The Federalist’s Ben Domenech worries that Donald Trump is turning the GOP from “freedom” to “white identity politics.” In other words, Trump is “saying the quiet part loud.” (More)
“Oops, I said the quiet part loud”
In the 1995 The Simpsons episode “A Star is Burns,” the town of Springfield hosts a film festival. Krusty the Clown is one of the judges, and he’s asked why he voted for the worst movie shown at the festival. Krusty accepted a bribe to vote for the movie, as he reveals in his reply:
Let’s just say it moved me … to a bigger house! Oops, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet.
I can’t find an earlier source, so I’ll credit that phrase to The Simpsons writers. In its original usage, it refers to an verbal slip that reveals a hidden agenda, what the political media call a “Kinsley gaffe.” But over the past 20 years “saying the quiet part loud” has evolved from revealing a hidden agenda to revealing a widely-known but previously deniable agenda.
Usually that’s because the agenda would be politically toxic if it were openly declared, so politicians find other ways to talk about it. For example, if House Select Benghazi Committee chair Trey Gowdy were to defiantly announce “I won’t stop investigating until we derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign!” … that would be “saying the quiet part loud.”
Everyone knows the House Select Benghazi Committee is a political witch hunt. But the Beltway media rules require deniability. If Rep. Gowdy were to “say the quiet part loud,” the media could no longer pretend the House investigation is about an actual scandal. Leak-driven stories include the admission – if only by reference, with a phrase like “House Republicans admit the committee’s goal is to undermine Clinton’s presidential campaign – and voters would quickly dismiss the investigation.
“Trump presents a choice for the Republican Party”
That background is critical for Ben Domenech’s latest column at The Federalist:
Now that we have had time to observe the Donald Trump phenomenon, there is enough evidence to make a clear assessment of what it represents. The rise of Trump is an epic expression of frustration with the American political system, and it is a natural outgrowth of frustrations with America’s changing demographics; the hollowing out of white working class values and culture, as Charles Murray has documented extensively; and what life is like when governed by the administrative state, where the president increasingly acts as a unilateral executive and elected representatives consistently ignore the people’s priorities.
Dismiss Donald Trump if you will, but tonight in Alabama he is expected to draw 35,000 people. Try to do that with any other presidential candidate. The phenomenon is real, and the danger Trump presents for the Republican Party is real. Even without winning the GOP nomination, which is still a remote possibility at best, his statements have tapped into a widespread anger that has the potential to transform the Republican Party in significant ways. Ultimately, Trump presents a choice for the Republican Party about which path to follow: a path toward a coalition that is broad, classically liberal, and consistent with the party’s history, or a path toward a coalition that is reduced to the narrow interests of identity politics for white people.
Domenech claims the GOP has been about “freedom” and “small government.” But when you move past buzzwords to policies – rolling back civil rights laws, gutting the social safety net, cutting government jobs, denying citizenship for undocumented workers, protecting cops who kill civilians – the GOP’s vision of “small government” disproportionately protects “freedom” for white people … and disproportionately at the expense of people of color.
In other words, Trump is “saying the quiet part loud.” Saying “government shouldn’t tell bosses who to hire” is about ‘freedom.’ Saying “white bosses should be able to hire only whites” is ‘identity politics for white people.’ Both arguments get to the same place, but the ‘freedom’ story is more palatable.
It also preserves deniability for the Beltway media, who can cover the issue as if the only people with races are the black and brown people who might be denied jobs. That’s very convenient if you’re white, as most of the Beltway media are. They can pretend to be ‘objective’ as white people writing about “small government” and “freedom.” But that pretense of objectivity is harder to maintain when they’re white people writing about “identity politics for white people.”
So yes, “Trump presents a choice for the Republican Party” – the choice of admitting that their policies are designed to benefit white people at the expense of people of color, or pretending their policies are about something else.
“I’m here to talk about … things that matter”
Unlike Trump, Scott Walker knows how to say the quiet part quiet, as he did when explaining why he refused to meet with or even answer questions from Black Lives Matter activists:
“I’m going to talk with American voters. Period. It’s the same way as saying you’re going to meet with the Tea Party,” he continued. “Who’s the Tea Party? There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there.”
“I’m here to talk to voters in New Hampshire about things that matter,” Walker told the Daily Mail reporter.
By saying he won’t talk with Black Lives Matter activists because he’s going to talk about “things that matter,” Walker clearly implies that black lives don’t matter. But he doesn’t “say the quiet part loud,” and if someone presses him on the clear implication … Walker can accuse them of “twisting his words.”
Because he rarely “says the quiet part loud,” the political media can pretend Walker is just a typical “conservative Republican” … even though his policies are more extreme than Trump’s, and every bit as grounded in “identity politics for white people.”
“A farrago of falsehoods and red herrings”
So claimed Carly Fiorina in discussing climate change with Katie Couric. For the right, Fiorina’s interview was a big win. But Vox’s David Roberts notes, everything Fiorina said was false:
In fact, Fiorina’s comments are a farrago of falsehoods and red herrings, a derp different in character from science-denial derp, but no less derpy.
So the trick for the aspiring Republican moderate is to acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change while maintaining opposition to any policy that might penalize fossil fuels or advantage renewable energy.
Jeb Bush has tried to do this, with little success. But Fiorina seems to have pulled it off, at least in the eyes of conservatives.
There’s just one problem. After acknowledging the science at the outset, literally everything Fiorina says subsequently is false or misleading. And yes, I know what “literally” means.
Roberts offers a list of 10 specific lies in Fiorina’s four-minute riff. And lest you wonder … yes, climate denialism is yet another form of “identity politics for white people.”
But Fiorina didn’t “say the quiet part loud” so although climate change disproportionately harms people of color and people of color are more likely than whites to support government action to mitigate that risk …
… the Beltway media can continue to pretend that race has nothing to do with the GOP’s position on climate change. And that’s why the GOP establishment are so upset with Donald Trump. He’s their Krusty the Clown, and he keeps “saying the quiet part loud.”
Photo Credit: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
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