The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
David Frum On Immigration, Trump, America's Narrative

David Frum On Immigration, Trump, America's Narrative

David Frum needs little introduction; he’s a long-time writer at The Atlantic and the author of many books, the latest being Trumpocalypse and Trumpocracy. We cover a range of issues in this episode. You can listen to it right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app” — which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. To listen to two excerpts from my conversation with David — on the problems of mass immigration; and on our disagreements over Russiagate — head over to our YouTube page.

Meanwhile, we got a ton of reader response to our episode with Michael Hirschorn, across a range of opinion. The first reader:

Thank you for finally — FINALLY — having a conversation with someone like Michael. I am often maddened by you constantly banging on about wokeness, and though you concede (always as an aside, though) that there are problems with racism in America, you somehow never get around to exploring them. You like to yell at the left for painting everyone on the right as racist, yet you spend A LOT of time painting everyone on the left as “woke.” It’s tiresome, unproductive, and untrue.

Which is why your conversation with Michael, who echoes nearly 100% of my own thoughts on these subjects, is a course correction for you that I appreciated. It showed why exploring issues of racism are still necessary and valid and why it isn’t just about “wokeness” or critical theory. It shows how if you got out on to the ground and into communities, and away from Twitter and a handful of people with the loudest microphones, you might find a left that doesn’t comport with your characterization of it. There are a lot of us who don’t care about the cesspool of social media and aren’t trying to get our op-eds into the NY Times, those of us who are honestly trying to right some wrongs without losing sight of the bigger picture — a messy, nuanced, but also hopeful picture. I sincerely hope you have more conversations with Michael or those like him in the future. Keep it up.

Thanks. I definitely intend to add more conversations with lefties and critical theory stans. Many, however, don’t want to debate, because they believe that debating is itself a manifestation of “white supremacy”, if it isn’t loaded to compensate for white privilege. Because of my genetics, my views are, to a greater or lesser extent, illegitimate. The premise of my podcasts is that anyone can talk about anything and no one has any authority other than the cogency of their argument.

This next reader was less aligned with Michael:

Thank you for your courage in challenging some of the woke myths that Mr. Hirschorn seems to think are “obvious” — they absolutely are not. He seemed surprised that you challenged some of these but I am glad you did. These are extremely sensitive topics that many of us are afraid to even talk about. I am glad you did, and I hope you continue to do so.

On to specifics, another reader:

“A real effort to contend with race and racism in America” means everyone has to share the New Left’s redefinition of racism. Andrew, please don’t listen to Michael Hirschorn. There is nothing naive about you, and the fact that you did not spend your first 20 years in America has nothing to do with your ability to read and analyze what is really happening. I was born and raised here and have been liberal all my life until people like Mr. Hirschorn drove me away with their specious sloganeering. I find it astonishing that he asserts that Trump (whom I despise) is “openly racist”, and when asked for examples proceeds to give examples of Trump engaging in actions that are highly arguable and can only be tangentially disputed as racist.

For example, the Muslim ban that may involve some stereotyping based on disproportional involvement in terrorism around the globe (in the same way all cops have been stereotyped as racists) — but it’s not “obviously openly racist”. Mr. Hirschorn then asserts that Trump’s exhortations to crack down on “law and order" cannot be “extricated” from racism. Who says? I am Latino and feel exactly the same way Trump does when it comes to law and order. I have very little sympathy for criminals, be they black or white.

I’m with you. It may also be true that those of us who are immigrants can see American more clearly than natives, marinated in white guilt and shame. Another reader compares countries:

I’m part of a Puerto Rican diaspora in Ohio and some of my best friends are naturalized Mexicans. We recently discussed how one of the best things about the United States is that one can count on the law and expect the order that American law enforcement (and the courts) provide. My friend added, “In this country, when one says no, it’s respected”. In Mexico, and to some extent in my native Puerto Rico, you either can’t count on the police or you have to actively defend yourself from them. For all the claims that Democrats make about being a voice for the immigrant community, they sure don’t understand the millions of immigrants in this country and why we do care about law and order — and not in any racist way.

Many readers backed Michael by pointing to other examples in which they believe Trump has been “openly obviously” racist. One writes:

When you asked Hirschorn for concrete examples, he got lost in the whole “law and order” thing. But he could’ve given way more concrete examples, such as Trump’s stalwart defense of Confederate monuments or him repeatedly refusing to simply condemn white supremacist groups. “Stand back and stand by”?

There are non-racist arguments to defend keeping statues around, even if they echo a horrible past. Outside the British Parliament, there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell, for example, a genocidal, theocratic dictator. But part of British history. In England, if you wanted to remove any statue of person who opposed democracy, every statue of a king or queen would have to be taken down.

Another reader points to “Trump’s false claim that ‘Arabs’ (not Muslims) in New Jersey were cheering 9/11, and years later telling members of The Squad to ‘go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.’” Another adds, “Calling Third World countries mostly populated by darker skinned people ‘shithole countries.’” Another reader links to this USA Today piece from a few months ago that fact-checks a viral list of 28 of the most racist things that Trump has purportedly said. The summary:

Of the 28 listed comments, Trump said 12 of them as plainly stated. Two he said but lack context. Four comments are disputed, eight are paraphrased from similar statements and two he did not say.

Another reader zooms out:

The word “racism” has been overused by the political and intellectual Left. It can now mean almost anything. In the name of “white guilt,” the political Left has proved ready to jettison its most cherished ideals: the rioting, looting and burning in the name of “Black Lives matter” was deemed okay because it was done by blacks and those supposedly allied to blacks. The warning to wear masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 was dismissed by medical professionals in the name of fighting a false emergency of “racism.” Heaven forbid they should tell BLM that they can’t do anything they want to do. In Europe, the cherished ideals of feminism and gay rights are being tossed aside to accommodate the backward attitudes of many Muslim immigrants. Apparently rape and gay-bashing are only serious crimes if white men commit them.

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