By Michael E. Berumen
It is time for liberals in the broadest sense of the term to come to grips with something many have avoided, heretofore–––partly from gentility, partly from denial, and partly from benign ignorance. It is obvious that to support Donald J. Trump as President of the United States is, in effect, to support an overt, obvious, and well-documented racist and misogynist. To cite the many examples of each seems superfluous at this point. The record goes back decades, and national media have been replete with tons of recorded video and voice evidence in the last several years. It is impossible for anyone of average intelligence to think he is not a virulent, noxious racist and misogynist. To argue otherwise is either delusional or willful stupidity. There is no other explanation. And with this said, my thesis is simple: if one offers support to an overt, obvious racist and misogynist who is in a position of great power, and this is a person that one either knows or that one ought to know is an overt, obvious racist and misogynist, then one is also, by extension, a racist and a misogynist. Because, it says that one is willing to permit such a person to enforce existing policies and make new ones that reflect these venomous sentiments, whether because one agrees with such policies or practices, or just because one is indifferent to it or less concerned about it by virtue of other issues considered more important. To support such a person makes one an accessory and therefore complicit in his malefactions, and without regard to one’s intentions. Indifference, in this case, is every bit as pernicious as intention.
Let us examine the meaning of racism and misogyny in brief and as they stand today. I do not mean that one necessarily has a “theory” of race or about the nature of women. It is not necessary to have a systematic theory to be a racist or misogynist. Many do have such a theory, some elaborate, some simple, some even hidden in subtext. By theory I mean something along these lines without all the detail and tendrils: other so-called races, particularly people of darker pigmentation, are in some sense genetically, culturally, or in some combination thereof, inferior, or deserving of suspicion, distrust, or fear. Similarly, a theory of the nature of women would be they are intrinsically inferior and subservient to men, unworthy of the same rights as men, indeed, not even worthy of full respect, which in its worst form might mean inflicting physical or emotional harm at will, or in some rarer cases, they are wholly disdained and ignored as our fellow creatures.
These are the obvious forms of racism and misogyny. But there are other types, and these are perhaps more common among the less overt or obvious racists and misogynists, typically found among more educated people that we might deem as elites, namely, either indifference or obdurateness, or even some combination of the two. In other words, in the former case, one simply doesn’t care or think much about what happens to people of color or to women, or one puts other priorities, say, policies of certain kinds that one likes, or from which one benefits, ahead of the interests of oppressed peoples or those who face institutional and systemic racism or misogyny in one form or another. In the latter case, obdurateness, one is simply willfully oblivious to the obvious because it either suits his interests or because he is emotionally wed to a worldview that is simply confounded by empirical reality and logic that he is otherwise mentally capable of comprehending. That is the kind of person who believes neither he nor his political or social clan is guilty of racism or misogyny, but who, by virtue of his intelligence and available information, ought to know better.
Now, the fact is that I do not subscribe to the notion that there really is such a thing as race, as such, given the traditional meaning of the word. Race is a bogus concept from a biological perspective. There is much less genetic variation among the so-called major racial groups than there is among individuals within each group and the human species as a whole. Race is essentially an anachronistic way of classifying people, and more often than not, for those in power to subjugate or discriminate against others. It is essentially a social-cultural construct, a lexical formulation, and not a biological one. The word “race” was initially used to describe speakers of a common language and to denote national affiliations; indeed, Winston Churchill used it this way often in his writings and speeches in the first half of the 20th century, for example, when he described the English or German races. In the 17th century, more people started to use the term race to describe phenotypical traits, and in due course, it was believed there was a genetic-biological basis for classifying people. But in this vein, and particularly as colonialism took root from the 17th century on, followed by imperialism, race, which is to say, people different from ourselves in some way, be it color or tribe or size or shape, also became means of classifying those for whom there was disdain or fear, or thought to be inferior, and often enough, as a justification for subjugation and expropriation. These are the historical and contemporary realities that have driven entire populations into slavery or worse, genocide, justified on the basis of race, or that in modernity have engendered various systems of discrimination and oppression, not always overtly, and often subtly, such as we see today in police behavior, suspicion when using public accommodations, or in the process of procuring employment or housing, just to name some obvious ones.
