Long before his most recent critiques and criticisms of the City of Baltimore, Donald Trump and Republicans generally have delighted in holding up Chicago as the poster-child-city for all that is wrong with urban (read: black) America.
However, the most recent nationally known Republican to engage in the GOP’s never-ending Chicago-bashing hate fest is twice failed presidential candidate and “Never Trumper”-turned-Trump-acolyte, Senator Rafael Edward (“Ted”) Cruz of Texas. And, like practically all GOPers who think of themselves as “conservatives,” Cruz follows the color-coded play book which writes Chicago off thusly:
- Chicago as irredeemably violent;
- Chicago as “uncontrollable;”
- Chicago as “uncivilized;”
- Chicago as “pathological;”
- Chicago as too “Democrat” (nee’ Democratic);” and, of course,
- Chicago as too “liberal.”
One does not need a political science degree from a prestigious Ivy League university to readily discern that what lies barely beneath the surface of each of these degrading descriptors is a heartfelt, soul-deep “conservative” belief, indeed, an absolute article of faith that, like most major (and many not-so-major) cities, Chicago is simply too black.
This “conservative” hatred of Chicago, therefore, runs deeper than the usual and expected urban/rural tensions and divides which exist in virtually every nation-state worldwide. And, neither is this “conservative” hatred of urban spaces rooted in any “ideological,” economic, political, or even socio-cultural differences between the the ‘burbs, farms and the city. That’s because America’s version of conservatism is, and always has been, deeply rooted in white racism and white supremacy.
Look at it this way: Every single policy, proposal, law, act, suggestion, from the abolition of slavery to elimination of the war on drugs (on black people) — any and every idea which might even remotely help black people — has been opposed, often violently, by so-called “conservatives” in whatever historical time period you care to name.
Thus, Chicago’s steady drumbeat of gun violence over the last few years, for example, provides a convenient template from which so-called conservatives may express their racism without actually having to admit or own it publicly. They fold, wrap and conceal their anti-blackness into the larger framework of a dysfunctional urbanity. I will not here fully quote the late GOP strategist, Lee Atwater, who is often “credited” with at least perfecting, if not inventing, the Republicans’ thoroughly racist “Southern Strategy.” But for those interested, here is the link to the Republican realpolitik and “‘conservative’ political philosophy” which has governed and guided the Republican Party for at least the last fifty years.
I also will not quote myself in discussing revelations of Saint Ronald Reagan’s recent documented racism. Instead, you may read those musings for yourself here.
The point is that “conservatism” as a political and economic theory and philosophy provides intellectual cover for the vast, vast majority of white Republicans’ true, unshakable, rock-hard racist belief in the incurable pathology of black people and thus blackness itself. Conservatism soothes and smooths their cognitive dissonance on the question of the centuries-long, ongoing and obvious evil treatment of black people. Conservatism as a socio-political proposition allows “conservatives” to more easily, almost effortlessly, deny, overlook and ignore, without the pang of conscience, their historical and current role in four centuries and counting of black bond servitude, white supremacy, white racism, white flight, lynching, genocide, industrial-sized rape farms, mass roundups and imprisonment, redlining, restrictive covenants, etc., ad infinitum.
Perhaps Ta Na-hesi Coates said it best: From the end of Reconstruction (1877) to this morning, white people as a whole, but white “conservatives” particularly, have consciously and purposely created and maintained each and every one of America’s black ghettos for the sole purpose of continuing to plunder and exploit black people. However, as Coates, The New York Times Magazine’s recent 1619 Project, and many others for many years have thoroughly chronicled, the framework, the scaffolding, and the structure which support and provide the necessary space for this ongoing theft of black wealth, black minds, black bodies and black souls — all were institutionalized and systematized beginning, at least, as far back as 1619.
And so, Ted Cruz has, of late, has been making noises about “criminal” Chicago, about “pathological” Chicago. He has tweeted, for example, that what Chicago needs is “not gun control, but criminal control,” thus getting the attention of Chicago’s freshly minted mayor, the Honorable Lori Elaine Lightfoot.
