White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway is as true a bellwether as there is of the hypocrisy and soullessness of Republicans who support Donald Trump.
Those traits were on brilliant display this weekend, as Conway gave a talk for The Family Leader, an ostensibly Christian group that supports a president who wants to break up families and destroy health care for tens of millions of people.
The nominal “highlight” of the talk was Conway's insistence that she would “never play the gender card,” followed closely by an expert playing of the gender card:
“But so much of the criticism of me is so gender-based.”
Now, decent people don't consider that, or anything, a “gender card,” but rather a recognition that women actually do face challenges and discrimination that are not the same as, say, Sean Spicer being called fat.
For Conway to defend the sexism and misogyny that women face at the hands of her boss, then demand snowflake treatment for herself, pretty much sums up Conway's level of self-awareness.
But more than anything Conway said, it was the act of speaking to this group that was most revealing. Trump prevailed in 2016 by leaning heavily into white resentment, and so it is little wonder that The Family Leader may sound a little bit familiar to some of you.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, the group penned a hateful “Marriage Vow” for candidates to sign indicating that they would please like to destroy thousands of legal marriages between same-sex couples. That pledge, which was signed by Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, contained this later-excised passage:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household* than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
It was a lie, and a racist lie, but also a window into the flip side of the Republican racism that fueled Trump's victory and allows these people to rationalize following a candidate who demonstrates such naked racial resentment.
They couch their racism in “compassion” for black people who are stuck on what they call the “Democrat plantation,” rather than voting against their own interests like most white people.
It's a much more prevalent and casual form of racism, one at which Conway is practiced. During the 2008 Democratic primary, for example, she suggested that then-Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) were trying to decide if Obama should “sit in the back of the bus” on her presidential ticket (emphasis added):
“... This is what [John McCain] was doing behind the scenes while Hillary and Obama argue about whether she should let him sit on the back of the bus of her presidential ticket.”
Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons called Conway out, and her response was to accuse him of not getting the metaphor:
SIMMONS: “Larry, we have to address that. We have to address that. This 'back of the bus' comment is beyond the pale. I think Senator Clinton, whatever our disagreements are between the two candidates, Senator Clinton has never done or said anything that would imply that she would rather have Barack Obama sitting in the back of her campaign bus.”
CONWAY: “No, as VP. You aren't paying attention.”
SIMMONS: “No, you are not speaking clearly, because that's out of line.”
CONWAY: “No, she doesn't want him to be the first black president. She wants him to be her VP. She said that this week. She would consider putting him on her ticket, but I guess he wouldn't consider putting her on his ticket, would he?”
KING: “Did you use the term 'back of the bus'?”
CONWAY: “I did. I just said —”
CONWAY: “Meaning that she wants — she has said she would have Barack Obama as her VP. Thereby, she is denying something that many Republicans are not denying, that Barack Obama has a very strong chance of becoming this country's first black president, that someone like me respects.”
SIMMONS: “We can move along. I was there for a lot of Bill Clinton and Al Gore's time, and Al Gore never sat in the back of the bus.”
CONWAY: “You're missing the whole metaphor.”
No, I think he got it just fine.
Conway is smart enough not to actually believe the tropes that fuel historical Republican racism, but like many others, she is perfectly willing to indulge them in order to protect a status quo that advantages people who look like her.
WATCH: The Trump Presidency explained in one video, acted out by the President