In the 1980s, I was against forced busing and affirmative action. It was not because I was afraid of going to school with people who weren’t white; it was because I was against preferential treatment being given to anyone based purely upon the color of their skin. This was a convincing argument to me, because I’d grown up after the civil rights era in a Republican family that advocated for equality. As I’ve grown older and encountered counterpoints… it’s still a convincing argument.
By holding that position, however, I had to agree with the end result favored by violent and sometime murderous white supremacists. Doing so opened me to repeated attacks as being racist. That was okay; I knew I wasn’t, and by extension I had an excellent example – myself – to demonstrate that others who claimed to hold my position based on principles were also likely not racist.
In the 1990s, I wanted the President to step down if he’d repeatedly lied to the American people, committed felonies and endangered national security. This was compounded by the knowledge that he’d likely committed previous felonies and had demonstrably endangered national security with terrible policy decisions.
More than that, however, when the rumors circulated, I wanted Congress to press him on it and expose the truth. Pushback from the Democrats against Ken Starr during his investigation, then their demands that America “Move On” after the results (the origin of moveon.org, one of the oldest pro-Democrat web sites) were nothing but tawdry and pathetic partisanship, I argued. I said that the same people who freaked out about Nixon and spun Iran-Contra from a minor issue into an assault on Reagan would have been howling for Clinton’s head were he a Republican. Most of the Republicans I know stood with me, all of us on our high horses looking down at the mewling Democrats.
There is no way to look honestly at the actions regarding the Mueller report and state that Trump and his circle are clean. At best, if one has faith in the current Republican leadership, one can say that they believe Trump is clean. Independent of one’s faith, however, the circumstances look highly suspicious, as if there may be a cover-up in progress.
I’m still sitting here on my high horse, demanding accountability and honesty in government, party be damned. But I have far fewer stalwarts beside me than I did in the 1990s. Most of those whom I trusted have climbed down, so they can engage in a crass defense of obfuscation. They have abandoned their principles, whether or not they are willing to admit it.
They are less concerned about whether a President is dangerously unfit for office than whether the Democrats may gain a political advantage.
Once a person has broken their word, stated or implicit, it renders all of their other assertions suspect. Those people were lying who repeatedly insisted they were principled, not partisan, in their attacks on Clinton but who now find themselves arguing against a minimally-redacted (for national security purposes) Mueller report being immediately released.
If they were lying repeatedly – for many, over the span of decades – about their principles, why would anyone believe them when they say they aren’t racist?
The answer can be found on a personal basis, but only on a personal basis. I know people who are Trump supporters and I have witnessed them fighting back against racism. These are people who have either grasped at the misrepresentations of Trump’s statements by trusted media sources or who carefully avoid discussing them. “Fake News” becomes a way for them to deflect having to confront difficult questions about their own morality.
Others, though, that I don’t know personally? I have absolutely no reason to believe that any of them aren’t racist… only their word, which has been proven worthless. They have abandoned their integrity. For them, at best, every statement should bring to mind Reagan’s “Trust, but verify.”
This depresses me, because I strongly believe that most of the people I knew casually, whether online or “in real life”, who shared my general beliefs are not racists. Further, I believe that many of them aren’t even nativists. It would be easy for me to continue to staunchly defend them against such charges. But I’d be lying, pretending to certainty where none exists.
I’m not going to do that. Not to salve their consciences, and not to avoid friction. I can (and often will) avoid addressing the issue altogether, but if someone asks me about it, I’m going to tell them the truth.
This is why, with the Trump Administration’s successful effort to get some colleges to stop using race as a factor in their admissions policies, I find myself less enthusiastic than I might otherwise be. It’s not “Trump hate”. It has little to do with Trump, at least directly. I simply find that after a few decades of advocating for a policy, I’m left with the realization that many of the people cheering it may actually be doing so because it makes things better for “whites” and harms “non-whites”. Worse, that the easy demarcations that used to exist between the racists and decent people have been eradicated, and many of the people whose conversation I once enjoyed don’t seem to care.