Adam Serwer’s “nationalist’s delusions” explained . . . by Adam Serwer

Adam Serwer, who penned “Nationalist’s Delusions,” an article smearing Trump supporters as racists returns; I fisked him then and I’m fisking him again.

Trump Supporters Racist Donald Trump Diamond and Silk Nationalist's DelusionsRoughly three weeks ago, The Atlantic published what is pretty common fare for that magazine nowadays — a fact-free, logic-free riff posing as an intellectual attack on Trump’s supporters. The piece, by Adam Sewer — er, Serwer, was entitled The Nationalist’s Delusion.

I gave Sewer’s article a well-deserved fisking here. Because Sewer’s piece was so bloated, I stopped fisking halfway through. My brain cells were dying off so quickly I couldn’t afford to spend more time in his world. It was like rolling in muck that had toxic, hallucinatory fumes off-gassing around me. My intellectual well-being is worth more than that.

Well, the Sewer is back again, although not in the pages of The Atlantic. Instead, that magazine sent around an email begging people to spend $120 per year (or $12 a month) to join something called “The Masthead.” As an enticement, the email includes Sewer’s own annotations to his bloated, slanderous, illogical Nationalist’s Delusion.” As I fisked the one, it’s clear I must fisk the other too.

Because Sewer’s annotations appear only in the email, I’ll reprint his annotations in their entirety here. The indented text is from Sewer’s original article. The non-indented text comprises his annotations. My interlineations will be in colored font:


How “The Nationalist’s Delusion” Came Together

Adam Serwer annotates his article

The Genesis of the Piece

During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.

It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed [Louisiana politician and former Klan leader David] Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

I jotted down the first lines of what would eventually become “The Nationalist’s Delusion” in 2016, shortly after seeing the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s remarks about half of Trump supporters being racist. This set of paragraphs, which more or less sums up my argument, wasn’t written until months later. But after attending rallies and speaking to dozens of Trump supporters, I texted my editor Yoni Appelbaum with what would become the core argument of the essay, that Trump supporters didn’t think of themselves as racist but were enthusiastic supporters of the discriminatory policies that Trump was running on. The text, from October 1, 2016, is still on my phone. “Getting a lot of good stuff, it’s fascinating. What I really hadn’t understood is that Trump supporters are engaged in the exact ritual of denial about Trump that the press is.” It took me the better part of a year to excavate another crucial revelation, that the denial isn’t something recent, but rather a phenomenon that runs through all of American history.

Did you catch that? The genesis for Sewer’s word tripe was Hillary’s decision to describe half of America (the America she sought to lead) as a nation made up of hate-filled, mouth-breathing “deplorables.” That’s the fetid intellectual stew in which Sewer marinated for a year before putting fingers to keyboard.

Once again, of course, Sewer doesn’t analyze his central fallacy. That would be his contention that policies that distinguish between citizens, on the one hand, and illegal aliens, many of whom harbor terrorist dreams, on the other hand, are inherently “racist and discriminatory.” No wonder he struggles to square the circle.

In Sewer’s universe, as I noted in my original post, applying America’s existing laws in even-handed fashion to all who violate them is evil, while flouting the laws and putting out a welcome mat for the raff and scaff of the world — most of whom settle in, take jobs from, and too often kill America’s citizen minorities — is somehow virtuous.

From that fallacy, it was a hop, skip, and flying leap for Sewer to conclude that today’s color-blind Republicans are the racists, while America’s race-obsessed Democrats are the ones free of racism’s ugly stain. This bit of intellectual dishonesty works only if you say that being color-blind is racist and being racially obsessed means being non-racist.

Yeah, I know. My brain hurts too. No healthy mind is meant to go through these incoherent contortions.

How I Stumbled On Trump’s Comments About David Duke

Duke’s strong showing [in his 1990 Senate campaign against Democratic U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston] … wasn’t powered merely by poor or working-class whites—and the poorest demographic in the state, black voters, backed Johnston. Duke “clobbered Johnston in white working-class districts, ran even with him in predominantly white middle-class suburbs, and lost only because black Louisianans, representing one-quarter of the electorate, voted against him in overwhelming numbers,” The Washington Post reported in 1990. Duke picked up nearly 60 percent of the white vote. Faced with Duke’s popularity among whites of all income levels, the press framed his strong showing largely as the result of the economic suffering of the white working classes. Louisiana had “one of the least-educated electorates in the nation; and a large working class that has suffered through a long recession,” The Post stated.

