Republicans are telling on themselves. After President Joe Biden said, in his inaugural address, “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” Republicans are outraged. Because, see, he was obviously talking about them.
Pro tip: If someone says “white supremacy and domestic terrorism are bad” and you’re like “you’re being mean and unfair to me,” you’re saying you identify yourself with white supremacists and domestic terrorists.
With that in mind, Sen. Rand Paul: “If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo, calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book.”
Dude, he didn’t call you a white supremacist. He said white supremacists exist in this nation. You chose to identify yourself with that.
Fox News personality Tucker Carlson: “What is it, exactly? Now that we’re waging war on white supremacists. Can somebody tell us in very clear language what a white supremacist is?”
He wants a definition? We could start with the dictionary: “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.” But it’s safe to conclude that Biden was not talking about “waging war” on people who merely believe these things. His issue is going to be people who act on it, by, say, attacking the U.S. Capitol. Or burning Black Lives Matter banners at historic Black churches. There are concrete actions here—crimes, no less—and Biden is not somehow leaping over them to wage some kind of nebulous fight against stuff people think in the privacy of their homes without carrying it out in their public actions.
Carlson’s concern there was that Biden “has now declared war. So we should know specifically and precisely who exactly he has declared war on. We have a right to know that innocent people could be hurt in this war. They usually are.”
Oh noes! Innocent people could be hurt by … the fight against white supremacy? How about we start talking about that when those numbers approach the number of people hurt by white supremacy itself in, let’s say, the last month. That should buy us at least a decade before we have to worry about people who insist that they are not white supremacists, but merely white supremacy-adjacent.
Similarly, Jennifer Carnahan, the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, wants the chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to apologize for saying: “You’re either on the side of Nazis, white supremacists & far-right groups, or you’re on the side of democracy, liberty, freedom and our Constitution.” Because, Carnahan said, “Language like this does nothing but create division and flame tensions.” Ooookay, so that’s a vote for Nazis, white supremacists, and far-right groups over democracy, liberty, freedom, and the Constitution. Maybe she’d like to peel the “far-right groups” off of that, but this is a case where the shoe fits and she’s just going to have to wear it. If that’s who she wants to be defending, anyway.
Here’s everything else Biden had to say about racism in his speech, beyond that one mention of white supremacy:
”A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”
”We can deliver racial justice.”
”Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart.”
”The sting of systemic racism.”
Not exactly “all of my Republican opponents are white supremacists and must be strung up,” is it? But when Republicans see themselves under attack by this language, they’re telling us a lot. They’re telling us that they want the dream of justice for all deferred still longer; that they don’t want racial justice delivered; that they want racism, nativism, fear, and demonization to continue to tear us apart. And, yes, that they look at the white supremacists who have attacked Black churches, attacked the Capitol, attacked U.S. democracy, and they see themselves.