I direct your attention to American Greatness, a populist intellectual journal that began as a dissident group blog back when the Claremont Institute was unwilling to associate itself with Michael Anton’s then-pseudonymous case for Donald Trump. Last weekend, it published D’Souza’s article “Richard Spencer, Wilsonian Progressive,” the latest of his pandering contributions to the Democrats are the real racists genre.
“I’ve never interviewed a white supremacist before, so I didn’t know what to expect when Richard Spencer showed up to talk to me,” D’Souza began, but he quickly noted his purpose in seeking the interview: “My real interest was to find out what Spencer really believed, with a view to figuring out where he really belongs on the political spectrum.”
Of course, there is no doubt about Spencer’s allegiances in current electoral politics: The white-nationalist bigot is an open, explicit supporter of President Trump. He voted for the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential election. He said, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” as cheering supporters rendered Nazi salutes. And the rally of white supremacists that he participated in last year in Charlottesville was named “Unite the Right,” not “Unite the Left.”
But D’Souza’s project is predicated on always reaching the conclusion that Democrats are the real racists, and in his telling even Spencer fits the theory.
First, D’Souza highlights this excerpt from their conversation:
Finally I asked Spencer about the movie, Birth of a Nation.
Me: Have you seen it?
Spencer: Yes, I have.
Me: What did you think of it?
Spencer: It’s an amazing film, one of the most important films ever made.
Me: Leaving aside its technical merits, the notion that the sex-crazed blacks are taking over the country and the Ku Klux Klan was a redemptive movement of white identity to clean the place up—you agree with that?
Spencer: It was a romanticization of the first Klan in response to Republican Reconstruction. It’s an idealized vision that paints in really broad strokes.
Me: But it’s your music.
Spencer: Sure. It appealed to many Americans, including presidents.
It is, indeed, a historical fact that Woodrow Wilson watched The Birth of a Nation at the White House—and that he did tremendous harm to African Americans by resegregating the federal government (among other transgressions that make him one of the worst presidents).
As I interviewed Spencer, I kept saying to myself, obviously this guy is not a conservative, but what is he? He’s not a progressive in the contemporary sense, either. And yet his ideas are so familiar. Only toward the end of the interview did it hit me. Spencer’s views are virtually identical to those of the progressive racists of the Woodrow Wilson era. In a purely logical sense, Spencer should be a progressive Democrat … Even today the Democratic Party is the party of ethnic identity politics.
Actually, in “a purely logical sense,” it’s incoherent to choose one’s political party by focusing on the figures and labels of 100 years ago. But in D’Souza’s telling, “Spencer’s problem … is that the Democrats mobilize black, Latino and Asian identity politics against that of whites. Since whites are now the all-round bad guy, Spencer’s brand of progressivism is no longer welcome at the multicultural picnic.” Notice that to make his argument work, D’Souza must unashamedly conflate the “identity politics” of Wilson, who valorized the Ku Klux Klan, lamented black suffrage, and resegregated the federal government, with the “identity politics” of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.