Misogyny is even more ancient than racism. It has probably caused more sustained pain, misery, and premature mortality to our fellow human beings than any other social phenomenon in humankind, including war and other catastrophes. It consists of many different elements and in varying degrees, some overt, others subtle, and perpetrators and victims alike are not always aware of it. Victims can even be unwittingly complicit in its application. Its main features are societies that are patriarchal or androcentric, which encompasses nearly all societies throughout recorded history; those societies or institutions that by law or custom practice exclusion, discrimination, hostility, and male privilege; practices or tolerance of violence against women, including belittling and emotionally damaging them; female infanticide; and the practice of sexual objectification, treating them as objects of pleasure or utility with little or no regard for their essential humanity. Misogyny is often codified in law; sanctioned or justified in philosophy, theology, or political theory; and of particular importance both historically and culturally, it is often sanctioned and even required by sacred religious texts, including all three of the Abrahamic religions and the major Asian religions.
Like many racists, Trump might well think that he isn’t one, although I am not so sure, though he says he isn’t, and he’s the first to parade his black friends or point out the lone black person or Mexican at his rallies in a sea of white faces and red hats; but the evidence is simply overwhelming from his statements about Mexicans and “the blacks,” among others, and with his practices in his businesses and his racial dog whistles to rouse fear and enliven the many white supremacists that support him–––and by as much as anything, by the things that he won’t say. I doubt very seriously that Trump has much of a “theory” of race or of women, as such. He is not a cerebral man, to state the obvious. It is fairly clear, though, that he and his father practiced discrimination with their housing developments, and that from various statements that he’s made over the years that he views African Americans as his inferiors. It is certainly the case that he views women, even those who he’s related to, as mere objects for his pleasure and his use, often as items for display. And there are reasons to believe that he has been physically violent with at least one woman, his first wife (who accused him of rape and beating her), and we have good reason to believe that he is guilty of serial sexual assaults based on multiple, credible accusations.
Trumpism, I maintain, is a form of fascism. I have written at length elsewhere in this publication and in others about this, and will not dwell upon it at length now. One element is important to mention, though, and that is the identification of the leader himself with the state, which is to say, the interests and persona of the state and the leader are inextricably intertwined, such that the leader becomes the state, his statements become the truth, he is the ultimate standard of reference for what is apodictic and real, and he embodies the law, and is therefore incapable of breaking it (his lawyers and retainers are making this very point already!), and his interests are intrinsic to the interests of the state and vice a versa. This relationship to the state is one of several essential common denominators of all fascist regimes. And by all the available empirical evidence, it is what Trump himself believes and what his core constituency believes. It is not populism, as some liberal or more sensible conservative wags have supposed. Indeed, it is anything but, for populism is by definition inherently democratic. Trump uses popular appeal, to be sure, but that is different than being democratic, for it is but a means to authority. But Trumpism is also primarily about white men and their grievances, recognizing their perceived sense of loss, and capitalizing on their belief in their inherent superiority and securing their rights of suzerainty over others–––regaining their lost, and their due positions of privilege, both at home and in the world at large. Race is a fundamental aspect of Trumpism, which is to say, it exploits the systemic racism that exists in an uncomfortably large part of the nation, at least a third of it, and in its institutional body politic, and it has utilized a ready-made vector for it in the Republican Party, the erstwhile party of Lincoln, and in one of the greatest historical ironies, a party that was essentially taken over by Southern Democrats–––Dixiecrats–––gradually and steadily after the 1964/65 Civil and Voting Rights Acts, or as I have argued elsewhere, a continuation of the Civil War by political rather than military means.
