Proud of Being Ignorant


I missed Mike Huckabee's rather silly speculation which Andrew takes on here:

"One thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American ... his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather."

Huckabee has rather unconvincingly retracted the implicit claim of birtherism. Still, Adam notes that this dime-store analysis doesn't even jibe with Kenyan history:

If you actually read Obama's book, he states that his father fell into depression and drinking because he was passed over for promotions and recognition while working in the government of Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, a downward spiral from which he never recovered until his death from a car crash. If you were going to trying to deploy some dime story psychoanalysis of how the president internalized Kenyan political struggles, Kenyatta would be the subject of his ire, rather than Winston Churchill.

In other words, it's complicated. Andrew notes the crazed spectacle of Huckabee, the potential president of country whose very birth was the result of an anti-colonial struggle against the British empire, attacking Obama for a presumed sympathy toward an anti-colonial struggle against the British:

And as a Brit, I have to say I find it remarkable to hear Americans of all people deny that the British Empire was, in fact, imperialist. Well, wasn't it? I mean: how else would you describe British rule in Kenya? Enhanced occupation techniques?

What runs through Adam's point, and Andrew's point is one of the common threads of white populism--a rejoicing in not knowing things. It does not much matter to Huckabee that Obama wrote an entire book investigating the lack of a relationship between him and his father. It does not matter that Obama's father and Kenyatta were ultimately of different factions. And most damning of all, it does not matter that every year on July 4th the country which Huckabee claims to love effectively throws national anti-colonial bash celebrating its liberation from the British.

The easy claim to make here is that the difference between American anti-colonialist and British anti-colonialist is skin color. Were it so simple. More likely, I think, Huckabee just doesn't much care. A significant portion of the conservative base fundamentally believes Obama, not simply to be wrong, but to be an outsider to the American tradition. So when Huck says..

I have said many times, publicly, that I do think he has a different world view, and I think it's in part molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings, and you know, our communities were filled with rotary clubs, not madrassas.

...he's signaling to the white populist tribe that he's with them. This is not skin-color prejudice. It's conservative identity politics. Subjecting it to logic and argument almost misses the point. This is who they are. These are their articles of faith.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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