November 19, 2018
This has been a particularly violent year for Republicans across the country. Candidates were assaulted and Republican campaign offices were vandalized. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his wife were chased out of a restaurant; Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his family were harassed by Democratic activists and reporters up until Election Day. Trump Administration officials were publicly intimidated and humiliated, and a leading Democratic congresswoman called for more aggression against Trump aides.
Republican senators were verbally accosted in elevators and on the streets of Capitol Hill during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process; a female Republican senator received death threats and a suspicious package at her home after she voted to confirm his appointment. Of course, this is all on top of the mass murder attempt against several Republican congressmen that nearly killed a top House lawmaker in the summer of 2017.
One would assume that any post-election analysis by a self-styled “conservative” about the menacing atmosphere on the Left would harshly condemn the incoming Democratic House majority for condoning such destructive behavior, and warn Democrats to clean up their act for the sake of the country. That sort of tongue-lashing by a leading outlet on the Right is not just appropriate, but essential.
But David French at National Review has other post-election targets in mind—namely, the imaginary cabal of white supremacists taking over the Republican Party.
Outlandish Claims, Distorted Evidence
French’s November 15 column, “The White-Supremacy Surge,” is more cowbell to amplify the media’s nonstop drumbeat that Donald Trump and his supporters are bigots, anti-Semites, and neo-Nazis. (A despicable Washington Post column over the weekend suggested that massacres and death squads might be in the offing because of Trump.)
Sadly, French’s incendiary analysis wasn’t far from that Post screed. It is a literary junk drawer of anecdotal evidence and conjecture scattered with overworn insults about Trump supporters.
In an attempt to boost his inaccurate claim that white supremacy is surging, French cited a sketchy study while overlooking exculpatory data in the very same report, and he mentioned random racial crimes that are vile but no indicator of a coordinated white supremacist movement. “Trump’s words have emboldened white supremacists,” French outlandishly declared, again without evidence.
In an effort to prove his case, French conflated a rise in white supremacy with a speculative rise in hate crimes. According to a May 2018 report from California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism—the paper French cites in his column—hate crimes increased by 12 percent in 2017 in 10 major cities. (The report documents the number of allegations, not convictions, reported to police. Dr. Brian Levin, one of the authors, confirmed to me via email that the center’s data “cover hate crimes reported to police at time complaint is made and is not dependent on how it is eventually charged.”)
A closer look at the statistics included in the report not only fails to bolster French’s claim, the data show that whites are the third-most frequently targeted group of victims, after black and LGBT people. Jews, Mexicans, and Muslims are less likely to be a victim of a hate crime than a white person, according to the study. Further—and highly relevant here—there is no proof that white supremacists committed most of the offenses noted in the study.
Then this: “We are forecasting a small to moderate increase for hate crime for 2017. Only a small number of agencies have partial year data for 2018, but most are down significantly . . . we are forecasting a significant national decrease in 2018 but only for the first half of the year.” (Emphasis added.)
So, despite the hysterical warnings from French and his collaborators in the media, there was only a small increase in hate crimes last year and those numbers dropped significantly in the first half of the year. This means there is no “surge” either in hate crimes or white supremacy. (The synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last month singularly will change that forecast for the year. Trump also has been blamed for that massacre by French’s NR colleague, Jonah Goldberg, even though the shooter did not vote for Trump and criticized the president for being “surrounded by kikes.”)
Wrong Diagnosis, Preposterous Prognosis
French dragged out the usual bogeymen such as Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos— vanquished figures with little to no influence in the mainstream Republican Party—as proof the party is under some white-supremacy swoon. He slammed Breitbart and The Federalist for allegedly endorsing white supremacy. (The author of the Federalist piece he misrepresents is Jewish.) Non church-going Trump voters are closet racists, French concluded, because not enough of them have “warm feelings” for blacks, according to one survey: “The white-supremacist surge is a symptom of a greater disease, and it’s a disease with no easy cure.”
But what is the disease French diagnosed, not just in the “conservative movement,” but in large swaths of the country at large?
French identified a litany of woes suffered by white, working-class Americans who he claims are drawn to Trump and therefore vulnerable to the alleged white supremacy upswing, but in addition to offering no evidence of their supposed racial animus, French offered no solutions to their legitimate political concerns.
The greater disease afflicting America, as French should know, is the institutional decay in thousands of small towns across the country. Millions of white Americans have been failed by their political leaders, faith leaders, community leaders, business leaders, and union leaders. The political party that once stood for them has all but abandoned them, and the other political party has ignored them for decades.
No one spoke for them when their local industries were bought off to relocate to major cities or other countries; when allies and foes alike benefited from unfair trade agreements; when China and Mexico were dumping lethal drugs into their schools; when a blind eye was turned toward rising illegal immigration that undercut wages and job opportunities.
There’s now only one leader who is speaking for them, and that is Donald Trump. While French and his fellow political snobs sneer at the condition of rural and industrial America, and waste time chasing an imaginary tide of white hoods, Trump and his administration are addressing the real threats faced by forgotten Americans—threats that, if not addressed, will certainly lead to negative repercussions for the country as a whole. NeverTrump concern trolling about working class Trump voters is as disingenuous as it gets.
If influencers like French had their way, Republicans would spend all their time calling out the outliers on this side, rather than developing solutions to help disaffected white and other working class Americans—not to mention condemning the more dangerous and legitimate surge in left-wing fueled violence.
But the purpose of French’s piece is not to find a cure or even honestly and factually to articulate a serious societal menace. French lends a conservative imprimatur to the false leftist narrative that Trump is a racist, that the president promotes white supremacy, and that his supporters are ready to wield Tiki torches to burn down the country. A greater threat to civil society, in reality, is contemptible pieces of writing like French’s, which are intended to malign innocent people based on race and political affiliation, and further divide the country he laughably claims to want to save.
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Re-posted with permission.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr