Greg Abbott: Anti-Democratic or White Supremacist?

A chilling story on Democracy Now! got me thinking about how the USA is worse than we think and questioning if we are using the correct critique.

Amy Goodman summarizes the case:

“Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he’s ‘working as swiftly’ as possible to pardon a U.S. Army sergeant who was just convicted Friday of murdering a Black Lives Matter activist in 2020 just blocks from the Texas state Capitol building….Garrett Foster was pushing his fiancée’s wheelchair and was legally carrying an AK-47 rifle at the protest, when Foster shot him four times with his .357 Magnum pistol, later telling police Foster did not point his rifle at him, but, quote, ‘I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me,’ he said.”

I just wrote about Mary Moriarty’s select use of woke rhetoric as she locks up Black men and throws away the key. Similarly, the left is stuck in a tough position as everyone goes to prison except those who murder those opposing prisons. Should the left, in seeking to abolish prisons, support the release of the murderer of a Black Lives Matter protestor? Under present conditions, the answer is simply no.

The abolitionist left is right to be outraged by Abbott’s decision because it is clearly an attempt to further incarceration rather than lessen it. By letting go one person Abbott hopes to establish a message to all those who oppose prison. It will be legal to murder you.

Amy Goodman’s guest makes a liberal critique of the United States in relation to the case:

“What happens in nations like El Salvador and Uganda, and I chose those nations specifically — I do to charitable work in Uganda, I’m familiar with the court system — is, when judges and juries make rulings that the powerful interests don’t like, the government ignores the courts. The government substitutes its own opinion of what should happen for that of a jury or that of a court.”

This brings us to what the left should think of the present-day United States. Is it really a crisis of democracy, as liberals say, or is Abbott’s actions more a crisis of white supremacy? Surely these things intersect but claiming everything intersects too often amounts to a word salad where by saying everything you say nothing at all.

The issue with comparing actions like Abbott’s to those of Uganda or El Salvador is it reinforces the narrative that poorer darker countries have a problem of lawlessness rather than a problem of material wealth extracted through imperialism and colonialism. The hard truth about the “return” of white supremacy to American politics is that white supremacy is an expression of democracy, or an expression of bourgeois democracy, which is what democracy in the United States has always been.

The working class does not seek white supremacy. To the contrary, any anxiety the working class has about globalization and their ability to have a living wage has a material basis and concrete history. The bourgeois whites however want white supremacy and use formal democracy to get it through their disproportionate political power.

A large part of the country does not want white supremacy, nor does a large part of the working class. But the upper middle class does, and that, on many days, is enough. Liberals have shifted their critique of Donald Trump from a critique of white supremacy to a critique of authoritarianism. This is useful for many reasons.

First and foremost there is no way to see Donald Trump as a white supremacist and Joe Biden as not one. Biden has done more to further white supremacy and incarceration than anyone in American politics. Furthermore, the employment of democratic ideology is useful in expanding imperialism in the third world. The employment of the term democracy is also a good excuse for the Democrats, the party of #Resistance, to do nothing, while letting the other side do everything undemocratic.

This is not to say, of course, that real democracy wouldn’t be nice, but when politicians divorce politics from the economic and social, it becomes merely a way to reaffirm the existing power structure.

The working class in the United States has opted out of politics, by force (for no good reason) or by choice (for a very good reason). We should not see the United States as regressing into Uganda or El Salvador. Rather we should see the present state as among other things, a kind of blowback, what Malcolm X, upon the assassination of JFK, called chickens coming home to roost. What Malcolm X meant was that the violence the United States puts on other countries and internal colonies within the US would eventually come back to express itself with violence in the upper classes as well.

Likewise, it wouldn’t be accurate to say the US is regressing into a third-world rule of law, but rather that the first world is regressing into realizing its own destiny. The strategy openly employed by the Republican Party is to make government so dysfunctional that no one believes in it anymore. This is the strategy employed all over the world by the United States.

Liberal pluralism largely came about because the ruling class needed more people for the war effort and because they needed more people in the workforce to suppress wages. The struggle for freedom has always been violently suppressed. Greg Abbott is acting without authority when he frees white supremacists but he is not acting without some popular support.

If people really didn’t want white supremacy and they saw the imposition of it as a true denial of democracy, they wouldn’t call it a denial of democracy but rather the affirmation of white supremacy. What democracy too often is code for in a liberal context is a mediation between our present oligarchy and the coming revolution.

The reason white supremacy has fallen out of favor as a buzzword is that Joe Biden is especially like Donald Trump in the two core issues of our time: migration and climate. The resistance to Donald Trump correctly identified these as the two core issues of our time. But when Joe Biden picks up a few Bernie talking points and follows Trump on these two core issues that seem to give him a get-out-of-jail-free card if you will.

Let’s be frank. When liberals say that they don’t support white supremacy it feels like we are being seriously gaslit. But that’s not exactly what is happening. If it was, they would accidentally show their hand at some point.

A couple of things are going on. Chris Cutrone brought up a good point in a recent interview with Doug Lain. He argued that in the present day, you don’t need an extreme ideology. You simply do the extreme thing. You can believe whatever you want. Hence it is entirely possible to believe in racial equality and support the coldest and vicious forms of white supremacy.

I have no doubt that a figure like Mary Moriarty believes the criminal justice system has racial inequities etc. But it only takes another type of liberal ideology to justify locking someone up. Such as being against gun violence. Or being for due process. Or professionalized and trained police officers. Any type of morality play can be used and they are used in contradictory ways. This is because morality is contradictory. Doing the right thing for one party hurts another. And this is why morality can’t be our politics.

After seeing enough reformers give more money to police and call it training I am becoming more and more sure that the less training police receive the better. They have far worse instincts than civilians and anything that can get them closer to their time before police indoctrination should be aimed for.

But to continue with my main point. It is almost more difficult to deal with a liberal who believes that they are the solution to white supremacy than someone who doesn’t even think white supremacy exists. The white guy who thinks he’s an anti-racist hero is near impossible to talk to about anything, let alone white supremacy.

There is a parallel logic here and I am thinking of Slavoj Zizek’s Christian Atheism. Zizek contends that it is necessary to be an atheist through Christianity. Regular atheists may not believe in God but Christians do one better. They believe that God died on the cross.

With this religious belief in a dead God the possibility of God existing becomes much lesser than the possibility of God for someone who never believed. The same can be true of liberals who believe they are beating white supremacy.

If we still live in a Christian culture we may be living in a culture that sees God within ourselves rather than solely outside. We may be thinking that Jesus was God not because he was from God but because he was like us. Naturally, part of this being like us would be to not believe in God because we believe in ourselves as God.

Religion today in the West is fascinating. Ask any religious person if they believe in God and many times the answer is no. The idea more so is that religion is somehow good for us and God isn’t even necessary. True belief is dismissed. What matters is that one shows up and demonstrates belief, presumably to other humans watching, and not to the external God.

Can this odd arrangement be squared with the attitude towards white supremacy which seems to be in reverse? When it comes to God there is a belief that God is within all of us and therefore there must be no God other than what is here. That’s a bit flattering for the mediocrity known as modern humanity. When it comes to the belief in white supremacy the idea is that it always exists in someone else. The idea is that if only *I* had the proper democratic voice white supremacy would be over.

Perhaps we get it wrong here. Perhaps we are closer to sinners than saints. Perhaps God doesn’t need us to repent. Perhaps God just needs us to become a little less righteous. Perhaps there is no heaven and hell where people are sorted into good and bad. Perhaps that’s what people do when they think they are God and a real God would have no need for what we call justice.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at