I hasten to add, racism and misogyny are not problems only among followers of Trump and Republicans. Liberals have their own problems. The important distinction is this: liberals, for the most part, both know this and desire to work towards eliminating them through both policy and practice. Imperfectly, of course, but with steady progress over time. Liberals are also far more aware, generally, of white privilege, what it entails, and how it informs our behaviors, even with the best of intentions. It takes reminding, but, by-and-large, liberals are much more self-aware. And when there is a problem with persons in power or structurally in our institutions, liberals are much less apt to defend or obfuscate it, and more likely to intervene and correct it. This has not been the case, with few exceptions, among Republicans, and not at all in Trumpdom. Of course, one thing of critical importance for liberals to understand, professing or prescribing, even supporting legislation, making financial contributions, or giving supportive speeches, are not sufficient measures of whether or not one is a racist or a sexist, as we have observed in several recent cases with prominent people. It is what we do or do not do that matters, the way we act towards others, our conduct. Not mere words–––but our deeds are what count.
I want to make it very clear: to support Trump is to be both a racist and a misogynist. There can be no ambiguity or shillyshallying about this. This is an unpleasant truth for liberals and Trumpers alike, but one with which we must come to terms. Liberals see Trumpers as potential converts and don’t want to alienate them. But that’s a pipe dream. Meantime, there’s useful work to be done. Our constant reminder might cause some Trumpers to engage in analysis that is constructive over time, maybe even redemptive. But it is more likely that with our immediate efforts we can invigorate people of good will to ensure the defeat of Trumpism in elective office, and to protect our various institutions and those who have been harmed by it, as well as making more secure the rights of posterity.
In conclusion, to suggest, as many do, “Oh, I only support his policies, not his manners or what he says about blacks and women,” is a facile and convenient delusion. If you know or you ought to know Trump is a racist and a misogynist, then if you continue to support his having power over one of the three branches of government, one which gives him power to use his racist and misogynistic predilections in practice and to implant them in policy, then you are by logical extension complicit in the same, and that, whether by indifference or by intention makes you a racist and a misogynist. To illustrate by a reductio ad absurdum argument, imagine suggesting: “Well, I really don’t support Hitler’s policies towards the Jews, but I will support the Führer for his good policies on building the Autobahn and in making Germany great again after the debacle of the last war and our ensuing privations.” To suggest you like Trump’s tax policies and his tariffs, so you’ll support him despite his obvious racism and misogyny is no different, logically, than it would have been in the early 1930s to support Hitler because you like a few of his policies, too. Yes, it is a matter of severity, of weight and moment, of tradeoffs in policies–––not that Trump is Hitler, either–––but racism and misogyny are serious issues, issues that outweigh nearly all other policy issues other than existential ones such as survival itself, and it seems implausible that anyone with half a brain could or would think the nearly unhinged Trump is the key to the safety of the species or the nation. To embrace Trump in power at all is emblematic of intention or indifference about racism and misogyny, and both amount to the same result. So, I don’t buy the excuses of many, such as Governor Romney, who is running for Senate in Utah, and who denounces Trump’s style but still embraces his policies. I’m sorry: you cannot separate out his racism and his treatment of women from the rest to suit yourself. I, for one, am done with all of their excuses. It is simply incontrovertibly true that, if you support Trump, a clear-cut racist and misogynist, that you effectively support both racism and misogyny, and you are therefore a racist and misogynist. Most Trump supporters would deny they are either of these things, but not because they are not, but because in many circles it is deemed socially unacceptable. But the fact is, they are, wittingly or unwittingly, and that is a distinction without a difference, and it’s time to call them out for it. It is also time for liberals to stop giving others a pass and rationalizing their deplorable behavior. Trumpism is racist and misogynistic.
Michael E. Berumen is a retired CEO and a writer and lecturer on various topics living with his wife, Carol, outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. Berumen has given expert testimony to the U.S. Congress and other legislative and regulatory bodies on health insurance and health reform; appeared on television news broadcasts and been interviewed by many major press outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times; and he has served as a director on for-profit and non-profit boards. He has addressed many academic, business, and community audiences, internationally, and on a variety of topics, including philosophy, ethics, political theory, economics, mathematics, and science. He is the former editor of a scholarly journal published by the Bertrand Russell Society, the Bulletin. Among other things, in addition to many articles, he is the author of Do No Evil: Ethics with Applications to Economic Theory and Business (2003).