LTE: Political ideology is not an excuse for racial violence and exploitation

Anusha Kumar, Op-Ed Contributor

Caleb Nunes’ op-ed, “Conservatives need a bold domestic agenda to win in 2024,” reflects a high level of political engagement in conservative politics. I am glad students are participating in critical discussions regarding national democratic processes that directly impact them. 

However, the op-ed reveals more than just his beliefs about the Republican party’s ability to win the 2024 presidential election. The suggestions he proposed for an ideal conservative agenda are based on an ideology that inherently marginalizes and silences oppressed groups while uplifting colonial, capitalist and imperialist hierarchies. In praising the efforts of former President Ronald Reagan, Nunes and other modern-day conservatives commend a figure who demonized the African National Congress –– opponents of apartheid in South Africa –– and almost doubled the number of incarcerated people through his campaign on the War on Drugs. 

Yet in celebrating America’s 40th President, Nunes and other conservatives overlook the direct correlation between Reagan and our 45th president, Donald Trump, who Nunes vehemently criticizes in his subsequent op-ed, “Trump is wrong on trade.” Reagan-era policies contributed to a long pattern of presidential administrations silencing and harming marginalized individuals. 

It is imperative that dangerous political ideologies, including those advanced by Nunes, are recognized for their harmful nature. Nunes advocates for an agenda that aligns with conservatives’ tendencies to capitalize on economic fears among the shrinking white majority in the United States. Nunes’ first suggestion of a single flat tax would disproportionately impact Black and Brown households whose median income is significantly less than those in white households. 

Additionally, Nunes stands for increased investments in military and defense agencies, as well as more policing at the southern border. Such systems of policing, incarceration and surveillance have long been responsible for violence against Black, Brown and Indigenous folks in the U.S. and across the world.  

Lastly, Nunes recognizes the salience of climate change for young folks, but believes investment in free-market capitalism can “preserve our environment.” This inherently contradictory stance fails to recognize capitalism’s role in environmental destruction –– or its reliance on the exploitation of Indigenous land and natural resources. 

Nunes makes additional suggestions in the op-ed. Each of his propositions is concerning because of the disproportionate impact the changes would have on low-income, Black, Brown and Indigenous folks, but because of also the support many of the same policies would garner from decision-makers, stakeholders and institutions. For instance, Nunes mentioned increasing “border security” just weeks after the Biden administration elected to increase the budget of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by nearly $800 million in the proposed 2024 budget. ICE regularly uses racial profiling and violent intimidation tactics to target undocumented people of color. 

These conservative platforms, reflected in Nunes’ agenda, are often marketed as a political ideology. However, it’s important to note that no political ideology that endangers the human rights and livelihoods of any individual or group merits distinction as political discourse. Instead, these “ideologies” are part of a troubling pattern of uniquely American populism and fascism rooted in racism, xenophobia and classism. 

In a June 2020 interview, Black revolutionary Angela Davis argued that “we can’t eradicate racism without eradicating racial capitalism.” It is not enough to acknowledge the racist histories of capitalism. Rather, we must understand how modern-day capitalist agendas — advocated for by both conservatives, Nunes and liberals alike — exploit and endanger people of color. 

I denounce conservative policies, but I also criticize those of liberal and Democratic administrations as well. Both political parties have and continue to actively oppress communities of color, and while I dream of a world of transformative liberation, a political system inextricably tied to capitalism and colonial histories intensively limits those possibilities.

As such, I take a stand against such ideologies not only to consider my safety as a South-Asian woman of color, but also in solidarity with every queer, BIPOC and individual with disabilities who experiences violence, trauma and oppression on a daily basis. I take a stand with every activist who has come before us, whose legacy of resistance against colonial and carceral systems we continue. And, I take a stand with activists around the world who call on institutions of all kinds to push for transformative justice and a future where we are all free.

Anusha Kumar is a SESP first-year. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.