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Rep. Mo Brooks and the War on Words

Now that the media has had plenty of time to set their collective hair on fire over Representative Mo Brooks’ War on Whites comments, perhaps we can douse some of the flames and perform a bit of haruspicy on the remains. On the surface, this was among the lowest of the low-hanging fruit for the usual list of suspects. Jonathan Capehart -- whose Twitter feed is filled with enough instances of the race card to put Hallmark out of business -- was quick to define the moment for the tribal Left, describing Mo’s comments as "the surreal notion that whites are under siege by everyone else … worthy of a thousand side-eyes."

Additional examples abound, and the case can certainly be made that Brooks invited the uproar though a basic failure of media awareness. After all -- as Capehart correctly, for once, pointed out -- if you can get Laura Ingraham to begin backing away from you and strapping on an asbestos vest, you’ve probably set off a bit larger fireworks display than anticipated. But was the essential argument being put forth by Brooks all that far into the Twilight Zone?

For a bit of a thought experiment, let’s look at some of the core comments from the interview, but substitute a few different words for the forbidden phrase:

This is the liberal playbook, wherein they seek to divide the nation along demographic lines, that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this effort is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s a part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things....

And so the Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue. If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.

If that was the commentary delivered, would Ingraham have taken even a moment’s pause? Would you, as the viewer, have taken issue with the point being made? In short, would anyone who hadn’t seen the show even know that it had taken place?

The underlying message that Brooks was clumsily attempting to get across was an argument which the Republican Party has unsuccessfully been trying to make for at least the last three decades. Lax immigration policies add to a paucity of jobs and downward pressure on wages for everyone, regardless of the demographic pigeonhole they fit into.  The same may be truthfully said for the entire raft of fiscal conservative debates which grip the nation, be it tax policy or education. That which is bad for America is bad for all Americans. It’s really not that complicated.

Poverty -- one of the pressing issues facing the nation -- afflicts Americans across lines of color. It is true that the per capita poverty rate among minorities is higher and is far more visible in economically challenged urban centers, but in total there are actually more white children living below the poverty line than those in black families. To be sure, that statistic derives from the fact that there are more white families in total, but the end effect is the same. When government policy makes it more difficult to climb the ladder out of poverty, the chickens come home to roost for everyone, regardless of skin color.

Brooks was also correct in pinning the tail on the party of the donkey and noting that their strategy seeks to create divisions where none should exist. Claims that the GOP “hates” minorities, women, gays or various religious denominations have been blisteringly effective. Tossing out such rhetorical bombs all too often shuts down the original discussion of serious policy issues, leaving the beleaguered politico staring down a hostile audience and stammering to explain precisely why they are not engaging in any sort of war on this or that group. It’s a winning formula for Democrats, and one they’re not likely to abandon any time soon.

Unfortunately for Mo Brooks, he managed in just three short words to pull the pin out of the grenade himself rather than waiting for some liberal authority on cultural malfeasance to do it for him.  Stating that the opposition is in any way attempting to go after white people immediately triggers the check-your-privilege response in the media, setting them to slavering faster than waving a cheeseburger in front of a hound dog.

The sad upshot of this story is that Mo Brooks created a self-fulfilling prophecy and whisked it into existence in the space of a few seconds. He was attempting to discuss immigration policy -- surely a subject which should be of interest to everyone --  and frame the discussion in a way which exposed exactly how difficult it is to have a productive discussion when so many are simply interested in pointing fingers for political gain. But with three little words, he succeeded in setting the cables news cycle on fire and had everyone talking… about everything except immigration policy.