I’m not quite sure what the term “white nationalist” means anymore. I used to think I had the definition pretty much down: It was someone who believed that white European people constituted a race and must have their own ethnic homeland, persecuting — usually with the implied threat of violence — anyone in said homeland who didn’t fit their definition of “white.”
This, most people should agree, is one of the most pernicious forms of racial collectivism, not terribly far from the philosophy of the Nazis or Southern segregationists. That’s probably why liberals have decided to use the term more, well, liberally. It now applies to anyone who can be plausibly considered either white and/or kind of nationalist.
This much less exact label of white nationalist has been applied promiscuously of late, to the point where Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News is being called “the most openly white nationalist show on cable TV.” (Granted, that’s from Media Matters via Vox, but you get the idea.)
Another favorite target of the white nationalist labeler brigade: Stephen Miller, a policy adviser to President Trump. The latest labeler? Rep. Ilhan Omar, the controversial Minnesota Democrat, who made the accusation on Monday.
Omar was responding to the rumor that Miller was the impetus behind the president withdrawing his pick to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ron Vitello, in favor of someone who would take a harder line on immigration.
Linking to an article on left-wing website Splinter News, Omar tweeted, “Stephen Miller is a white nationalist. The fact that he still has influence on policy and political appointments is an outrage.”
Stephen Miller is a white nationalist. The fact that he still has influence on policy and political appointments is an outrage. https://t.co/7NyMDgojd7
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 8, 2019
Now, granted, Splinter was also in on the label-slapping, calling Miller “the president’s white nationalist policy advisor” and referring to “the 33-year-old’s fascistic anti-immigrant crusade.” (Splinter also used the occasion to repeat a single-sourced accusation about Miller allegedly saying “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.” It also pointed out that members of Miller’s family didn’t like his politics, so, hey, there’s also that.)
Here’s the issue: Stephen Miller is Jewish, as Fox News points out, and “white nationalists” tend to frown upon members of the Jewish faith.
Remember that just a few months ago, white nationalism was the culprit in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. In that case, the gunman was indeed a white nationalist, as well as a crackpot of many stripes.
At the time, we got a lot of pieces like Talia Levin’s in The Washington Post, “How Trump’s immigrant bashing feeds white supremacists’ obsession with Jews.”
“For American white supremacists, hysteria about immigrants is inextricable from anti-Semitism: Many of the far-right nativists who cheer Trump’s immigration rhetoric are also obsessed with Jews,” she wrote.
“When prominent Republicans warn that a powerful Jew is secretly funding an invasion by foreigners, it doesn’t matter how many Jewish grandchildren the president has — he and his party are fueling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the sort that the suspect in the Pittsburgh shooting posted on social media just before he walked into Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday.”
Without getting into how flimsy the argument that Republicans are somehow tacitly responsible for the actions of crazed bigots, there is a point that real white supremacists and white nationalists (read: “not just defined as someone in the Trump administration or on Fox News”) don’t hold Jewish individuals in high regard.
The Minnesota Democrat’s labeling of Stephen Miller as a white nationalist, then, poses two major issues for her.
First, Splinter magazine can engage in hyperbole all it wants; the writer isn’t an elected official. Rep. Omar is.
Second, she’s also an elected individual who has a very problematic history with Jewish people.
They’re the same group of people, need we remind you, whom she was recently seen implying may have dual loyalties to the state of Israel. (Which was like, oh, the fifth or sixth time since she was elected that she was seen engaging in anti-Semitic innuendo.)
As Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York responded on Twitter, he’s never seen any member of Congress “target Jewish people like this.”
During my time in Congress before @IlhanOmar got here, I didn't once witness another Member target Jewish people like this with the name calling & other personal attacks. In 2019 though, for @IlhanOmar, this is just called Monday. https://t.co/sgvsEvsj56
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) April 9, 2019
This is, unfortunately, more or less accurate, given that Omar’s first few months have established her as the milder 21st century analog to Mississippi Rep. John E. Rankin, a New Deal Democrat and racist and anti-Semite of the first order.
That anyone could even get away with this is indicative of a wider problem here: That “white nationalist” in the new liberal lexicon means anything conservative and nothing substantive anymore.
No one is cheering more than actual white nationalists, who can now hide behind the fact that the term is so shopworn it could apply to anyone.
The great irony, of course, is that both they and Rep. Omar probably feel the same way about Stephen Miller’s ethnic background.