The Right’s Obsession with Donald Glover

Geez, what won’t they complain about?

Like the melting of conservative snowflakes after Starbucks announced its initiative to address implicit bias among its employees (and boy, is such training needed), there is plenty of morbid humor to be derived from the wingnut freakout over Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover’s hit single “This is America,” and what right-wingers regard as the politically correct, race-baiting nature of the song’s lyrics and video. Seriously, why do they even care? If they disliked Glover’s message so much, wouldn’t they ignore it?

Apparently not. The conservative crackpots going after Glover are furious because Glover and other progressive-minded performers influence American culture in a way right-wingers never will. Jealousy is at the heart of their attack.

As my colleague David Atkins noted a few weeks back, even though the right controls the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court, a majority of governorships, a majority of state legislatures, the Fox News Channel, Breitbart, et. al., conservatives still feel like they’re victims. That sense of victimization is directly linked to the right’s limited influence over American popular culture.

The right’s sense of grievance about pop culture is the number-one reason why conservatives turned out in force in early-2004 to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and in early-2015 to see Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. The box-office success of both films had little to do with quality—and lots to do with the desire by future Trumpists to say “screw you!” to their perceived progressive enemies.

Why else would right-wingers fall all over themselves to embrace Kanye West once he came out as a MAGA-maniac? As the New York Times observed last month:

The journalist Alex Wagner, a host of the Showtime series “The Circus” and a former editor in chief of the culture magazine The Fader, said that the right latching on to Mr. West’s statements was no surprise given the dearth of options.

“Do you remember how hard a time Donald Trump had getting celebrities for his inauguration?” she said. “So to have an incredibly powerful and influential musician — and a black musician at that — come out and don a Make America Great Again cap, it’s a gift to Trump.”

Indeed, the right’s embrace of West and simultaneous scorn of Glover has plenty to do with the color of their skin. Just as an earlier generation of conservatives held up Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell as examples of “good” African-Americans in contrast to the allegedly villainous Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, so too will this generation of conservatives hold up West as an example of “proper” black behavior, as opposed to that of Glover.

Of course, once an entertainer embraces right-wing politics, that entertainer usually loses their influence on popular culture. If you’ve made money appealing to the 99 percent, then suddenly decide that your allegiance really lies with the 1 percent, the 99 percent will obviously stop valuing your point of view—and who can blame the 99 percent for doing so?

More than money, more than power, more than fame, conservatives want desperately to be considered cool, to the point where they will build up certain media figures and proclaim those media figures to be cool, hoping that the popular culture buys into such a false framing. Over the past few decades, right-wingers tried to convince the rest of America that William F. Buckley Jr., Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and (most recently) Donald Trump were cool; the rest of America never really bought it.

The attacks on Glover illustrate and underscore the inherent pathetic and self-loathing nature of the American right, its deep insecurity about its place in American culture, its unrestrained envy towards those who truly shape and influence the minds of the next generation. Right-wingers desire being cool even more than Trump desired Stormy Daniels. What right-wingers will never and can never understand that, like reality, coolness has a liberal bias.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.