Democratic and Republican party politicians alike don’t only represent and defend something horrible — our racist, exploitative system — but they sometimes say really horrendous things that reveal their true aspirations for capitalism and imperialism and how deeply flawed they are as human beings. In the bourgeois media, these moments are often referred to as “saying the quiet part out loud” — so named because they express what the speaker really thinks and the actions that speaker would really like to take. They often happen when the speaker doesn’t realize the microphone is on.
There are many famous “hot mic” moments. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan — doing a sound check just before a radio address while the Cold War still raged — said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
There are also many examples of saying the quiet part out loud. In 2013, the state’s Republican Party chairman, Robert Gleason, admitted that the photo ID requirement that had recently been pushed through the legislature effectively suppressed voter turnout and that this had been the objective all along, thus exposing as a lie the claims about fighting “fraud.” He said it had “helped a bit” to lower Obama’s margin over Romney, cutting it to half of what it had been over McCain four years earlier. The Republican leader in the state’s House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, had already predicted during the campaign that the voter ID measure would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
Politicians typically try to walk back these moments. But not Donald Trump. There’s no such thing as a “hot mic” for this president. He even brushed off the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, claiming at one point that it wasn’t him speaking. And he doesn’t just say the quiet part out loud routinely; he memorializes it in writing in his Twitter feed.
Even his closest advisers expect this from him. You can see it in their faces.
In that context, consider what Trump said on Friday when trumpeting a surprising decline in official U.S. unemployment that the Boston Globe generously characterized as based on “iffy” data. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Trump revelled in how the analysts seem to have been proven wrong. His own economic adviser Kevin Hassett had warned of an impending 20 percent unemployment rate in June. Referring to the TV shows he spends most of his time watching, Trump said, “I think it was one of the greatest miscalculations in the history of business shows, business shows talking about Wall Street,” he said.
Reading from a prepared statement, Trump then managed to make some unremarkable but at least coherent points. For instance, he said:
Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement.
But the moment he strayed from the paper in front of him, the real Trump came out:
We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully George is looking down and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.
Trump then declared the economic figures were great “for African Americans, for Hispanic Americans, and for Asian Americans, and for everybody.”
Donald Trump is incapable of even pretending to have any empathy for a murder victim and his family. He also seems to be mocking the very idea of racial equality. He is a malignant narcissist who must make everything about himself — either by pointing to pseudo-accomplishments or playing the victim of the “worst attacks” in history. And so, Trump’s “tone-deafness” — as the mainstream media likes to call it — once again provoked the denunciations of other capitalist politicians and their media spokespeople.
CNN’s Maeve Reston said that this comment showed Trump’s “breathtaking disconnect from the pain and tumult that has unfolded in this country after George Floyd’s death. Speaking later in the day, Joe Biden criticized Trump: “George Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’ echoed all across this nation and, quite frankly, around the world. For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd I frankly think is despicable.”
These are strong words, but what about the crime bill that Biden wrote? Isn’t that despicable too, given that it led to the United States becoming the world’s leader in locking people up — especially people of color?
Trump will be Trump. Every time the political talking heads on TV think he’s hit a “new low,” he shows that he has no low. But don’t let his particular brand of “despicable” confuse you. What is most despicable is the system Trump, Biden, and all the Democrats and Republicans represent — a system they are working overtime these days to keep from unraveling as people stream into the streets and say “enough.”
Democrats and Republicans sometimes hide their real agenda behind pretty words and phrases. Biden does this a lot. Trump doesn’t really. What ultimately matters is their actions. Democrats and Republicans alike actively perpetuate racism, violence, and oppression. Our job is to help turn the rage that is exploding everywhere into a political movement that puts Trump, Biden, and the rest of them in the dustbin of history.