When the Right starts talking about white privilege we are in trouble: Conservatives aren’t going to win by using Left-wing talking points

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)


In the protracted daytime soap opera that passes for today’s U.S. Congress, Hunter Biden’s surprise appearance led the highlight reels all last week.

Last Wednesday, the president’s embattled son made a dramatic entrance during a House Oversight Committee meeting, just as said committee was drafting a resolution to hold him in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena in December.

It’s not clear what the purpose of the unexpected visit was — if Biden sought to come off as intimidating, he undoubtedly failed — but if nothing else, it gave pundits and talking heads something to shout at one another about, at least for a couple hours.

But what was most notable about the drama was not the 53-year-old Biden, nor his entourage of lawyers and cameramen, nor the cycle of general shock and outrage that his arrival in the People’s House precipitated.

It was the response of Nancy Mace, a second-term Republican congresswoman from South Carolina who happens to sit on the House committee that Biden briefly graced with his presence.

Mace, never one to pass up the prospect of a 30-second cable news soundbite, jumped at the opportunity to confront Biden directly: “You are the epitome of white privilege. Coming into the oversight committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed — what are you afraid of? You have no balls.”

After a few moments of angry interruptions from her Democratic colleagues on the committee, she insisted: “I’m speaking. Are women allowed to speak here? Are women allowed to speak in here, or no?”

Minutes later, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene — once one of Mace’s chief antagonists within the House GOP —  reiterated the point: “I think it’s clear and obvious for everyone watching this hearing today that Hunter Biden is terrified of strong conservative Republican women.”

Mace’s and Greene’s voters could be forgiven for wondering if their ballots were mismarked when they checked the box for a candidate with an “R” next to their name.

Voters can’t expect much from the GOP these days, but they should be able to bank on a general aversion to preening, corporate-girlboss, I-am-a-strong-empowered-woman grandstanding. More to the point, the bare minimum we should be able to ask for from the ostensibly conservative party in American politics is to not be lectured about “white privilege”. With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?

Mace is, admittedly, on the Left-wing of the GOP conference. And she surely thought she was striking a blow against Democrats by skewering their president’s son for his “white privilege”. But in reality, she handed them an ideological victory by legitimising the concept of white privilege itself — and the host of toxic implications that underlie it.

This error is by no means confined to Mace. It is a version of the old, deeply misguided Republican aphorism that “Democrats are the real racists” — as if adopting the Left’s epithet and using it against them were enough to win the battle of ideas.

In nearly every policy debate imaginable, one hears a version of this argument from the Right. “Systemic racism” — a dubious Left-wing premise that, more often than not, relies on the idea that racial disparities are ipso facto proof of racial discrimination — is attributed to a wide suite of Left-wing causes.

Abortion is systemically racist, because black babies are aborted in disproportionately high numbers. Minimum wage laws are systemically racist, because they tend to box out nonwhites from the labor market. Public schools are systemically racist, because they deprive black and brown communities of better educational opportunities. Our welfare system is systemically racist, because of its negative impact on the black family. The list goes on.

On their face, none of these arguments actually undermine Democrats. When it comes to racism — specifically, the concept of systemic racial discrimination against nonwhites — the Right is playing on the Left’s turf. By defining the debate in their opponents’ terms, conservatives have surrendered the battle before it even begins.

But more fundamentally, by adopting the Left’s ideological framework, conservatives undermine their own argument.

The idea that the disparate racial impact of particular Left-wing policies is tantamount to “systemic racism” represents an embrace of the asinine worldview espoused by Ibram X. Kendi and other critical race theorists.

If the disparate impact of abortion is “systemic racism,” as I pointed out in a column back in 2021, a Leftist like Kendi is “right about all of the policies that he decries as racist, too. We don’t get to pick and choose here: Either disparate racial impact proves systemic racism, or it doesn’t.”

The simple fact is that “systemic racism” and “white privilege,” as they are conceived of by both their Left- and Right-wing advocates, are simply not true.

Every policy affects different groups in different ways; most policies affect some groups more negatively than others. That simple reality is not, in and of itself, proof of “racism.” And Hunter Biden’s decadent life is not the result of “white privilege” — it’s the result of his father’s corrupt, self-dealing career. Going forward, Mace and her Republican counterparts might consider focusing on that.