It takes a genuinely special breed of awful to surprise me these days, but when it happens, it often arrives by way of Donald Trump riding herd over the lurid claptrappers at Fox News. The combination is akin to tossing a chunk of raw magnesium into a bucket of water: the resulting explosion being equally energetic and hard on the eyes. This week was no exception.
By now, sentient flecks of stardust riding the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet have heard about Trump’s tactical racism on Twitter this past Sunday, along with the double-downs and triple-downs which followed, so I am going to assume you have, as well.
What you may have missed, because you are (I hope) a cautious caretaker of your own well-being who avoids deliberately polluting your mind out of due caution and wise prudence, is the paroxysm of shamelessly racist balderdash that erupted from Trump’s favorite network in the aftermath of his outburst. It is my sworn duty and great privilege to jump on these thought grenades for you. Such is my purpose.
We begin with my favorite example from this interminable slog of a week: Dana Perino. Perino, the former White House press secretary who presided over media relations during the final moldering years of the George W. Bush administration, was in high dudgeon on Tuesday during a visit with the flapdoodles on Fox’s squalid shout show, The Five.
Earlier that day, Rep. Ilhan Omar and the rest of “The Squad” stood at a press conference to individually and collectively denounce Trump for his racist tirade, which was specifically directed at them. Rep. Omar castigated the president by quoting him directly, which meant using the words “pussy” and “shithole” on television.
For Perino, this was a horror beyond any measuring tools known to science. “He didn’t say it on live television at 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” she protested, while somehow not bursting into flame from the internal combustion of her own hypocrisy.
Trump’s use of those words was reported by every 5 o-’clock news broadcast on the continent when they were revealed, because he is the president of the United States. Also, Rep. Omar was quoting him because he is the president of the United States. Furthermore, Perino is notably the only person ever to have cursed on The Five’s live show, when she called a man who brought an alligator into a Florida convenience store “an asshole.” Glass houses, Dana.
How could it get worse? Because Eric Trump exists, that’s how. On Wednesday, The Saddest Trump went on Fox & Friends to stand in front of the stains on his dad’s white hood. “My father is in there,” he fumed, “and he’s fighting every single day. And he has to fight against the media. He has to fight against these lunatics. And guys, I’m telling you, 95 percent of this country is behind him in this message.”
I was an English Literature major, so math is not my bag. That caveat aside, I am pretty comfortable saying 95 percent of this country wouldn’t be behind the idea of calling water wet if you asked them on a rainy day. We’re just edgy like that.
Ninety-five percent is a damned tall number, Eric, and pretty eloquent proof you need to find a few moments outside your information bubble. The country is not a Stormfront message board, no matter what your Twitter feed has been telling you.
It’s funny, because it’s either laughter or sobbing at this juncture, but it isn’t funny at all. Case in point: White House adviser KellyAnne Conway went full-bore unapologetic racist on the Fox show America’s Newsroom on Tuesday, and it was an ugly moment to behold.
“What the president is doing is — we are tired, we’re sick and tired of many people in this country,” Conway said. “Forget these four. They represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and respect that they deserve.”
Sick and tired of many people. Dark underbelly. Conway’s flagrant racism was so on-the-nose that her pathetic, predictable, poorly aged “BUT THE TROOPS!” flail is beneath consideration. These people are not whispering any more. They have run up the flag and sounded the bugles. If history is any guide, the headlong charge is what comes next.
Why are they being so obvious? Two reasons: First, because they are racists who have been emboldened by Trump’s clarion bigotry. Second, because they think it will get Trump re-elected.
The newest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows support for Trump among Republicans went up five points after his eruption on Sunday. Trump won white voters by more than 20 points in 2016. As the Republican Party is almost entirely white, his campaign is aiming — by way of Republican-favored Fox News — to wring every last racist vote out of that bloc. They believe those voters, combined with the few Latino voters who agree with Trump’s immigration policies, will make the 2020 nut.
Of course, after witnessing the horrors at the border and the fear coursing through migrant communities all over the country over the ever-present threat of ICE raids, the calculation that a significant number of Latino voters will agree with Trump’s policies seems a bridge way too far.
As for going after the racist white vote so brazenly? Trump already has them, but needs more. Whether this latest tactic will be enough to secure re-election remains an open question, but betting on white angst in the U.S. has always been a fertile gamble for those willing to do it.
After all, this is a country where the speaker of the House was rebuked for calling the president’s racist words “racist” on the House floor, because doing so violated the rules of House decorum that were written by a slave-owner. There has been a white thumb on the scale since the first European boot touched this soil, and Trump is depending on that just as his father did before him.
Before Trump came along, Fox News was a noisy bigoted media thundercloud with the power to move public debate. With Trump, Fox is a maker of policy which results in shattering torment for innocent people.
“At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States,” reports Robert Moore for NPR. “The agent turned to the couple’s youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.”
No, it isn’t funny at all.