Exacerbating the Right’s racism problem

The American right in the Trump era has a racism problem. It’s fed by a Republican president who race-baits, a media ecosystem whose guardrails have collapsed, the lure of far-right ideas after various center-right failures and the influence of toxic forms of internet community on impressionable minds.

At the same time, the American right in the Trump era faces a liberalism that’s eager to discover and condemn racism where it does not actually exist. Positions that any de-Trumpified conservatism would necessarily hold are conflated with white nationalism, figures who opposed Donald Trump are hammered as enablers of racism, and progressives indulge a political fantasy in which the racist infiltration of the mainstream right is an opportunity to delegitimize conservatism entirely.

[T]here’s a strain in progressive commentary right now that assumes that to try to understand the appeal of toxic ideas is to justify and elevate them, and that if you can establish a six-degrees link between a normal conservative and a YouTube racist, then the conservative must be just a gateway drug. Which, admittedly, sometimes is the case. But sometimes the normal conservative is offering a ladder back to sanity and decency …

In the end the recrudescence of racism on the right is conservatism’s problem to solve, and it has to be solved independently of whatever liberals and leftists happen to be saying. But the task of solving it still gets a little harder with every nonsense charge or bad-faith accusation. And it does liberals and the left no favors, now or for a post-Trump future, to imagine that accusations of white nationalism can somehow quarantine conservative ideas that are both not actually racist and also, in many cases, true.

Ross Douthat

September 4, 2019

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