Let’s Stop Playing Whack-a-Mole

 


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Immediately following the Supreme Court’s findings in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, President Joe Biden argued that Americans need to prioritize voting Democrats into Congress to re-establish bodily autonomy for women and transgender people with uteruses.  Later, on July 8, 2022, while introducing Executive Orders to secure what reproductive rights his office had the authority to, he emphasized the need for the American public to “vote for God’s sake” so that women’s right to choose would be codified through legislation.  

Near the end of the presser, President Biden was asked about the White House’s response to Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe’s, assassination.  Without making a connection to the Dobbs decision, Biden noted that, in the past year, Japan had only recorded one death as a result of gun violence. 

                Biden’s pivoting from one issue to the other without articulating their common origin illustrates why liberals, Democrats, independents, and some Republicans are now politically impotent against a tide of political, social, educational, and juridical crises.  They continuously accept that the controversy of the day is isolated from that of the day before.  However, these issues have the same origin-  Specifically, the crises surrounding both gun laws and reproductive rights stem from the same group of people who seek to:

I have defined that origin as The New White Nationalism.  The New White Nationalism develops social, cultural, political, and legal movements that reduce those in minority communities to second-class citizens.  By infiltrating American institutions, The New White Nationalism aims to normalize the ideals of white supremacy through rhetoric and actions in a way that makes their philosophies appear mainstream.  Moreover, those embracing the construct of The New White Nationalism adamantly insist that century-old values and policies are applicable in the 21st century. 

Just Recently, we saw The New White Nationalism’s adherence to a nostalgic past result in policy changes with the Dobbs decision. Justice Clarence Thomas’ rationale for the decision cited laws from the 18th and 19th centuries, also drawing attention to the notion that contraceptives and same-sex marriages were not recognized by the Court in the 19th Century.  Similarly, in a finding that expanded the rights of Americans to carry guns outside their homes, the Supreme Court argued that the 2nd Amendment as written centuries ago is not a “second-class right” that requires citizens to show their responsibility for exercising. There is an obvious logical contradiction between these two findings that I will not delve into.  However, it must be underscored that the decisions from the Court rely on readings of law from centuries ago, without considering the progress of technology, citizenship, medicine, and more since those laws’ inception.

Unfortunately, those opposed to The New White Nationalism spend an inordinate amount of time and resources explaining why each of their opponents’ policies and thoughts are wrong.  By engaging in such a debate, we implicitly offer a kernel of legitimacy to The New White Nationalist’s view and tactics, focusing on each and every policy as if it is isolated from the other.  In the process, the capacity to bring our country into a more inclusive space that would better align with the values of democracy and equality is limited. It is as if The New White Nationalism operates a whack-a-mole game, and those who desire America to live up to the values of true freedom and democracy must continue to quickly slap down each issue as it comes up—one week is gerrymandering; the next is reproductive rights; upcoming will be same-sex marriage.

However, those who would resist The New White Nationalism are partially at fault.  We have not asserted our own vision for the future, believing it already should be understood.  More often, our leaders spend time explaining what their vision is not.  Indeed, Biden’s announcement in May of 2019 that he would run for the Presidency, mostly described that “if Donald Trump is elected, [Trump] will forever and fundamentally change the character of this nation.  We cannot and we will not let this man be re-elected.”  The linked video also showed the foot soldiers of The New White Nationalism during Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and culminated with Biden promising to “battle for the soul of America.”  What the soul of America is, however, remains vacuous.  And so too does the creativity and bold vision that is required to resist the whack-a-mole game that the Left and well-thinking moderates and Republicans are tricked into playing each news cycle.

                The desire to enact a future that resembles a nostalgic American past is the common theme that unites The New White Nationalism in continuing to support these political and cultural issues. Understanding this, those who are serious about creating a better and more inclusive America cannot continue to present our work as only resisting single, isolated issues siloed from one another. 

Those who are truly concerned about the trajectory of America need to understand that The New White Nationalism hides its agenda by presenting policies and cultural crises as separate issues when they all have the same objective: to restrict thinking, rights, power, and safety.  Accepting these issues as separate keeps those who would resist them nearly impotent.  By way of example:

  • The Biden Administration is limited in its power to assert bodily autonomy for women and transgendered people with uteruses

  • Heroes like Chris Murphy, outraged at the slaughter of children by AR-15 rifles are supported by a measly 10 Republicans, while left to celebrate any bi-partisan legislation passed to protect our streets and schools from weapons of war.

  • An entire committee must be established to prove that the Trump Administration was involved in a white supremacist coup attempt, when their guilt was seemingly obvious from the actions on January 6, 2021.

  • On its own, January 6th is framed, too often, to be about President Trump- even as 147 Representatives voted to overturn the election when Congress resumed from being attacked on that same day.

  • State districts have been, or are currently, being gerrymandered to ensure that electoral power is ripped from African Americans and Hispanics in states like Texas, Florida, and throughout the nation.

  • The current make-up of the Supreme Court was manipulated beginning with the Republicans’ refusal to allow Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a proper hearing. 

  • Moreover, Merrick Garland had already been of concern to the Right due to his moderate views and the likelihood of being approved.

  • The day before the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration was going to nominate a federal judge who is anti-abortion; another concession.

To establish an America of inclusivity, equality, and freedom of knowledge, then the agenda cannot be to simply resist single issues, but to resist The New White Nationalism.  Those interested in a better nation need to put down the Whack-a-Mole mallet and start playing a different game. 

That game has to be characterized by an urgent and frequent introduction of laws that increase education, rights, power, and safety.  The game is to put The New White Nationalism on the defense by holding fast to policies and cultural issues at the same frequency and with the same vigor that The New White Nationalism has embraced.  The game must no longer mistake peacemaking with leadership.  The game must recognize that The
New White Nationalism has skewed the GOP so far Right that centrist is no longer acceptable, nor is it a path toward a more just society.  The game must underscore that The New White Nationalism is normalizing bigotry and non-sense as socially and politically acceptable points of view—and subsequently, we must reject both.

                At this time, leadership requires an American vision that decentralizes power based on race, gender, sexuality, immigration status, class, and more, with policy-level milestones laid out to get there—much like overturning Roe was a major milestone for those who can be identified with The New White Nationalism. These policy milestones must start with the rights that citizens should have in the context of the 21st, if not the 22nd century.  The urgency of setting and working toward these milestones now is of utmost importance.  And while voting is also of utmost importance, as President Biden noted, the leaders we vote in need to outline what citizens are voting for… not what they are voting against.




Michael H. Gavin

Dr. Michael H. Gavin is the President of Delta College. He is the author of two books; the most recent, The New White Nationalism in Politics and Higher Education was released this summer. Known nationally for his administrative leadership that focuses on academic excellence and equity, Dr. Gavin has over twenty years of experience at large community colleges with enrollments of over 35,000 students. Prior to becoming an administrator, Dr. Gavin was a tenured professor of English at PGCC. He earned his doctorate in American Studies at the University of Maryland the same year he was promoted to full professor. Whether serving on national or local boards, working on a committee or through his scholarship, Dr. Gavin is committed to the notion that community colleges have the capacity to reshape the inequities in society through open access to education and teaching excellence.


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