"Obama wins because it's not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority. People want things." -- Bill O'Reilly, on Fox News, election night.
On election night, when it became clear that the Republican Party was not going to win the White House, nor take control of the Senate, and lose seats in the House, Republican analysts began their hand-wringing of what in the world happened.
Of all the many grasping theorists, Bill O'Reilly jumped out early, trying to sound important, profound. Instead, he sounded like Mitt Romney when Mr. Romney didn't think he was being recorded.
It was difficult to take Mr. O'Reilly seriously. After all, President Obama didn't win because "it's not a traditional America anymore." He won because he got more electoral votes. A lot more, in fact. 332 to 206. He got over half the popular votes, too. That's why he won.
And the white establishment isn't actually "the minority." In fact, according to the U.S. Census, white people make up 63.4 percent of America. Only in Bill O'Reilly world is that a minority, apparently because it allows for far too many of those pesky "others." The white establishment in the U.S. is doing just fine. Honest, 63.4 percent is a seriously impressive minority. And four-times the next largest group.
(On the other hand, if Mr. O'Reilly really does consider himself a minority, the good news is that he is now eligible for all those wonderful social welfare programs he has lamented!)
Bill O'Reilly was right about one thing, though. People do want things. Everybody does. Even the white establishment, even rich people. They want the government to give them lots of things. They want lower tax rates. They want corporate subsidies. They want tax write-offs. They want protective tariffs. They want tax shelters. They want stricter immigration laws. They want forced vaginal probes. (Well, not personally. I don't think. But for others.)
Everyone wants things.
Initially, I was willing to be gracious, and chalk up Bill O'Reilly's election night cry for help to his being dazed by the results. After all, if Mitt Romney could be "Shell-shocked," why shouldn't the whole "Fox News" team? If crack Fox analysts could be so disoriented by basic numbers that a hall monitor had to be sent off by a feverish Karl Rove to confirm reality, then why shouldn't Mr. O'Reilly be just as befuddled?
So, I sighed and let it pass. Until a week later when Bill O'Reilly, with plenty of time to calm down, turned out to be on the same wavelength as before and again told his audience:
The far left was a "...dangerous outfit, bent on destroying traditional America and replacing it with a social free-fire zone that drives dependency and poverty."
Obviously, he had meant it on election night. It wasn't just a moment of temporary insanity. This was something Bill O'Reilly wants you to actually believe.
It's so easy to dismiss what Bill O'Reilly said as the mere rantings of someone trying to sound analytical and wise but coming across as far more crazed than he realizes. And it's easy to paint it as racist or at least unknowingly pandering to racists. Or knowingly.
But rather than dismissing it out of hand and entering an accusatory world of misinterpretations, it's far better to just ask questions and let Mr. O'Reilly explain himself. And dig his own hole deeper.
Because in the end, stripping away all the hyperbole, Bill O'Reilly's statements boil down to one thing they have in common -- his unbending defense of a lost "traditional America."
It's one thing for others to assume what his "traditional America" is, but it's incumbent on Bill O'Reilly to explain what he means. To explain this Grand "traditional America" that must be cherished at all cost. And in doing so, hang himself.
What exactly is this "traditional America" that Bill O'Reilly longs for? Specifically.
Is it the "traditional America" of just 50 years ago -- during the lifetime of many Americans today -- when black people were disenfranchised from voting?
Is it the "traditional America" only 40 years before that, in 1919 -- still during the lifetime of today's Americans -- when women didn't have the actual right to vote.
Is it the "traditional America" before Social Security and Medicare existed to assist the elderly and needy? Are those part of the social free-fire zone he wants gone that have no place in a real, "traditional America?"
Is Bill O'Reilly's "traditional America" the America whose long tradition was no child labor laws and no 40-hour work week?
Or are all those too recent? He has to let us know. Is the "traditional America" that Mr. O'Reilly longs for the America of Our Founding Fathers, when the "traditional America" of our nation's roots legally led black people to be slaves?
Is Bill O'Reilly's "traditional America" the America where black people were prohibited from playing Major League Baseball, the American National Pastime? When they were blocked by law from drinking at the same water fountain as white people? When married women couldn't own property?
What "traditional America," specifically, is Bill O'Reilly bemoaning that doesn't exist any longer? What tradition, specifically, has been destroyed? Destroyed dangerously, no less.
Let's be clear: Bill O'Reilly wasn't complaining about laws he didn't like. He complained it's not a "traditional America" anymore." He said "traditional America" is being destroyed.
What is the "traditional America" that Bill O'Reilly wants back? Specifically. What is that world?
Because without him explaining, it looks like all he's saying is that it's an America where white people have the final say in everything, because 63.4 percent of America just isn't enough.
The tradition of America is change. That's why it's long been called, proudly, the "American Experiment."
Correction: This post previously stated that 78.1 percent of Americans were identified as white in the U.S. Census. While accurate, the author intended to address the percentage of Americans who are identified as 'white persons not Hispanic,' which is 63.4 percent of the American population.
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