In the run-up to 2020, this can’t be said frequently, loudly or clearly enough.
Two weekends ago, Donald Trump said that four female citizens of color who dared complain about the president’s racism hate America so they should leave it. This past weekend, he said the city of Baltimore is so “crime-infested” that “no human being” would want to live there. Think about what he’s saying—what he’s really saying.
I don’t mean that it’s racist. I don’t mean that when he says “America” he means “white.” I don’t mean that when he says “human being” he means “white.” That’s clear to me. That’s clear to you. That’s becoming clearer (I hope dearly) to our nihilist press corps. But that’s not what I mean when I say think about what he’s really saying.
He’s saying he hates America.
This America. The one of now.
If Trump represents anything in nationalist terms, it’s an America of the past, a nation that’s white and Christian. This is the America he vowed to make great again. (This America is more fiction than historical fact, but let’s just roll with it for now.)
If the four Democratic women Trump accused of hating American represent anything in nationalist terms, it’s an America of the present and of the future, a nation that’s racially, ethnically and religiously multicultural. (This America, by the way, is more historical fact than fiction, but again let’s just roll with Trump’s make-believe for now.)
When these four women of color—US Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley—complained about the president’s racism, they were complaining about the manners and mores that did once, and still try to, exclude human beings like them from fully participating in the American political franchise.
This is the America “they hate.”
When the president said no “human being” would want to live in “crime-infested” Baltimore, he was saying that its “problems” have nothing to do with him, as if a major US city were another president’s responsibility. The America that Trump represents excludes a metropolis, because it represents America’s present and its future.
This is the America he hates.
In the months running up to the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump’s anti-American hatred can’t be declared frequently, loudly or clearly enough.
Liberals might squirm at this. After all, liberals are frequently on the receiving end of Republicans accusing them of hating America. This has been especially true when liberals voiced dissent during times of war. And liberals, being liberal-minded, are wont to thinking that two wrongs don’t make a right, and they’re generally right.
But this isn’t two wrongs.
These Democrats hate an America predicated on evil—the debasement of human beings so they can be ruled without consent. What they hate is political inequality.
Trump hates what America is and will be. What he wants is the debasement of human beings so they can be ruled without consent. What he hates is political equality.
Ours is unlike any other society. While societies like Great Britain and France begrudgingly became nations over time, America was a nation from the beginning, because we believed in something called “the people” in which everyone was equal.
“The people” were white men even if the founders never said as much. But that, in addition to black people being legal property, doesn’t detract from how extraordinary it was then for a nation to think itself as one under equality. And it doesn’t detract from the fact that “the people” has over time come to represent the actual people.
“The value of equality—the cornerstone of the American system of beliefs—is the essential value of nationalism,” wrote Liah Greenfeld in her new book Nationalism: A Short History. “Nationalism transformed Western societies into nations, and in doing so made equality a core Western value.” Greenfeld added: “This is why, in other words, Americans are committed to equality more passionately than any other people.”
My point is Trump’s hate doesn’t stop with four citizens of color. It doesn’t stop with Baltimore. It doesn’t stop with an America becoming more diverse. Trump hates an ideology central to being an American. He hates a moral system key to our nationality.
Trump hates nationalism.