I knew my partner would get a kick out of the Golden Calf version of ex-President Trump. And he did. But the problem is, my partner is French and although he loves all things American — demonstrably — he doesn’t necessarily have the same knowledge of the United States as a native like myself. This meant I had to explain to him what exactly CPAC is.
My first definition was “it’s like Anime Expo except overtly racist,” and to be honest, I think that’s probably the best description I could have given. The second one was “It’s when all the Republicans gather to be anti-Semitic,” and then, “it’s like if an Alexander McQueen fashion show was populated by super homophobic people who are also really old.” And honestly, given that my first experience of Anime Expo involved explaining to a girl wearing socks with flip flops why — no — that does not constitute tabi and geta and that the weird trump idol thing has red flip flops, I honestly think I nailed it.
I’ve been screaming from the rooftops since 2016 at least that white supremacy is the primary force behind both the Republican Party and basically everything not-quite-right to downright horrible about America to the point that sometimes I have to check myself. After all, during the Obama Administration it became so de rigueur to blame any and all problems including things he clearly had no influence over that the phrase, “thanks, Obama,” became a meme.
So, for fear of saying something so many times it became meaningless I did want to be absolutely 100% extremely very sure that white supremacy was actually the great evil I considered it to be. Everything pointed to yes, but I was still nervous. And then Trump happened.
Honestly, I had no reason even before the Trump candidacy or “Presidency” to doubt that the root problem in America is white supremacy, but Trump made it absolutely undeniable. There was a certain amount (read: a ton) of dog whistling that the Republican Party engaged in prior to “Trump ascendant” or whatever we’re calling 2016, but in 2016 the reason the Party was sideswiped into Trump’s undersized mitts was because Mitt Romney and others like him were trying to transform the Republican Party into something slightly less racist. And, the Republican base hated it. (And just so we’re clear this isn’t me talking, this is actually David Frum.)
But this is why I keep saying populism is the larval from of fascism.
Donald Trump is deeply stupid. There is very little he understands and apparently understanding is quite difficult for him because in addition to being a grand fool he’s also incurious. But he definitely does understand how to get attention. Most people talk about this in the sense of him being able to “brand” things, but no, he’s terrible at that. Everything bearing the “Trump” name with the exception of his niece Mary Trump, has failed as a direct result of Donald Trump’s actions. No, he’s good at getting and maintaining attention and creating polarized emotion. He’s a skilled populist. In fact, it is his only skill.
And you can’t do populism without racism, so here we are.
As Obama would say, “Let me be clear,” I’m not exonerating Donnie boy. He’s not just using racism. He himself is actually racist. This isn’t just a marketing ploy. But it is also a marketing ploy.
For instance last July the Trump organization had a baseball with a really poorly stitched “Trump” label on it for sale on its site for $88. And I encourage you to read the article I’ve just linked and I shall be quoting from it below. But several things. One, I did a quick search for the price of baseballs and I appreciate that this is campaign merch and it’s going to cost a bit more, but the most expensive baseball I could find except for this was £23.73 and that one is a collector’s edition. But — here I am burying the lead again — it’s pretty common knowledge that 88 is a coded acknowledgement of white supremacist identity. “H” is the eighth letter of the English alphabet and so 88 is “Heil Hitler.”
Trump and his campaign were pretty overt about all this and so as Business insider put it:
Throughout the 2016 GOP primary, white supremacists embraced Trump and praised him online for amplifying their messaging. Trump retweeted accounts such as @WhiteGenocideTM, posted a Star of David tweet widely condemned as anti-Semitic (Trump deleted it but later said he regretted doing so), and tweeted a photo with Nazi soldiers bearing the SS eagle insignia superimposed on an American flag.
The Trump campaign/administration (and they’re not supposed to be that closely wed, but we haven’t the time) also included in its denouncement of AntiFa an image of a red triangle identical to that sewn onto concentration camp prisoners’ uniforms to designate that they were imprisoned for “political crimes.” Somewhere between hilariously and infuriatingly the Trump campaign tried to justify their use of the symbol by calling it an “emoji.” Which to me is actually genuinely hilarious because “emoji” means “emotional character,” or a letter standing for an emotion. I can see the argument that putting Nazi symbols all over social media could be defined as “a mood,” but then you have to associate it with that mood as opposed to AntiFa. The argument that it’s a symbol for AntiFa which AntiFa uses (AntiFa is not an organization and therefore cannot use symbols like that and … just trust me, it doesn’t) means it’s not an emoji. And also, when you’re explaining that hard that you didn’t start the racist Nazi fire there’s just so many things that have already gone wrong and you need to stop.
