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MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)

After Donald Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the Democrats and the mainstream media they shape sought to explain the disaster as a result of Russian meddling. Such meddling, which had been alleged for months, was documented in an (unconvincing) intelligence report prepared by the lame-duck Obama administration, made public Jan. 6, 2017; Congress followed up, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference and possible collusion between any Russians and the Trump team. After two years the report concluded that there was no evidence of collusion, causing many downcast looks among news anchors reporting the bad news. Suddenly Trump’s impeachment—for which the MSNBC and CNN anchors openly cheer—looked less likely.

I for my part was happy to see closure to the Russiagate farce. (If in fact that has happened. Some seem hell-bent on never letting it die.) It was all along an opportunistic application of Cold War Russophobia to the effort to topple Trump. It had been painful to watch so many Democrat Party shills, including progressive African-American women, railing about Russian interference in “our” elections as though this had truly happened, was an “attack on our country” and had brought Trump to power! Nonsense.

We hear little lately about Trump and the Russian connection; it’s now all about Trump and the people of this country. The current case for impeachment rests on Trump’s racism (now routinely referred to by reporters, matter of factly, in their “objective” news reporting), his divisiveness, his spreading of hate. This racist category pertains to Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants, his fear-mongering about an “invasion,” his targeting of African-American critics, his declared “nationalism,” his dog-whistle appeals to the white nationalists, etc. Trump has been accused of racism for years but never so routinely, journalistically.

The solution to Trump? The most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who claims he’s the best option to defeat the racist, polarizing president and bring people together again. Credit Card Joe is surely Wall Street’s pick, and he’s the apparent favorite of the DNC. (Biden presided over the gay wedding in May 2017 of DNC treasurer Henry R. Munoz III.) He preaches a return to normalcy, declaring that if Trump has one term, it will calling the Trump era an “anomaly” that will “go down as an aberration, an anomaly. But eight years will fundamentally change the nature of who we are.” So let’s return to the responsible government we enjoyed in the Obama-Biden period!

The Democratic Party has long been the more anti-racist party, championing civil rights laws, recruiting people of color. It has become increasingly the party of identity politics, sometimes at the expense of progressive economic politics. It radiates pride in its promotion of racial and gender equality, just as the Republicans project pride in their promotion of a traditional white-dominated America based on love of God and country.

Targeting Trump as a racist makes sense, of course, it being the truth. He is not one of the most egregious type of racists, overtly embracing a Nazi-like ideology. But he has discriminated against African-Americans in his real estate businesses, used the n-word, questioned a Hispanic judge’s objectivity in handing a case involving himself, praised “both sides” in Charlottesville, used highly offensive language in tweets attacking women of color. He himself of course has said repeatedly that he is “the least racist person on earth,” while (in has usual “counterpunch”) accusing Rev. Al Sharpton of being (presumably anti-white) racist. He is too old, too disconnected, too surrounded by racist strategists, too insensitive to see the racism in himself.

The question is: if Trump’s racism (as opposed to the now-discredited Russian ties, or other issues including his wreaking destruction on the world economy; dangerous foreign policies implemented by a gutted, understaffed State Department; manifestations of mental illness) becomes the key charge, whether in the impeachment hearings more and more Democrats crave, and/or in the election next year, how will Trump’s forces react?

One imagines the Trump supporters include self-defining, proud racists, white supremacists. But surely most would deny being racist, and probably argue that Trump’s tweets if sometimes over the top aren’t racist either. We’re talking about maybe more than half the white population. (Trump won 58% of white non-Hispanic votes in 2016.) Polls do not indicate that Trump’s base is dissipating; they have not been so dismayed by his racist words and policies that they would abandon him.

We thus have a society more polarized than ever in recent history on matters of race. At least a third of the people are comfortable with Trump’s characterizations of Muslims and Mexicans. Decades of work by progressive and radical left groups has produced landmark legislation and considerable positive social change. But part of the country has either been unmoved by all this, or rejected it in part; white fear of blacks and Hispanics advancing at their expense, or acquiring to much influence in popular culture, remains a powerful political phenomenon. White supremacist groups seem to be growing.

***

I see MSNBC has become positively hostile to Bernie Sanders, absurdly comparing him to Trump as a populist appealing to the alienated with vague proposals for change, notably universal health care, which the anchors pooh-pooh as unrealistic. They keep repeating that Bernie has been dropping in the polls without mentioning how they are doing their best to make that happen. By rooting for Biden in general, but also Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg, as acceptable alternatives to Biden. But not Bernie.

MSNBC was instrumental in getting Trump the Republican nomination. Joe and Mika treated their friend with kid-gloves in 2015, perhaps hoping with John Podesta, whom we know from a leaked memo wanted Trump or Carver to get the nomination (as an easy defeat). MSNBC and CNN both favored Hillary Clinton all along during her campaign and worked both to limit Sanders’ exposure and to dismiss him as a mere hero to quixotic youth.

MSNBC repeatedly denounces “socialism” in principle, in general, treating the very word and concept as “toxic.” (MSNBC is one big advertisement for the conclusion that, goddam it, kids, socialism is dead!)

But racism is alive, and Trump is the Racist-in-Chief! So vote for someone who can win against him! That means maximum outrage at Trump and his tweets, minimal attention to the capitalism he personifies. Anybody who can defeat Trump! Danny Deutsch, host of an MSNBC program, “marketing professional” and political commentator in Morning Joe, has actually said on air that he would vote for Trump over Sanders. Capitalism over socialism, even bogus-socialism. Don’t even use the word, he says.

But, whatever the DNC thinks, capitalism is in fact the central issue, and those who understand this, and understand the need for some form of socialism, should not shut up in deference to capitalist propagandists like Deutsch and the whole MSNBC crew that reflects its advertisers’ ruling-class ideology. How could it be otherwise?

Just as the workers of the world have no country, we in this country have no anti-capitalist party poised anywhere close to a seizure of power. We have the two-party capitalist rot, with the party in power increasingly (if not quite) fascistic, the other evermore politically correct and rooted in identity politics but loath to take on Wall Street or even discuss the real problems.

“Don’t be silly,” laughed DNC head Debbie Wassermann-Schultz in 2016, as Bernie won primary after primary. “Bernie will never win.” How silly to think MSNBC would now give respectful treatment to Sanders.

Let pompous Joe pontificate and mild Mika mumble sweet encouragement as they both try to impose Biden on the people. Assuring us he’s still favored in the polls. Glossing over his gaffes. Doing for Biden what they did for Clinton, this time working to end the anomaly and restore—what?—law and order? Biden and Harris both have strong records on that.

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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