Months into working on the story, I happened to read a passage from the historian David Roediger that changed my frame of reference. In The Wages of Whiteness, a book about racism and the construction of the white working class in America, Roediger mentions that pundits in 1989 had blamed Duke’s ability to win a seat in the Louisiana legislature on, essentially, economic anxiety. “In a quite meaningless way, the ‘race problem’ is consistently reduced to one of class,” Roediger wrote. “One expert commenter after another came on the morning news shows to announce that unemployment was high in Duke’s nearly all white district and therefore the election turned on economic grievances rather than racism.” That piqued my interest, and when I started looking more closely at the Duke Senate race, which happened a year later, the parallels became clear—even to the point where I found Trump commenting on the race itself in an insightful way that foreshadowed his own campaign. It ended up becoming the intro section to my article, in part because my editors and I felt the parallels were strong enough to hook the reader into what was going to be a long ride.

I spent a minute researching David Roediger. It was illuminating:

He writes from a Marxist theoretical framework.


Roediger’s book, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, was published in 1991. Along with Alexander Saxton’s Rise and Fall of the White Republic(1990) and Toni Morrison‘s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992), this work is often cited as the starting point of contemporary whiteness studies.[citation needed]

Theodore W. Allen‘s “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” (1975),[1] a pamphlet that later was expanded into his seminal two-volume work “The Invention of the White Race,” Vol. 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control”(1994, 2012) and [2] “The Invention of the White Race,” Vol. 2: “The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America” (1997, 2012);[3] has also been influential in this field. Allen later wrote of Roediger’s work:

“…because of its almost universal acceptance for use in colleges and universities, has served as the single most effective instrument in the socially necessary consciousness-raising function of objectifying “whiteness,” and in popularizing the “race-as-a-social-construct” thesis. As one who has been the beneficiary of kind supportive comments from him for my own efforts in this field of historical investigation, I undertake this critical essay with no other purpose than furthering the our common aim of the disestablishment of white identity, and the overthrow of white supremacism in general.”[4]

Not only is Roediger a racist — that is, someone obsessed with and hating a specific race — he’s also a typical Marxist, by which I mean that, without an editor at his side, his writing is juvenile and, often, incomprehensible. Get a gander of the last post he wrote at his website, on February 2, 2017, a mere two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency:

2016 and the Little Trumps
February 2, 2017

We materialists do not of course believe in bad years nor imagine that the calendars of most of the planet’s peoples reckon it is 2016. But there are difficult stretches of time in which lots of great musicians—Prince, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Holly Dunn, Sharon Jones, Guy Clark, David Bowie, Mose Allison, Phife Dawg—die in proximity to each other and some of us pretend to have been eager listeners to all of them. And there are unfavorable conjunctures, propelling the right to or near to power, though not without also greatly exposing the fragility of empire and perhaps the end of one sub-system of accumulation and rule. In the United States there was certainly an election of 2016 and what gets called the rise of Trump. I’d say the rise of Trumps and not only to gesture toward his family, scarcely more grotesque than the Clintons in any case. What is instead vital is to focus on the rise of the “little Trumps”—the blowhards and patriarchs who paved the way for his coronation and will now be emboldened by his victory. Everyone wants to invent a hitherto unmentioned “white working class” to blame for the election results. There are little Trumps among those choosing to be white instead of working class– living their miseries as possibilities of a future of bullying, ethnic cleansing, and sexual battery. But the little Trumps congregate among the owners of DIY car washes and franchise restaurants and within the ranks of aggrieved middle management in desperate search of apprentices. It is they who wholesale the ridiculous idea that we need a boss to lead us, suspecting there’s somehow a chance for them.

Watch out for the little Trumps.

I’ve read that paragraph three times now and have absolutely no idea what Roediger is saying. What’s worse is the fact that this man is currently a “Foundation Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Kansas University.” That means that (a) students have to sit through lectures in which he disgorges the effluvia passing through his brain and (b) some of those students actually think Roediger has something valuable to say about whites and their propensity to evil. Roediger, I should add, is exceptionally white.

I’m belaboring the awful racial identity politics that drive Roediger’s effort at thinking for a reason: Sewer sees Roediger as the intellectual springboard for his contention that Trump supporters are evil white people. As you can see, just as typhoid spreads through physical fecal matter, the intellectual rot of Marxism spreads through verbal fecal matter.

Significantly Sewer’s comment about the genesis for his slanderous accusations doesn’t touch upon the core point I addressed in my earlier post, a point I’ll reiterate here: Trump pointed out with complete accuracy that voters who feel that their political representatives have betrayed their economic well-being will seek out any candidates who promise to elevate their economic status. As Trump himself said, he had no truck with or interest in white supremacist ideas. He was simply pointing out the obvious. Only a Marxist or Progressive could take the obvious and stretch it into a tortured argument that Trump and his supporters are therefore neo-Nazis.

