In the wake of the supremely awful badness that was the 2016 US elections (which saw the rise to power of a racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, ableist rapist), think piece after think piece has been written about liberals needing to reach across the aisle and work with conservatives. We’ve heard that we need to break bread with Chitler supporters. That we need to sit down at the table with them and hear what they have to say. That it’s some sort of high moral calling to reach out to conservatives and empathize with them. The latest bout of the “shake hands and play nice with the bigots” nonsense comes from Anthony Bourdain, who recently said that Chitler’s rise to the presidency is the fault of Eastern liberals (content note for casual ableism):
“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now,” Bourdain told Reason.
Bourdain attributed the large divide during this political season and Trump’s win last month on a division between “Eastern liberals” and red-state Americans.
“When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them, they do things that seem completely mad and unreasonable to those of who are perhaps under less pressure,” Bourdain said.
That last bit hints at something I’ve seen from far too many liberals: this idea that Chitler’s base (remember, it’s overwhelmingly conservative white people who supported him) are afraid and anxious, while liberals and progressives are not. It’s as if Bourdain believes everyone on the Left is rich and living in the lap of luxury, with no concerns. I’d really like to smack him with a clue by four and inform him that the anxieties conservatives face (say, about the lack of jobs and the sluggish economic growth) are also felt by those of us on the Left. The struggles to provide for ones family cross political aisles. *We* are also afraid. We are afraid of not being able to afford higher education, of not possessing reliable transportation, of not having steady employment that pays well enough to live on, of not having health insurance. And yet, I think it’s safe to say that most of us did not do something unreasonable like vote for Chitler on election day. So when you take out these legit concerns about jobs, education, and healthcare (and you have to, bc those concerns are not unique to conservatives), what explanation is left for why he had so much support among white folks?
The answer is on the tip of myracismtongue.
“When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, […]
Bourdain is not thinking very deeply here and his level of critical thinking is at grade school (if that).
First off, Cheeto Hitler’s main support came from white people (white men and white women). That needs to be understood to understand why he got the support he received.
So we have these millions upon millions of white people whom Bourdain thinks have had their basic humanity denied? What world is he living in where white folks in the US have ever had their basic humanity denied? They’ve never been oppressed for being white. They’ve never had their rights taken away for being white. They’ve never had laws created that prevented them from doing anything because they’re white. White people in the US have *never* had their basic humanity denied because they were white. So unless he can explain what basic humanity has been denied these supporters of Cheeto Fascist Hitler Wannabe, he’s way off-base here.
As for the legitimacy of their views, again, he’s being far too shallow here. What views have we deligitimized and why is this a bad thing? Remember, white conservatives hold a host of beliefs. These beliefs typically include:
- “we think abortion is bad bc fetuses should have more rights than extant human beings or dead folks and women don’t need to have control over their bodies”
- “we think Muslims are all bad bc an infinitesimal number of them are extremists, yet we don’t believe all white people are terrorists just bc the KKK is a terrorist group”
- “we don’t like gay people being able to marry, bc two people of the same sex being able to indulge in the same traditions and showcase their love in the same way we do disgusts us to the point that we will fight against their rights to our dying breaths”
- “we don’t want the minimum wage increased even though we’d benefit from a minimum wage increase, bc a minimum wage increase would benefit People of Color”
- “Black Lives Matter is a hate group despite the fact that they don’t do anything that hate groups do and they overwhelmingly engage in peaceful demonstrations aimed at reforming police departments around the US”
- “Mexicans are taking all the jobs, leaving none for us, even though US employers are choosing to hire Mexican immigrants largely so they don’t have to pay well, so it’s not like these immigrants are taking jobs and those jobs aren’t ones we want anyway”
- “women’s equality has been achieved and women really need to get out of the workforce and back into the home”
- “we’re irrationally scared of transgender women pooping, peeing, or applying their makeup in restrooms that correspond to their gender identity despite the fact that on a daily basis, trans women face significant dangers from us and despite the fact that there is absolutely no documented, reliable evidence that trans women pooping, peeing, or applying makeup in restrooms that correspond to their gender identity are a danger to anyone”
- “we don’t need any gun control laws bc we favor a society in which anyone can have a gun at any time with no training, no licensing, and no regulations to govern their behavior”
- “we don’t believe in climate change even though we not only don’t understand it and haven’t tried to understand it, but the people who actually study climate change and are in the position to have accurate, informed opinions on the matter are the ones we will never trust on this subject”
- “we don’t want the Affordable Care Act around any longer because a Commie, Muslim, Atheist, black man came up with it, despite the fact that the ACA has allowed millions of people to have health insurance for the first time”
- “we want christianity to dominate the US and be our official religion and use it as the basis of our laws, despite the fact that the US was founded to be NOT a theocracy, and despite the fact that we are supposed to have the right to worship or not worship and believe or not believe as we please”
- “we don’t like the fact that minority groups are criticizing us for our efforts to deny their civil and human rights, and we wish we could return to a time when they were largely silent, bc this country was better when only white people had a voice”
There are more, of course, but these beliefs are extremely common among conservatives. And all of these views are contemptuous, whether because they deny the basic humanity of marginalized people or because they are reality-challenged. So yes, these views are delegitimized by many liberals and progressives (two groups, btw, who are not the same, despite some overlap), bc they don’t deserve legitimacy. They’re repellent. They should be condemned and pushed to the fringes of society. They should have no role in the discourse about the direction the country should take. They are regressive views that benefit no one other than the people desperate to maintain power (i.e. white people).
