This, more than anything, is what is so unsettling about Mr. Coates’s recent writing and the tenor of the leftist “woke” discourse he epitomizes. Though it is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural. For Mr. Coates, whiteness is a “talisman,” an “amulet” of “eldritch energies” that explains all injustice; for the abysmal early-20th-century Italian fascist and racist icon Julius Evola, it was a “meta-biological force,” a collective mind-spirit that justifies all inequality. In either case, whites are preordained to walk that special path. It is a dangerous vision of life we should refuse no matter who is doing the conjuring.
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At the very least, this demonstrates that decreased democratic turnout had as much if not more of an impact in the election than Trump’s ability to rally supporters. Of course, none of this is to absolve Trump supporters for making unwise voting decisions, but if Coates wants to prove that white supremacy was the dominating force fueling the rise of Trump, he must demonstrate that all other possible motives are implausible—which he doesn’t.
The danger of proceeding in this way is not simply the acceptance of logical fallacies. Using a single factor to explain the election forfeits a golden opportunity to grapple with the layered motives that are always in play in human affairs. And a popular discourse that assumes the worst about Americans has a chilling affect on the rest of the country, tears at the fabric of our institutions, and accelerates the disintegration of our social and civic bonds.