Austin at Large: Make America Grateful Again
Even as white nationalism sticks around, kicking Trump to the curb is a Thanksgiving miracle
Back in late 2004, Raj Bhakta – who would soon run, and lose, a U.S. House race in Philadelphia – was fired by Donald John Apesh*t Trump during season 2 of The Apprentice, then near the peak of its popularity. That very same week, ex-Judge Louie Gohmert of Tyler won his race for Congress and has been there ever since, never winning less than 65% of the vote despite being a huge bigot and stone-cold idiot. That Trump, who is both of those things as well as hopelessly corrupt, could gain and maintain power at an even greater scale should have shocked us less than it actually did.
The black-swan event of the last five years is not that Apesh*t won the White House – a GOP victory in 2016 was always plausible – but that he, and not one of the many Republicans like Louie Gohmert or even Raj Bhakta, won his party's nomination. A serially bankrupt Manhattan libertine who welcomed the Clintons to his wedding claimed the mantle of white nationalist champion, fulfilling a core brand promise of the GOP in place of someone who wasn't too dense, damaged, and bent to hold office. That's on them to explain to historians.
The rest of us have had to hold these two truths in our mind, struggling with the dissonance as they failed to cancel each other out. Despite being an inept and malign clown, Trump has gained sufficient political standing to become president and nearly get reelected. Despite having fearsome state power at his disposal, he has fumbled away every chance he's had to use it effectively, even purely in his own self-interest. As I write this, he has just "allowed" the Biden-Harris transition to begin in earnest, after having stretched his one bad day at the ballot box into 19 days of public shame. (And he's still not conceding!) It's a Thanksgiving miracle for which we all, including his partisans, can be grateful.
Did You Just Call Me a Nazi?
To clarify: "White nationalist" doesn't have to be a euphemism for "Nazi" (or similar strains of violent supremacism), and it clearly describes Trumpism, but if another label suits you better, fine – "white identity politics" or "defending the dominant culture" or whatever. For Republicans to deny that this is what their party champions, 50 years after Nixon's Southern strategy and many generations of Louie Gohmerts, is just silly. For Democrats to deny that this persistent and vigorous political force is real, and not just a Trump character defect, is also pointless.
You can still reject it, though! Many of you reading this are white people who find your interests are best safeguarded by the Democrats' multicultural coalition of solidarity. Some of you are Republicans who don't identify as white, yet feel better aligned with the GOP's nationalist coalition. This is not new and proves nothing about who is and isn't "racist," because we all live in a society structured by racism and can practice anti-racism to combat it as we choose. The party lines used to follow class divisions more closely than they do now, which allowed some of us to pretend that whiteness was extraneous to political solidarity. We now know better.
But none of that requires that any of us continue to pay any attention at all to Donald John Apesh*t Trump. For months, we've been grimly anticipating that he would always be with us, no matter the election's outcome. Now, he may still refuse to concede, and declare his 2024 candidacy, and intervene in other GOP campaigns and causes, and attempt to commandeer the right-wing noise machine and outrun the law and the Grim Reaper. He'd have better odds of success had he not just spent the last weeks and months debasing and soiling himself for all to see, with rapidly diminishing returns. (Fun fact: Four years into The Apprentice, his audience had shrunk by two-thirds; that's when they started bringing on celebrities.) When he gets kicked to the curb with the rest of the post-holiday trash at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sarah Palin Lane, climbing back to relevance, let alone the gravitas of the Oval Office, will require Apesh*t to work hard. How likely is that?
We'll Be Too Busy to Golf
We, on the other hand, need to keep working hard, because that other stuff, about white nationalism, will still be true when Biden and Harris take over. It will be true in 2024, and also in 2022, when Texas leaders try to retain power while under fire from both left and right. It will be true when the 87th Texas Legislature convenes in January and the GOP's internal conflicts, along with their governing shortcomings, become daily headlines. And it will be true next week, when early voting begins on Dec. 3 in the run-offs for two seats on the Austin City Council, where progressive incumbents risk being unseated by Trumpists who are far to the right of those districts.
Sure, they would only be two votes on a Council quite hostile to their goals. But their campaigns have already mucked about in the nationalist wildlands with Proud Boys, belligerent bikers, some actual Nazis, and some Austin police officers. That last part is problematic in a city that voted 3-to-1 against Trump, but whose cops have been goaded by the GOP to rebel against the City Hall that pays their salaries. At a national level, that would rightly be called sedition. Combating it here will be hard enough without having to deal with performative MAGA provocations on Council.