For about 24 hours after the 2020 election was called for Joe Biden, Democrats and other opponents of fascism—which is to say, anti-fascists—danced in the streets in an outpouring of both joy and relief at the end of the most openly bigoted, corrupt and destructive presidential administration in the modern era.
And then, like clockwork, the same awful people who have supported this awful president re-proved their awfulness, by issuing demands that everybody stop and think about how all this made Trump and his white supremacist cult feel—often with the implication that if Trump and his followers refuse to accept his defeat, maybe it didn’t really happen.
Even before the celebrations began, former Republican Senator turned paid Trump sycophant Rick Santorum suggested Trump’s supporters need “time to figure this out,” and cautioned that “this is a very emotional” period for the president’s loser-supporting base. Megyn Kelly—the erstwhile Fox News correspondent who stoked white resentment over Black Lives Matter and race-baited a fake boogie-man out of the “New Black Panthers”—tweeted that Trump supporters have been unfairly “attacked relentlessly” and “demonized as the worst of humanity for 4yrs.” The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway—who in a single recent TV news segment both claimed a Trump supporter who yelled “White power!” was being “sarcastic,” and then unironically bemoaned “people advocating hatred toward white people”—took to social media to defend tender Trumpian feelings, which she claimed the media has ignored for the last four years. “The behavior of some prominent people on the left is downright toxic and abusive” she wrote on Twitter, in defense of a man who’s been accused of sexual abuse by numerous women. “If a woman you know were being horrifically abused and then told to make peace with her abuser, you’d recognize it as such.”
Entitlement is a hell of a drug. Only its intoxication could explain Trump supporters demanding the rest of us—especially those of us who have been the target of this hateful administration, who have been unequivocally informed that we are not welcome here by this president—should coddle his followers as they cope with their leader’s loss. And accompanying those voices, in tones of peak white obliviousness, were a spectrum of public figures from Katy Perry to Ian Bremmer urging folks to reach out to their terrorizers from the last four years. The trauma of marginalized folks abused at every turn by this administration—and by its most trusted institutions, even in the best of times—will apparently always be treated as secondary to the feelings of self-pitying white folks.
These people have the nerve to insist we attend to the emotional wants of those who made “Fuck Your Feelings” and “Make Liberals Cry Again” both their personal mantra and a ubiquitous merchandising tagline, who have been the loud and proud cheering section for hate, who have threatened and carried out racist violence, who explicitly elected this president to strategically harm Black folks and anyone else who they thought might be gaining on white power. Pleas for kindness toward members of the meanest, most selfish, deeply bigoted American political movement of my lifetime—delivered by the white lady who said Black people were being too sensitive about blackface, and the homophobe who compared LGBT relationships to “man on dog” sex—are par for the course for people who genuinely believe that the humanity of white Americans trumps everyone else’s.
There is actually not much reason to be surprised that Trump’s supporters have proclaimed themselves the real victims here. It’s a master class in DARVO, or “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender,” a form of psychological abuse in which the perpetrator denies the violence they’ve inflicted and then pretends they are the party that’s been made to suffer. That’s the underlying idea behind Trumpism itself, a political ideology rooted in racial grievances that feel justified to petulant white supremacists convinced that a country which belongs to them is slowly being stolen. Trumpism was the salve that patched their self-pity and inadequacy, a whole movement that assured them their failures could be blamed on someone else. Frankly, it’s time they dealt with their delusions and coped with their failure to compete.
White supremacists and their abettors have always acted on their most vicious impulses, only to then turn around and demand civility from those they egregiously harm. The people they hurt are told, again and again, to offer compassion to those who have never shown them a hint of empathy. Marginalized folks are supposed to grit their teeth and smile through the pain of legislative, psychological and physical assaults by folks who believe the definition of oppression is not getting everything they want. These folks see only their own pain. Other people’s suffering is invisible to them because they believe that’s just how things are supposed to be — it’s the natural order of things. Making America Great Again always meant preserving white supremacist patriarchy, and enacting state-backed and extrajudicial violence against those who who tried to end it.
Amidst all this pleading for sympathy toward Trumpists, the beneficiaries of this regime are conducting a PSYOPs mission to steal the election and install Trump for a second term. The president has yet to concede, after months of claiming his loss would indicate a rigged election, and is raising funds from his gullible fanbase to fund his frivolous efforts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has ignored Biden’s win, opting instead to back up Trump’s fabricated “allegations of irregularities.” Only four Republican senators have congratulated Biden publicly. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, four days after the election was called for Biden, just told a room full of reporters that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."
Some of this is a cynical move by Republican officials to keep Trump’s dumbly violent base raged up on disinformation through the two Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5, where they must retain at least one seat to keep control of the Senate. For days, Trump loyalists have been openly carrying arms and flying anti-Black Lives Matter flags in protest of not getting their political way. Some 70 percent of Republicans believe the election was not “fair”—up from 35 percent before their guy lost the election. There are few lies that the party of QAnon believers won’t swallow whole. The GOP establishment, with all their “legal votes” dog whistling, knows evidence-free claims of a fraudulent election are yet another thing Trump’s base will rally around, as long as they believe it was stolen from them by Black folks, Mexicans and others.
Meanwhile, folks are not only suggesting Biden voters reach out and hug a Trump supporter, but also berating the Democrat party writ large—the one that won this election with majorities of people of color—for not spending more time understanding “heartland” voters. Which, like “working class” or “blue collar” or “middle America” voters, means white people.
How about this, though: Instead of fretting over how Trump and his armed foot soldiers are doing as they keep talking out loud about refusing to accept the results of the election, worry about how the people who have been endlessly traumatized and abused by this administration and this country are doing. That’s who actually needs your empathy.