The opposite is closer to the truth. Just recently, one Marxist discovered to her great surprise, that America’s White Supremacists, just like Hitler before them, are socialists — which makes them a great deal closer to the Progressives than it does to Trump and his free-market followers. As Milton Friedman said, “The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

Both Roediger and Sewer might benefit from reading Dinesh D’Souza’s The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, which will remind them that the Progressive party and the Nazi party are ideological cousins that grew up together. The only thing that saved the U.S. from following Hitler’s path was the fact that American Progressives were hamstrung by the Constitution. No wonder, then, that 60 years of Progressive-controlled education in America have steadily sought to remove the Constitution from American’s consciousness.

Immigration and Partisanship

Using data from the American National Election Survey, [political scientists Marisa] Abrajano and [Zoltan] Hajnal conclude that “changes in individual attitudes toward immigrants precede shifts in partisanship,” and that “immigration really is driving individual defections from the Democratic to Republican Party.”

I think many political observers underestimated the salience of the immigration issue in the 2016 campaign, which is ironic because the media bears a significant amount of responsibility for its importance. Abrajano and Hajnal, whose 2015 book White Backlash I drew on for this piece, write that “At the aggregate level, we show that when media coverage of immigration uses the Latino threat narrative, the likelihood of whites identifying with the Democratic Party decreases and the probability of favoring Republicans increases. Whites who are fearful of immigration tend to respond to that anxiety with a measurable shift to the political right.” Using data drawn from immigration coverage in the New York Times, they write that “news coverage is largely negative, largely focused on Latinos, and largely attentive to the negative policy issues associated with immigration.” That’s just the New York Times, to say nothing of the steady diet of immigration horror stories one sees on Fox News and other conservative outlets. This incredible political realignment was happening because of the media, but the media largely (but not completely) missed it.

If you’re interested in learning more about Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan Hajnal, I urge you to read their CVs (here and here).  Their careers, which are taxpayer-funded, are dedicated to calling Americans “racist.” They are the avatars of the Marxist identity politics that dominate America’s universities, especially political science departments. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what Abrajano and Hajnal write is incorrect. It does suggest, though, that, just as to a hammer everything is a nail, they see white racists everywhere they look.  

More than that, it’s quite obvious that Abrajano and Hajnal join Sewer in the same dirty intellectual trick all Progressive race hustlers do: they fail to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. As I noted in my original post, Sewer repeated referred to illegal immigrants and nations of terrorist exporting countries as “fellow citizens.” I’ll extend to Sewer the courtesy of assuming he’s not a moron. If that courtesy is accurate, than he is deliberately conflating the two and he’s doing so to tar Americans as racists. 

In fact, as someone who has traveled extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Japan, as well as parts of Mexico and the Middle East, I am not exaggerating when I say that Americans are probably the least racist people you’ll ever meet — that is, as long as you’re not hanging with Progressives, who are embarrassingly obsessed with race. However, Americans are not fools, and they understand that having unskilled labor pouring across the border, both legally and illegally, drags down low wage jobs. They understand that having unchecked borders brings in diseases that a government normally stops at the border. And they understand that unchecked immigration from lands steeped in Islam brings in radicalism that finds a home here and blooms in ever more poisonous ways. 

Toxic racism is an irrational hatred of a race that leads to discrimination, violence, and death. Racism, toxic or not, means measuring everyone by race. It is the antithesis of Martin Luther King’s vision of an America in which people are measured by the content of their character, not their race. Progressive race hustlers of the Sewer, Abrajano, Hajnal, and Roediger stripe have killed that dream dead, as dead as Dr. King himself.

Clinton’s 2008 Primary Campaign

Clinton’s arrogance in referring to Trump supporters as “irredeemable” is the truly indefensible part of her statement—in the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton herself ran as the candidate of “hard-working Americans, white Americans” against Obama, earning her the “exceedingly strange new respect” of conservatives who noted that she was running the “classic Republican race against her opponent.” Eight years later, she lost to an opponent whose mastery of those forces was simply greater than hers.

I wanted to invoke the largely forgotten racial tensions of Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign rivalry with Barack Obama, with Clinton taking the role of the tribune of the white working class and caricaturing Obama as a wine-sipping elitist. A Clinton adviser at the time dismissed the Obama coalition as “eggheads and African-Americans.” There was the infamous picture of Obama in Somali garb (a Clinton adviser said Obama shouldn’t be ashamed of being seen in “his native clothing, in the clothing of his country,” even though Obama’s native country is the United States). In hindsight it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that Clinton had trouble trying to win with Obama’s coalition years later. Even though her point about Trump voters’ tendencies toward racism and sexism was defensible, she had never really publicly accounted for the way her earlier primary against Obama played out. “The Nationalist’s Delusion” helps explain the Trump phenomenon, but it was never just a Trump phenomenon.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Sewer forgets to mention entirely that it was Hillary that birthed Birtherism — the claim that Obama was not born on American soil. 2008 was also the year in which Biden praised Obama for being “clean” and “articulate.” Oh, and that was the time that Harry Reid thought it was great that Obama was a “light-skinned negro.” There was also that visionary Los Angeles Times article calling Obama a “magic negro.”

