11 May 2016
The toxic endorsement fallacy
One of the big arguments Democrats will use against Donald Trump over the summer and fall is that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is suspiciously attractive to white separatists and supremacists. The Trump campaign isn't exactly protecting itself from such attacks; the California operation apparently failed to vet a "white pride" independent who applied to be a Trump delegate to the national convention but has since withdrawn following his exposure. The narrative is already familiar: Trump's suspicion of Muslims and slanders against Mexicans endear him to people interested only in restoring a supposedly-lost white (throw in male, straight, Christian as needed) domination of the nation and its culture. That reflects poorly on Trump on the "if they like you something you must be doing something wrong" principle, the opposite of "if they hate you you must be doing something right." At the heart of the argument is a simple fallacy: if you are attractive to white supremacists, you must be a white supremacist. In Trump's case, this confuses xenophobia with racism, since I'm unaware of the candidate asserting the inferiority of blacks or Asians, or that the virtue of western or European civilization inheres in blood. I'm not even sure the opposition really cares to prove Trump a racist; the real point of this line of attack is more likely to persuade people to vote against Trump in order to spite the rednecks and ku-kluxers who supposedly like him. In any event, anyone familiar with Donald Trump should know better than to think of him as an espouser, much less an exemplar of any traditional culture; despite his Archie Bunker affectations he's too privileged and cosmopolitan a figure for "pride" to mean much to him. But "pride" types fall for his shtick in part because they like the idea of a candidate who seems more like them, despite his wealth and privilege, and is more viable than any politician who more exactly echoes their beliefs. If Trump himself is a consequence of the major parties' enforced openness to "outsiders," so is the embarrassment that comes when real outsiders embrace a major party or its candidates. Perhaps such embarrassments help explain why the parties acquiesce in a system that limits their ability to define themselves. It may burden the Democratic establishment with the need to suppress but also mollify the Sanders insurgency, for instance, but it also gives Democrats a weapon against the Republicans when Trump is identified with white supremacy, just as the Republicans can exploit any compromise the Democrats and Hillary Clinton may eventually make with Sanders and his "socialist" supporters. At the end of the day, of course, the Democrats still want those "socialist" votes, on the understanding that they'll have to accept whatever Clinton offers as they best they supposedly can get, but the poor Republicans can't appear to want "white pride" voters, even though they'd impose exactly the same terms Democrats impose on supporters to their left. If only such people would be quiet about their pride! But as it stands they may be more trouble in terms of "optics" than their votes are worth, and if their affection proves a handicap to Republicans, while remaining a disqualification in the eyes of Democrats, perhaps it would be best, to make a modest suggestion, simply to deny avowed white supremacists the right to vote. Then at least they'd know their feelings of persecution are not entirely delusional.