But in Bourdain’s fevered imagination, I guess there are some legit views that conservative white folks hold that are reasonable and shouldn’t be dismissed. If that’s truly what he thinks, he ought to state what those views are and why they should be listened to, rather than dismissed, because I see nothing (and I mean nothing) in modern conservative ideology that is reasonable. In fact, the entire conservative platform is filled to the brim with bigotry and reality denying crap. So please, where are these “reasonable” conservative views?
[…] when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”
Here, Bourdain elides the reasons why conservatives and their beliefs are mocked and treated with contempt (which is one reason I highlighted some of them above). If your beliefs lead you to deny the rights of marginalized people, you (and said beliefs) deserve to be treated with contempt. And that’s something that needs to be shouted so that we can shift the discourse in USAmerican society away from where it is now (debating basic human rights) to where it should be (recognizing the humanity of everyone and work to ensure all people are entitled to the same rights, benefits, and privileges accorded everyone else, and work to ensure that outcomes are equal, not just opportunities).
“We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we’ve done.”
I find it almost amusing that he has chosen to criticize “Eastern liberals” for their privilege, when this comment is incredibly privileged. I have to wonder how much thought he’s given to who make up Chitler’s political opponents. Sure, there are plenty of white folks, but more than that, there are tons of marginalized groups that have opposed him at every step of the way. QUILTBAG people, women, racial minority groups, disabled people, and neurodivergent people opposed the racist rapist (not all members of these groups opposed the Hitler-wannabe of course, some supported him). So when he talks about the need to find common ground with supporters of fascism, I have to wonder: what the fuck is he smoking?!
After all, why should marginalized groups like gay people, women, or Latinx people try to break bread with people who continually deny them their basic rights. Hell, that can be a serious risk for members of some of those groups, since there are many conservatives who engage in violence against minority groups. Is it really a good idea for marginalized groups to be told they need to shake hands with their oppressors? I say ‘no’. Additionally, aside from some small success stories, that’s ultimately a futile activity. Trying to convince white, male, cisgender, heterosexual folks that we have rights and they should recognize them, and do so in a way that doesn’t make them frustrated is a timesink with little to no guarantee of payoff. Many liberals and progressives *come* from families with conservatives. We know what it’s like living with them. We have experience trying to push back against their harmful beliefs. And we’ve felt the sting of complete failure at being able to persuade conservatives out of their harmful beliefs. We also know the toll it takes on many of us, because attempting to educate others is not a one time deal. It’s an ongoing process and many of us do not have the patience, time, energy, or resources to continually push back against the harmful rhetoric of our conservative family and friends.
Me personally, I’m not in the slightest bit interested in finding common ground with people who want to build a wall because they’re scared of Mexicans.
I have less than zero interest in finding common ground with people who want public businesses (who are supposed to serve the public) to have the right to deny gay people from buying their goods or utilizing their services.
My level of interest in finding common ground with people who fight tooth and nail against police reform is somewhere right around nonexistent.
When you deny the humanity of swathes of people or when you fight against social progress, you and your beliefs deserve contempt. Bourdain doesn’t seem to recognize this and in fact, appears to think the reverse is true: that people have been mean to conservatives and need to start playing nice. He seems to feel that those of us on the Left need to sit down and have calm, reasoned, civil discussions with conservatives. The man really needs to shut up and stick to talking about things he knows, bc liberals and progressives have tried that (some still try) and been largely unsuccessful in achieving any kind of progress. So why should this unproven method of achieving social change be treated as some sort of laudable activity? Why should this be held up as the model for how liberals and progressives should act? Why isn’t he going over to conservative country and telling them they need to modify and upgrade their beliefs? Why isn’t he telling them they need to break bread with us?
Why is it so hard for some liberals to accept that the racist rapist came to power riding the waves of white supremacy?