The mayor proceeded to promptly invite Senator Cruz to tour Chicago and have a sit-down discussion about the impact guns have on the city. Displaying the political cowardice for which he is well known, Cruz demurred, suggesting that such a meeting, tour and discussion would amount to little more than political theater. Sayeth Senator Cruz:
“The invitation, as I perceive it, is to a political circus. That does not seem a terribly attractive invitation,” Cruz said.
One of the many reasons Madame Mayor Lightfoot is mayor of Chicago is because Chicagoans like her take-no-prisoners persona and style. When she was told of Cruz’s rejection of her invitation, she came back with what is quickly being recognized as a classic Lightfoot response to naysayers and any of her political and ideological adversaries: “If you’re not gonna come to Chicago — if you’re not gonna learn the facts, keep our name out of your mouth,” she scolded the Texan.
A genuine “feud” had now erupted: When asked about Lightfoot’s admonition to “keep [Chicago] out of [his] mouth,” Cruz relented — sort of. He said that a meeting with the mayor and a look-see at Chicago were still possible. However, he did not much cotton to the mayor’s “tone” and her obvious “anger.”
Oh, I’d be happy to go to Chicago,” said Cruz, immediately qualifying his answer. “But given the tone and anger in her response, I’m not sure we would see a civil or substantive conversation rather than just a political show.
So I don’t have a lot of interest in a political show, he complained.
(Well…at least he’s moved on from “political circus” to “political show.” May we at least get to a “political theater,” as I’ve suggested above)?
And then, again demonstrating the courage of most Republicans, Cruz suggested that they meet — not mano-o-mano — but via live stream.
And so, Cruz returned to his Twitter-feud with the mayor: “Gun control doesn’t work. Look at Chicago. Disarming law abiding citizens is not the answer,” wrote the Senator.
Interestingly, the gun debate has gained center stage as a result of a summer of almost daily mass shootings of ordinary civilians by mostly “angry white men.” Several of these mass killings have occurred right in the heart of the of Texas, the very state which Senator Cruz represents in Congress as its junior senator. No word from the good senator on the “pathology” or “criminality” of these men has been forthcoming, though. Rather, they are almost immediately pronounced “mentally ill” by “conservatives” like Cruz and Trump, who only address gun violence when the shooter is black or brown or…. God forbid, Muslim.
For the mayor’s part, she said that she already knew that Cruz and his ilk were cowards not likely inclined to really engage Chicago or any other city on the issue of guns:
It’s ironic that a guy like Ted Cruz talks about a political stunt. He’s the master of the political stunts. But my invitation to him to [come to] Chicago was sincere, the mayor told reporters at an unrelated news conference on the West Side.
I think it’s not ever a good idea to cast aspersions on a community, particularly one as rich and diverse as the city of Chicago without knowing any facts. Come here. Come to the West Side. Come to the South Side. Learn what we’re actually doing. Talk to the members of the community whose lives are at risk. And help us build community and get resources to help us address the gun violence.
And, finally, in terms of the availability of guns, Mayor Lightfoot noted that because gun purchases are legal in other nearby parts of Illinois and the border states of Wisconsin and Indiana, no amount of gun prohibition in the city proper can or will stop the inflow thereof.
…..as long as people can drive from Illinois to Indiana and purchase a personal arsenal without a background check, Chicago’s gun laws will always be as weak as the closest permissive state. If Cruz is honestly interested in helping Chicago, he should “walk the streets” on the South and West Sides and talk to pastors, teachers, activists, mothers, fathers, police and prosecutors.
Of course, Cruz rejected Lightfoot’s point about the availability of guns in neighboring states as one of the causes of gun violence in Chicago:
So she pushed back and she said the problem is Indiana, ‘It’s not my fault, it’s the red states nearby and so people can go elsewhere and get guns’ and she just blamed (in) particular Indiana, Cruz said.
It should be clear that the mayor is not playing a “blame game” here. She is trying everything possible (including massive increased arrests and incarceration) to stem the tide of Chicago’s violence.
But it is “conservatives” like Cruz and Trump who continue to stand in the way of or on the side lines pointing fingers, rather than joining together with the hated Democrats and putting an immediate and permanent end to this deadly scourge.