One of the most annoying media narratives of the Trump era has been the notion that Donald Trump is some sort of alien life form who beamed into Republican politics to suddenly marshal racism, misogyny, and general white male resentment, rather than simply being the one who has best exploited them.
Among the many illustrations of that fact is the long, long Republican political career of Kellyanne Conway née Fitzpatrick, who has been around long enough to have marveled twice at a billionaire rooking white working class people into thinking he's one of them. What's important to know about Conway is that before she sold her sense of cleanliness to become Donald Trump's campaign manager, she was a highly respected and very mainstream Republican operative for decades.
I mention that to set up this 1995 clip of Conway (then Fitzpatrick) holding forth on affirmative action, not with radical fringe space-alien ideas, but with the mainstream Republican view of addressing institutionalized racism and discrimination, one which describes the 2016 Trump voter to a tee:
“Most Americans believe that when you take someone else to a point, you're automatically bringing someone else who has earned their place there down.”
This is the heart and soul of Trump's appeal, that white — and especially male — supremacy is something that was somehow “earned” and must be protected from the undeserving, and Conway was selling it 22 years ago. As you'll see in the fuller clip at the end, she even specifically referenced immigration along with affirmative action.
Of course, that was Conway speaking solo to a conservative audience. Things were quite a bit different when she participated in a 1998 panel on women and affirmative action. Things seemed to be going well when she tried to sell the idea that Generation X rejected feminism because they needed their daddies, and wanted to “Leave it to Beaver,” or some shit, but that momentary reaction shot from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was a sign of things to come:
Later in the program, however, Conway went through an epic series of owns that started with a member of the audience pointing out Conway's own lack of perspective on the experiences of women in co-ed education. Conway responded by claiming that she has been subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment and that the remedy for such crimes is not government, but God. She really said that:
“I feel anything but shielded from anything, but you know, I'm sure, as any woman in this room, let alone around this table, have sure been the victim of discrimination and sexism and sexual harassment, but the remedies have come, frankly, from where I placed my trust, starting with myself and my family and God.”
Holmes Norton, not at all surprisingly, had an answer for Conway and her New Girls Network:
“The major of point of affirmative action, frankly, is to get at what some call white male preference, what you were calling unofficial discrimination, how much the entire world has been put together by unofficial discrimination ... When your experience has been that the white males who look just like you gave you exactly what you wanted, why should you, on your own, go out to change that paradigm? The reason that you need affirmative action is that there is absolutely no practical reason for the individual to undo what unofficial discrimination has done for him ... Your old girls' network has a long way to go before it successfully competes with the old boys' network.”
The destruction didn't end there, though, as Marcia Greenberger, Karen Narasaki, the late activist Dorothy Height, and late consultant Jean Head Sisco all took turns dunking on Conway. It was all fantastic, but the best was yet to come:
“Free enterprise” flack Diana Furchtgott-Roth (then with the American Enterprise Institute) tried to ride to Conway's rescue with extra doses of smarm, proposing a condescending and super-dumb theory of equality that Holmes Norton blew to pieces with a mic drop that literally left Furchtgott-Roth speechless:
The bitter irony is that Conway is, in many respects, the ultimate beneficiary of affirmative action, building her career around being a woman who was dedicated to upholding the white male status quo. Donald Trump isn't a deviation from that path, he is the culmination of it.