The Washington Post popped a story Tuesday night describing yet another instance of the Trump administration going out of its way to coddle white nationalists. This version featured Georgia Coffey, chief diversity specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who was shut down last year by Trump appointee John Ullyot when she tried to craft a statement on behalf of the department denouncing the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The issue was pressing to Coffey for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which was the definite need to represent the viewpoint of the VA staffers. “A statement from VA leaders was necessary, Coffey wrote in one email to Ullyot, because the agency’s workforce was unsettled by the uproar caused by the Charlottesville violence,” reports The Post. “Minorities make up more than 40 percent of VA’s 380,000 employees, the federal government’s second-largest agency.”
The clash between Coffey and Ullyot came after President Trump’s ham-fisted defense of the white nationalists, fascists and Klansmen whose Charlottesville rally exploded in violence, leaving Heather Heyer dead and many others injured. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms,” said Trump, “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” Trump refused to explain what “many sides” meant, but his refusal to condemn the actual agitators in Charlottesville was what poker players call a great big “tell.” Coffey has since left the agency.
The silencing of Coffey by Ullyot was no accident, nor was it the act of a Trump appointee gone rogue. “Ullyot told Coffey to stand down,” continues The Post report. “A person familiar with their dispute, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Post that Ullyot was enforcing a directive from the White House, where officials were scrambling to contain the fallout from Trump’s comments, and they did not want government officials to call further attention to the controversy.”
“Enforcing a directive from the White House.” This is the same White House that continues to employ senior adviser Stephen Miller, whose gaudy white nationalist r goes all the way back to his time at Duke University. The same White House that appointed sumIan Smith to the Department of Homeland Security despite his having most of the leading lights of the white supremacy movement on speed dial. The same White House who employs Larry Kudlow as a top economic advisor despite his predilection for having white nationalist houseguests over for birthday parties and other social events. The same White House that thought hiring Steve Bannon, friend to neo-Nazis and racists everywhere, was a grand idea.
It is difficult enough to encompass the unavoidable fact that the White House has become a brazen think tank for the promotion of white supremacy in the US and abroad. We must also contend with the fact that the nation’s leading newspaper, The New York Times, is now lending its editorial page to the promotion of white supremacy in the gauzy guise of yet another George H.W. Bush hagiography.
On Wednesday, The Times let fly with a verbose defense of white power written by columnist Ross Douthat, who replaced Bill Kristol as the paper’s conservative voice. His op-ed, titled “Why We Miss the WASPs,” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) is a long lament that mourns the loss of power and influence allegedly being suffered by old-guard prep-school Ivy League white men like himself, who were so well-represented by the departed 41st president.
It seems someone forgot to inform newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that he and his ilk, according to Douthat, have run their race. The op-ed is a challenge to fathom on many levels; there are points where I felt I could craft a better argument by throwing my keyboard down a flight of stairs. Douthat’s main beef seems to be with what he calls the “meritocracy,” or the idea that simply having the proper white pedigree now takes a back seat to actually working to earn one’s position. (Douthat’s definition of meritocracy — and the notion that a meritocracy truly exists in this country — require a genuinely galactic suspension of disbelief.) For example:
[O]ne of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms. You can get rid of the social registers and let women into your secret societies and privilege SATs over recommendations from the rector of Justin and the headmaster of Saint Grottlesex … and you still end up with something that is clearly a self-replicating upper class, a powerful elite, filling your schools and running your public institutions.
Not only that, but you even end up with an elite that literally uses the same strategy of exclusion that WASPs once used against Jews to preserve its particular definition of diversity from high-achieving Asians — with the only difference being that our elite is more determined to deceive itself about how and why it’s discriminating.
An interesting argument, that. According to Douthat, any who come to be “elite” – be it through merit or old money – is going to wind up being as terrible as the WASPs, so we should put the WASPs back in charge because they are at least self-aware of their own loathsome qualities. That second paragraph deserves a spot in the Gibberish Hall of Fame, but it is left in deep shade by the brazen white male privilege packed within Douthat’s windy closing argument:
So as an American in the old dispensation, you didn’t have to like the establishment — and certainly its members were often eminently hateable — to prefer their leadership to many of the possible alternatives. And as an American today, you don’t have to miss everything about the WASPs, or particularly like their remaining heirs, to feel nostalgic for their competence.
Indeed, their competence at keeping the status quo running was noteworthy. The old white guard was crackerjack at maintaining separate but equal drinking fountains, lynching, sanctioned police violence and all the other touchstones of enforced systemic racism, along with institutionalized misogyny, violent disdain for workers who dared to organize, and obliteration for LGBTQ people — or anyone else who dared to peek out from under the gray felt fedora of WASP-power conformity and think maybe, just maybe, these white prep school “elites” are only in it for themselves.
“What he’s talking about is literally a form of white supremacy,” argues Splinter News journalist Libby Watson regarding Douthat’s op-ed, “just one that he considers more palatable. It’s helpful, really, for those of us who have been arguing since Trump was elected that his differences with the conservative elite are stylistic and not substantive. This is white supremacy, just in boat shoes.”
They’re not hiding anymore. White nationalist messages are broadcast from the White House, white supremacist laments bleed on the pages of the public prints, and all in broad daylight.
We see you.