In yesterday’s impeachment hearings, the former president’s attorney Bruce Castor argued before the Senate that white men in America should be assured of power, privilege and success no matter how bumbling and immoral they may be.
Castor didn’t make that argument literally or in words. Indeed, from his speech, it is unclear that he is acquainted with words, or with arguments, or with an ounce of self-awareness. Nonetheless, his very incoherence made the point with a mush-mouthed, meandering eloquent anti-eloquence.
Castor confusedly invoked Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, insisting that, “There seem to be some pretty smart jurists in Nebraska.” He babbled that “something bad is potentially in the wind and we expect our United States Senators not reacting to the popular will,” a bizarre aside which prompted even Trump shill Alan Dershowitz to exclaim in disgust, “I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying.” Castor drank liberally from a plastic water bottle as he spoke, and the loud crinkling sounds provided a moment of relative sense amid the blundering obfuscation.
But the truth is that Castor could have stood up for two hours and made farting noises with his underarm, and his client would still be acquitted.
Trump spent the two months following the election in November insisting that Joe Biden had cheated. His repeatedly refuted lies about Democratic election-cheating inspired some of his followers to try to disrupt the congressional vote certification – which led to the attempted insurrection on 6 January. The House impeached Trump, charging him with inciting insurrection. This is an incredibly serious matter, and deserves measured debate and consideration.
Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic argued that Trump was the ‘first white president’ – which is to say, he was the president who had no talents, accomplishments or experience
But the GOP has already signalled they don’t plan to weigh the merits of the case. Only five Republican Senators have suggested there is any chance they might vote to convict Trump. That’s not enough to get to the two-thirds needed for conviction. Almost certainly, nothing Castor says is going to make a difference to the outcome of the trial.
Still, you’d think Trump and his lawyer would want to make a good showing. And in a way, they have.
Trump, a reality television star and failed businessman, was himself completely unqualified for high office. But his displays of manifest incompetence — recommending that people inject bleach to protect themselves for the coronavirus for example, or lying about the weather – just made his followers love him more.
Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic argued that Trump was the “first white president” – which is to say, he was the president who had no qualifications, talents, accomplishments, or experience to his name other than his identity as a wealthy white man. Trump’s inability to speak a phrase without lying, his utter lack of knowledge of the workings of government, his intellectual laziness — these were not bugs for his followers. They were features. The GOP is a white identity party, committed to traditional hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and wealth. Trump is the perfect president for Republicans because he shows that the only qualification for rule is to be white, straight, Christian, male and rich.
Castor embraces that logic and extends it. He provides a laughably clumsy defence of the indefensible while knowing that it doesn’t matter anyway. Castor is a white guy; Trump is a white guy. A bunch of overwhelmingly white and mostly male Senators will vote to validate and exonerate them both.
White supremacy is not actually an ideology of superiority. It’s at base an ideology of entitled inefficacy. The Trump ethos is that the most incompetent, foolish, evil white man in the country is worthy to rule simply because he is a white man.
Bruce Castor stood up before Senate and reaffirmed the basic truths which guide the Republican Party. Impunity. Entitlement. Belligerent incompetence. Maybe the GOP should nominate Castor for president in 2024.