Eric Cantor and White Nationalism

It surprises me how much commentary on Eric Cantor dances around the full implications of his defeat. Candidate Brat accused him of being an apologist for "amnesty". Leader Cantor did everything he could to refute that charge. He still lost by 11 percentage points despite outspending his opponent.

Why is this so hard to figure out? The competitive nature of the game of cable news commentary sometimes obscures the obvious. Nobody wants to stare into the unblinking eye and repeat the same thing that everyone else has already said. So all kinds of other theories are being floated. But Eric Cantor was defeated because he become viewed as unreliable on the issue of white nationalism. And white nationalism is at the core of today's conservative movements.

The anti-immigration reform tendency is a pure expression of white nationalist ideology: the preference for a country in which white Europeans dominate, and others are kept to the margins. White nationalism explicitly drove our immigration policy for most the country's history. It was only during the 60's that explicit quotas based on present proportions of US population were dropped from legislation. But white nationalism is still deeply embedded in popular consciousness.

Picture "Real Americans" in your mind; if you are white, you know who shows up: white people. Yes, you know better, and will rapidly revise your picture to make your snapshot of "Real Americans" more accurate. But your first association of whiteness with the national identity shows the grip of white nationalism in popular consciousness. That is pretty understandable: whites have been steeped in white nationalist mythology all our lives. We had to unlearn that Columbus discovered America. It took a while to discover that comparing African Americans to "other" immigrant populations was a false comparison. We are still learning that it is the white residents of Arizona and New Mexico (even though they are our parents and grandparents) are the invaders. The patterns of housing segregation have perpetuated an unrealistic perception of who Americans are in most white people.

We would like to think that if we do not actively dislike and demean people who are not white, then we are not racist. Leaving aside for the moment the whole argument about power and privilege, I would remind all that you don't have to be a bigot to be a white nationalist.

The sense that the United States is supposed to a white nation is what is threatened by simple fact that immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa are outnumbering immigrants from Europe. The USA is getting to be less European with every passing year. On a national level, the country is already run by multi-racial voting coalition.

White nationalists are fighting back by trying to prevent comprehensive immigration reform.  They're not stupid; they understood that Eric Cantor was going to play a key role in immigration reform this year. So he was defeated. Why we don't want to look that in the face is beyond me.


Pete M said…
I agree about the persistence of White Nationalism. I think that sometimes we liberals (I realize that there may be a variety of perspectives here but I'm guessing liberals of various stripes predominant) assume that all views we disagree with are smokescreens for economic interests. Here, Cantor was widely supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, etc. all of whom generally support immigration. That didn't matter to a constituency that I suspect was both angry and fearful about changing demographics.
Kate R said…
One aspect of this I never thought of before coming to Texas is that the "first Europeans" didn't settle in New England or VA but in the SOuthwest U.S. We were taught a lot about the Pilgrims, almost nothing about the settlement in the Southwest.
Anonymous said…
The Tumblr lobby would have us ascribe race to philosophical concepts. This leads to circular logic, in which the Tumblrs label aspects of dominant culture white because of an archetypal white dominator, and then cite those aspects as the White Nationalism of an invisible elite.

There are, of course, aspects of global culture that allegedly started in Europe, but if they did it was by thefts and historical accidents. Scientific realism is part of human nature, but historically Europeans have used it as an excuse for conquest, and the conquered cultures rebelled against it.

Today, there are two great puzzles that have stumped Europe's version of scientific realism, but which hold out hope of being solved by a new multicultural version: Functional US democracy is being developed in the Moral Mondays. The quantum measurement problem is hidden by mountains of spam, but I assume it also has a multicultural component the MSM is trying to keep secret.

There is no longer a meaningful way to put an ethnic label on philosophies. There are only a few white arriere-gardes running shadow plays. Ted Cruz is particularly scary, considering how few people seem to know about his involvement with the Singularity and Bayes cults.

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