In 2016 during the campaign Trump tweeted out an image of Hillary Clinton with a background of $100 bills and a red Star of David with the words “most corrupt candidate ever.” He may as well have said “Hillary Clinton is a secret Jew.” I hope at this point I don’t have to explain how flagrantly anti-Semitic and deeply awful this imagery is.
Before I go on I just want to say Mel Brooks is super funny, but I feel like he has a really easy go of it given how truly absurdly evil Nazi and racist imagery tends to be. There are arguments that he goes too far with his humour but a) fascists cannot stand up to ridicule, and b) he has the whole “Jews in space” gag only for the QAnon conspiracies to literally blame California wildfires on a Jewish space laser. I have to ask: how do you know if a space laser is Jewish? Did it have a bris?
But, okay, we all know that Donnie Boy is insanely racist, Marjorie Taylor Greene is absolutely mad, and Stephen Miller is the best evidence we’ll ever have for a secret cabal of lizard people, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect on the Republican Party as a whole. I mean, aside from the whole thing where they had plenty of other less obviously racist candidates and the support for the Republican Party has been consistently white since the mid twentieth century at least.
Theodore Bilbo was a Democrat and Strom Thurmond did start out as a Democrat, but when the Democratic Party finally expressed the will to do away with its racist authoritarian past Thurmond switched Parties and filibustered the Civil Rights Act (after helping to gut it). White supremacy has been central to the Republican ethos since that filibuster.
And nowhere was it better shown than at CPAC.
The above image is just the stage at CPAC the shape of the stage was mirrored in lights in the ceiling. I appreciate that it might not be immediately obvious because this one is a little obscure but I’m on about the odal or othala rune.
Below is an image of what I believe is an SS officer with that rune on his collar as part of his Nazi insignia.
I’m not all that into Futhark — given who I am I probably should be but I am actually more into Rovas — but from my brief delve it seems that usually when the othala rune is used in a not crazy Nazi context it doesn’t have those two little tails at the end. The tails appear to be a Nazi addition to the rune. And there they are on the CPAC stage serving absolutely zero functional purpose. This was not a mistake.
And I have to say this is all deeply insulting on multiple levels. I’ve always hated when Nazis appropriate symbols because … Nazis ruin everything. And they invariably choose the nicest stuff to ruin. Well, maybe not “invariably.” They did appropriate the troll meme and no one cares about that. But as I’ve said repeatedly my father is a Hungarian refugee and my mom was Danish-American. My mom was so Danish that one of her dying wishes was for me to hold her memorial in her mother’s hometown at the same church that she reserved for her own mother’s memorial. And that may not sound special except this is the church in question:
I appreciate that Hitler wishes he could be cool like us, but the fact you think Vikings are cool doesn’t make you one. Trust me, I’m a redhead. My point is it really pisses me off that I can’t investigate my heritage without running headlong into racist fools who want to cosplay my ancestors in an incredibly myopic, stupid, and fetishizing nature. I can’t really say that racists are orientalising Danes because I don’t think Said would approve of that read and I can’t really blame him, but RELINQUISH THE FUTHARK AND STEP AWAY FROM THE LUTEFISK. Seriously. You’ve put me in a position where I have to defend lutefisk. What the hell is wrong with you people??
I sometimes get a bit annoyed when pagans and druids use Futhark and Rovas but for the most part I accept that they’re doing it with love. If you want to use runes for fortune telling and such then … I mean, I think you’re a bit weird, but you do you. And if you’ve seriously researched them and really understand their history and the languages they represent then absolutely more power to you.
Part of me wants to Taylor Swift style exempt myself from this narrative, but the fact is these racist jerks have absconded with a part of my heritage to justify and reinforce an inherently unjust power structure that has virtually nothing to do with that cultural history and is deeply insulting not only to the people and groups it means to hurt but also to me myself. IF I’m going to go a-viking — and honestly given that I am regularly defined as a “Dane behaving badly,” it does seem somewhat inevitable — I’d much prefer to do it with all the people Republicans seem to hate. Sorry, white supremacists, but you have neither rhythm nor any right to my runes. Kindly f off.