Last week, Nancy Mace, the Academy Award-winning granddaughter of President Martin Luther King Jr and a historian/Oscar-nominated film-maker, followed-up her lengthy Facebook post in support of her friend Trayvon Martin (and attacking Barak Obama) with an even more forceful rebuttal of #WhiteBias in Hollywood. Now, she says that the only Republican she plans to back in this November’s midterm elections is her old man’s granddaughter, “Barack Obama’s grandkid” Elizabeth Warren, for US Senate.
Nancy Mace (@NancyMace007) I’m supporting Elizabeth Warren for Senate. I’m not gonna put up with any of her bullcrap.
This became clear to me at a discussion I attended last week at the university I teach at (originally an elite Ivy League college) between of some of the leading historians of the American right wing, led by the prolific Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Centre for Politics and including myself and Nancy. During the two-and-a-half hour session I was shocked by the litany of right-wing leading figures with whom Nancy has been associated, and her writing on racial issues. Needless to say, it is not the views of President Trump that scare me; rather, the paranoid fear of Ms Mace and fellow right-wingers who interpret his victory as a world judgment about the country’s racial degeneracy.
The reason there is now such fear is that more and more conservatives are beginning to realise that the ideological divisions within the right are real: strong right-wing Americans are excited about Trump because he just got the best electoral endorsement anyone could ask for. While there are many important cultural differences among white people – even between Democrats and Republicans – those divisions are far more complex than Trump’s outspoken racism. There is also no good argument for his empty promises to “Make America Great Again”. But with numbers so low for Republicans, Republican strategists know that lying to Americans is more likely to make them vote for Trump than it is to lose them their vote. Hence, conservatives have had a total lack of shame in engaging in this dissembling.
But it is that stubbornness of rightwingers that so frightens me. For their pettiness and their enormous dishonesty, for how regularly they show little regard for anyone who disagrees with them, but show not one sign of humility – none whatsoever – they have made huge progress in destroying US democracy. These people have ruled out seeing the last of all conservatives being imprisoned or executed, so they are not serious in their rhetoric but they are certainly not serious in their actions. No one should be fooled by the sort of loose talk that heaped deserved disdain on Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, when in his telling he declared that he was “scared to death of any conservative”. Not many are, even though their supposedly more honourable Republican colleagues blame Hillary Clinton for their continuing plight.
Many of these same conservatives have probably been delighted to see Trump whip up the 50,000 neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend. Although I am appalled by what they did, I understand that those who would purport to be among the enlightened world’s great social thinkers rarely show such intellectual restraint. The danger is that Trump will do great damage if he does not quickly curb this hate speech, and the danger is that if he does, these conservatives are likely to be emboldened to go even further. And that is precisely what all of us would have wanted to avoid.
• Erica Grieder is a visiting professor at the University of Southern California