I may be getting a little forgetful, but I can’t summon up a single racist thing McCain or any of his deputies said about Obama. 

The racism then came, as it does now, from the Democrats. It always comes from the Democrats. Whether it’s slavery or Jim Crow or Marxism, Democrats need a subordinate race to power their engines. The racial tension is always, always, always on their side of the aisle.

Pre-2016 Data

It’s not that Republicans would have been less opposed to Clinton had she become president, or that conservatives are inherently racist. The nature of the partisan opposition to Obama altered white Republicans’ perceptions of themselves and their country, of their social position, and of the religious and ethnic minorities whose growing political power led to Obama’s election.

In addition to White Backlash, I used Post-Racial or Most-Racial by Michael Tesler to explaining how the Republican base had been radicalized over the Obama years. The first book was about how immigration was driving defections of white voters from the Democratic Party, and the second was about how public policy issues became “racialized” in the Obama years, despite Obama’s best efforts. It was important to me that both books had been published prior to Trump’s victory—that is, they weren’t attempting to retroactively explain what happened. Instead, they predicted the salience both of the immigration issue and Trump’s overtly racial appeals, and used social science to explain both phenomena. In other words they pointed to the rise of a Trump-like figure, though not Trump himself. Both books provided ample evidence of the social trends that explained Trumpism, prior to the need to do so, and so I found them more persuasive than any post-hoc explanation.

Just so you know, Michael Tesler is another race hustler — a Leftist who is incapable of seeing American citizens as anything other than pawns defined entirely by their skin color. This is from a Slate article in 2012:

The 31year-old’s academic career has taken place almost entirely in the Obama era, and he has begun to assemble a compelling framework for understanding what Obama’s legacy might be, regardless of whether he wins a second term. Tesler’s body of research suggests that instead of delivering what many suggested would be a post-racial presidency, Obama will have polarized corners of American politics previously untouched by race. Not only have racial considerations affected whether voters will support Obama, but they are beginning to renovate the entire architecture of public opinion.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to this young academic, who’s never held a real job as an adult and is now comfortably ensconced at elitist (and Leftist) Brown University, that it was Obama who painted everything with a racist brush. Old ladies are racist, police are racist, people who oppose his policies need to be in the back of the bus, murderous thugs are his children, etc.

I know that it would be impossible to make Tesler believe that I loathed Obama’s policies because they were all directed at a few goals that I would oppose in a Hillary presidency too: expanded government, weakened borders, attacks on Israel, increased support for Iran, weakening the American military, taking away guns, etc. The problem is that Progressives are incapable of understanding that their ideas are inherently offensive, regardless the color, gender, race, or religion of the person advocating those ideas. Because they live in a one-sided intellectual universe in which they are never exposed to substantive opposing arguments, their only defense against attacks is to throw out ad hominem insults.

As Sewer’s references to hard Left academic race hustlers show, Sewer’s world is defined entirely by . . . hard Left academic race hustlers. The people he admires have never held real jobs, they’ve never produced anything concrete and, living as they do in their media and academic world, they’ve never actually had to face challenges to their conclusions. They are hermetically sealed in a race-hating, race-baiting, race-hustling world in which race is the leading indicator of everything. 

How did Trump voters react when I asked them about Trump’s racism?

“I don’t feel like he’s racist. I don’t personally feel like anybody would have been able to do what he’s been able to do with his personal business if he were a horrible person,” Michelle, a stay-at-home mom in Virginia, told me.

Most Trump voters I spoke to were quite friendly (the ones who weren’t didn’t want to talk at all). They were also eager to defend Trump’s controversial remarks, and blamed the mainstream media for taking him out of context. The irony I kept running into was that even though some people felt that Trump wasn’t being given a fair shake, or that he had made a mistake due to lack of polish as a politician, those people would still generally repeat or endorse the underlying sentiment. That is, they recognized that Trump’s remarks could be interpreted as racist, and they thought that was unfair, but they also agreed with what he was saying. That contradiction, and ways it has manifested historically, was really the heart of the piece.

Can I repeat my last paragraph from above? As Sewer’s references to hard Left academic race hustlers show, Sewer’s world is defined entirely by hard Left academic race hustlers. The people he admires have never held real jobs, they’ve never produced anything concrete and, living as they do in their media and academic world, they’ve never actually had to face challenges to their conclusions. They are hermetically sealed in a race-hating, race-baiting, race-hustling world in which race is the leading indicator of everything. 

That’s not how normal people outside of the Blue Bubble function.


You know what’s the most embarrassing thing about the above piece, one that, in my youth, wouldn’t have passed muster in a high school paper, is that “Adam Serwer is a senior editor at The Atlantic.” Once upon a time, The Atlantic had standards. How things change.


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