Bill O'Reilly believes that "traditional" America is dead. And he's not afraid to say it.
On his show Monday night, O'Reilly doubled down on his November 6th comments in which he stated, "It's not a traditional America anymore" and "the white establishment is now the minority." Responding to Daily Show host Jon Stewart's criticism of his original statements, O'Reilly claimed:
... a coalition of voters put the president back into the oval office. That coalition was non-traditional, which means it veered away from things like traditional marriage, robust capitalism, and self-reliance. Instead, each constituency that voted for the president -- whether it be single women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, whatever -- had very specific reasons for doing so.
O'Reilly went on to state that "traditional American voters... believe in American exceptionalism" and:
The majority of those who voted for President Obama want a large government that spends heavily on entitlements because that reduces so-called "income inequality." They want equality for gays in the marriage arena, they want unfettered abortion with no parental notification for minors, they want a one-world foreign policy that gives other nations equal status to America. Here's a bulletin to those pinheads at Comedy Central: Those are not traditional positions!
Maybe the "coalition" of Obama voters this election simply wanted a president who cares about the entire country, who believes in equality and justice for all, and who doesn't constantly change his mind and his public positions. But no matter -- leaving aside, for the moment, O'Reilly's utter misperception of major portions of the Democratic position, let's consider that he's not completely off-base. Maybe he's right. Maybe the positions taken by Obama supporters this election season aren't "traditional positions." But here's a question, Bill: Just how far back do you want to set the clock to "traditional" America?
Do you want to go back to the 1960s, when "traditional" meant so-called "separate but equal" facilities for blacks and whites? Or maybe you want to go even further back to the early 1900s, when "tradition" meant women weren't allowed to vote? Is that not back far enough? Oh, then perhaps you were thinking of going back to the 1800s, when we thought it was an important "tradition" that white landowning males held slaves who were counted as 3/5 of a person? Of course, America has a rich and varied history, so maybe you were thinking, Bill, of going back to the 1690s, when we "traditionally" hanged young girls for being witches?
I'm not sure how far Bill O'Reilly wants to go back, but I am sure that most cultures and societies don't progress in a consistent and positive manner using "tradition" as an excuse for the shameful behaviors of our past.
I'm assuming, of course, perhaps incorrectly, that O'Reilly is talking about "tradition" as far back as he can remember it, but the truth is, when we start discussing a fluid subject like "tradition," we really have to ask, whose? Thanksgiving was last week and perhaps O'Reilly should ask Native Americans what "traditional America" means to them -- because I can guarantee, Bill, it's not the same as what it means to you. Or maybe, we should try to figure out what "tradition" meant to the first British American settlers that ever set foot on this continent because to them, "tradition" probably meant the religious persecution by the royal government they were fleeing.
"Traditional America" may seem like an innocuous and perhaps even admirable goal, but the reality is, we can't run our society the way Bill O'Reilly wants just because "tradition" dictates it so. When someone like O'Reilly screams "tradition" as a justification for continuing a societal action, it's usually a death knell for progress, a death knell for innovation and often, a death knell for critical thought.
We do, though, at some point have to consider O'Reilly's specific statements on what "traditional America" is. "Traditional marriage" to O'Reilly means cutting the basic civil rights of couples to marry just because they happen to be of the same sex, but according to his logic, "traditional marriage" actually means polygamy. Seems a bit self-serving, doesn't it, Bill? O'Reilly is a self-described proponent of stricter border control, including saying we should be placing the National Guard at the U.S.-Mexican Border. So when he says one of our American "traditions" is self-reliance, is he completely ignorant of our actual reliance, both past and present, on immigrant labor?
Additionally, O'Reilly decries Obama supporters for being the ones who don't believe in "self-reliance" and "American exceptionalism" but here's news, Bill: the states which receive the most government assistance are red states, Republican states, also known as your viewers. Do they not believe in "traditional America," either? If not, O'Reilly seems to have a serious and for him, horrifying, problem: does no one in America believe in "tradition" anymore?
The reality is that we can't run a society based on what O'Reilly -- or anyone else -- thinks is a "traditional America." "Tradition" is a good reason for keeping people oppressed, keeping societies in the dark and keeping a country running based on repugnant human rights abuses.
Perhaps there is some merit in honoring "tradition," but to obstruct our nation's social progress because Bill O'Reilly believes in "traditional" Republican America can't be how we define ourselves now or ever again going forward. O'Reilly's own definitions of what "traditional America" is seem handpicked to support his own arguments, while he ignores many of the actual -- and atrocious -- "traditions" America once relied on.
So, if setting the clock back on equality and justice for all Americans doesn't matter, then, by all means, let's continue to chase "traditional America." But if progress, reform and the betterment of our society as a whole are what we're really after, then maybe it's time to let go of O'Reilly's romanticized nation of "tradition," once and for all.