by a disorganized or inexperienced White House. It was a statement of purpose and principles more than anything else: As America’s first “white” president, Trump naturally attracts white nationalists and other racists into his orbit.
Indeed, racism almost seems to be a qualification for working in Trump’s administration. It is empowering a much broader effort to severely limit the civil rights and human rights of nonwhites in America. The ultimate goal of the Trump administration’s “white strategy” is to “make America great again” through racial authoritarianism; in other words, to protect and elevate white power with the ultimate goal of breaking and then destroying the country’s post-civil rights era multiracial democracy.
To that end, Trump and his allies and enablers are doing much more than nurturing what W.E.B. Du Bois famously described as “the psychological wages of whiteness.” They are installing a white power regime that new research shows is supported by at least 11 million Americans, and likely many more.
When Trump took control of the White House he chose (with Bannon’s encouragement) to replace a portrait of the Statue of Liberty with one of Andrew Jackson. To casual or generous observers this was a reference Trump’s alleged populist” appeal to the “white working class” voters who purportedly gave him the presidency. But as is so often true, the deeper truths behind Trump and Bannon’s choice are more revealing.
Andrew Jackson led an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Seminoles as well as the former black slaves in Florida. He was also a literal “slave driver” who bought and sold black people as human property. “The American Slave Coast,” an award-winning book by Ned and Constance Sublette, explains this history:
Failing to sell the slaves himself, Jackson drove the unsold slaves back to Nashville, taking the unheard-of step of driving a coffle [or a chained train] of slaves from the destination back to the point of origin, through Choctaw and Chickasaw territory. . . . Given the documentation of this episode that exists, it appears safe to say that Andrew Jackson is the only U.S. president that we know of who personally drove a slave coffle. But then, Jackson was also the first president to have been a merchant.
Adding to his ignominious legacy, Jackson also ordered the “Indian Removal Act,” one of the most infamous actions in American history. People of the Cherokee Nation were forced from their lands east of the Mississippi and forcibly marched on the “Trail of Tears” hundreds of miles away to reservations in Oklahoma. At least 4,000 indigenous people died as a result of this forced march.
So it is altogether too perfect that President Andrew Jackson’s portrait now looks down at Donald Trump in the Oval Office. He is a perfect spirit guide for the 45th president of the United States.