Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Republi-CON Racism and Sexism

There’s no doubt that if she becomes president Clinton is going to get a lot of sexist vitriol spewed her way. But the comparison with how race has functioned during the Obama presidency is an important one as we consider how it will function and what the effects might be. . .

[L]et’s think about the purposes race has served during the Obama presidency and how things might be different if Clinton were president. First, birtherism was always a way of declaring Obama’s presidency inherently illegitimate. An African-American could not possibly be the president; if he got elected, the whole thing must have been a fraud because he is an alien. Conservatives will have a harder time making a similar argument about Clinton based on her identity, though they may try to say that the 2016 election was stolen, and there are ways they’ll treat her presidency as illegitimate even if they don’t call it that.

But race was also the organizing theme for much of the anger and resentment directed at Obama. If you’ve been a consumer of conservative talk radio or Fox News over the last eight years, you know how often right-wing complaints about Obama are cast in racial terms. It was only six months into his presidency that Glenn Beck proclaimed that Obama had 'a deep-seated hatred for white people.' Whatever policy initiative Obama was pursuing at a given moment was cast as 'reparations,' by which he was supposedly stealing money from hard-working white people to give it to undeserving black people in an attempt at exacting racial vengeance. It’s no accident that at the end of his term you saw the Republican Party nominate a white nationalist candidate essentially promising to restore the old order.

That’s about race, but it’s also about gender. The people who make up the core of Trump’s support are unhappy about the social changes that have displaced them from their position atop the social hierarchy. That loss of privilege, the idea that as a white man you’re no longer granted respect and deference — and even worse, people seem to be constantly telling you you’re being insufficiently respectful of those you consider your lessers — is for many people painful and disorienting.

For many of those voters, no one embodies that change and the threat it represents more than Hillary Clinton. . . If you’re wondering why conservative evangelicals are so strongly behind Trump despite his multiple divorces, adultery, generally libertine history and lack of religiosity, the answer is that Trump is promising a return to the patriarchal order of the past, where men will be restored to their place of honor and uppity women like Hillary Clinton will get the smack down they deserve.

Race and gender are both integral parts of the alienation many (especially older) conservative men feel. As Bill O’Reilly says, 'If you’re a Christian or a white man in the U.S.A., it’s open season on you.' But it’s easy to see how the relative emphasis on race during the Obama years could be turned just 45 degrees, so that the grievance industry run by people like O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh puts more of its focus on gender complaints than racial complaints.

While during the Obama years they were always on the lookout for anecdotes that could be spun into sweeping tales of the oppression of whites for which Obama was at fault, the Clinton years might feature a similar emphasis on gender, as Drudge and Limbaugh and Fox promote one story of oppressed males after another to their audiences, for whom this becomes a framework to understand whatever is going wrong in their lives. . .

[T]heir base will be fed a daily diet of misogynistic bile directed at the president, and “reaching out” will not be what that base is interested in. And that will leave them in the same quandary they’re in now.

Read the Washington Post, If Clinton wins, get ready for an outbreak of conservative male grievance.