Stephen Miller, a former aide to Donald Trump who is not exactly known as the most enlightened of the former president's inner circle, is the president of America First Legal, which is blitzing the nation with dishonest radio and television commercials accusing President Joe Biden and Democrats of “anti-white bigotry.”
“When did racism against white people become OK?” the ad dishonestly asks before falsely claiming that the Biden administration has discriminated against white people during the pandemic and after hurricanes and that “progressive corporations, airlines and universities” are participants in the “left’s anti-white bigotry.”
Like so many political ads, these from Miller’s group are flat-out wrong. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gives the commercials three Pinocchios (its designation for any claim that has “Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”). Using clever language, chopped up out-of-context sentences by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the ads are, as the newspaper points out, a “disingenuous stew that claim the Biden administration and liberals are harming Whites with policies intended to deal with racial inequities, such as minority communities being more affected by the coronavirus pandemic.” FactCheck.org also points out that the claims about the alleged “anti-white” policies and statements don’t hold up.
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But the facts don’t matter. These ads are peddling fear. The obvious goal is that, despite white Americans controlling the federal government, American corporations, the entertainment industry, the financial industry and just about every other facet of American life, frightened white people will hear the ad and say, “We need to vote Republican to stop the rampant discrimination against white people!”
Why do political strategists believe that such nakedly racist ads, ads that prompt white voters to see forward movement for other groups as a backward step for them, will appeal to enough white Americans to matter? Probably because polling suggests it could. Consider: Even after watching multiple videos of Black men and women being unfairly killed by police, even seeing the ugliness of the Jan. 6 insurrection (carried out in part by people and groups with racist beliefs), even after so many indisputable examples of racism and bigotry across the nation, according to a University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll in May, nearly a third of white Americans insist that they have seen “a lot more” discrimination against white people in the past five years. At the same time, they insist other groups, including Black and Latino Americans, have been less discriminated against by, we assume, the white majority.
Another university study, this one by Cornell, showed the same thing. White Americans who participated were shown news stories about U.S. Census projections showing that in 2050 racial minorities will make up the majority in the nation, and were more likely to feel their status was threatened, according to the study.
Despite the evidence that many white Americans see themselves as being discriminated against, unlike their Black, Hispanic and Asian counterparts, white voters are rarely described simply as “white voters,” not even by journalists who gleefully ascribe racial voting motives to everyone else.
Count the number of times you’ve heard predictions about what the Black vote, the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote will be Tuesday? Now, how many times have you heard talk about what the white vote will be?
It’s been amusing to see all of the phrases journalists have created to avoid saying “white voters.” There’ve been “Reagan Democrats,” “soccer moms,” “suburban voters,” “blue-collar voters,” “forgotten voters” — the list goes on.
One might argue that those phrases have been used because “white voters” aren’t a monolith. Well, neither is any other racial or ethnic group, but that hasn’t stopped those voters from being discussed solely by their race or ethnicity.
America First Legal’s repugnant ads seek to take advantage of what some people describe as a long-held white American fear of a comeuppance, that is, fear that the same oppression that white America visited upon minorities will be visited upon white people.
At the same time, Miller’s group is reportedly targeting Asian American voters in battleground states with mailers that claim Democrats are discriminating against them, too. “Joe Biden and Left Wing Officials are engaged in widespread racial discrimination against White and Asian Americans,” the mailers claim. Nadia Belkin, executive director of Asian American Power Network, which promotes progressive candidates, called the mailers “misleading and divisive.”
These mailers, not coincidentally, were sent out soon after Students for Fair Admissions argued before the Supreme Court that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans in favor of Black people. We should prepare ourselves to see more and more stories about white students who supposedly deserved to get into these top schools but didn’t, stories that suggest their spots were taken by unqualified Black people.
Here’s hoping that white voters who are the targets of these fear-mongering ads won’t fall for them, but the people distributing those ads will be monitoring Tuesday’s vote to see how effective they were. But given the findings that significant numbers of white people somehow believe white people are losing, those ads have a high likelihood of being effective. Which only means we’ll see a lot more like them as we approach 2024.
CORRECTION (Dec. 16, 2022, 7:39 p.m. ET) A previous version of this article misstated the name of the organization that Stephen Miller is the president of. It is America First Legal, not the America First Foundation.