There’s one reason Trump can get away with a vulgar, dysfunctional White House: He’s white

The White House’s bad boys benefit from the privilege that society grants white men.

Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, takes questions from reporters. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, takes questions from reporters. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Trump White House produces one salacious headline after another, and in the process, exposes the glaring double-standard and privilege automatically bestowed upon white men. Do we dare stop to think about what might have been said and done if, during the eight years of the Obama administration, a single black official committed any one of the scandalous mishaps that now seem to be a daily occurrence?

The right-wing media echo chamber surely would have released the hounds of Hades to defame and distract from the ambitions of the nation’s first African American president. What’s more, Obama’s most racist critics would have spread any misstep or political shortcoming as a referendum on the ability of black Americans to lead, govern, or exercise power. As it was, several members of this echo chamber tried to do just that, despite the fact that the Obama White House ranks among the least scandal-plagued administrations in recent history, something even its critics reluctantly acknowledge.

But the worst part of the racist vitriol directed at Obama and his family was the impact it had on everyday black Americans, who saw putative political attacks on the president and his polices as proxies for how many white Americans view African Americans.

By contrast, no such stigma of bad-boy behavior from the White House is deemed representative of white men or their kinfolk. For anyone who doubts its existence, the stench emanating from the Trump administration is a textbook definition of white privilege. Despite displaying a level of incompetence and moral deviance that is uncommon in rational democracies, the phalanx of white men surrounding the Oval Office bear no burden or shame as white Americans; their despicable behavior rests solely with them as individuals, not representatives of a race.

Consider, for example, just the most recent seven days during which the president repeatedly humiliated Attorney General Jeff Sessions, interjected self-aggrandizing politics into what should have been apolitical speeches at a Boy Scout Jamboree and dedication of the USS Gerald Ford, and issued a policy-by-Twitter that shocked the Pentagon with orders to prevent transgender people from serving in the armed forces.


That’s just the president. His newly appointed communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, aping the locker room mentality of the West Wing, described his rivals in the White House in lurid and profane language.

Perhaps all this foolishness might be forgivable, if the administration were functioning with any semblance of productivity, but it isn’t. As my ThinkProgress colleague Ryan Koronowski recently put it, Trump has bragged about how he “alone can fix” Washington’s problem. Yet after six months in office he’s produced “a boulevard of broken dreams.”

The pinnacle of his inability to fashion and navigate policies through Congress came in the wee hours Friday morning as Senate Republicans failed to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — a feat Trump claimed would be “so easy” and “would be done on Day One” of his administration.

Dysfunction is the new normal in the White House. The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson recently noted that the administration is governed by royal “whim and fiat,” and the sycophantic white men doing its bidding are “The Court of Mad King Donald.”


“However long it persists, we must never allow ourselves to think of the Trump White House as anything but aberrant,” Robinson wrote.

Aberrant, perhaps. But as D. Watkins, an editor at Salon, recently wrote, “Trump is Privilege 101,” but has taken his privilege “to a scary new level, far past 101; I’m talking about PRIV 307.” In other words, Watkins writes, there’s a method to the madness in Trump’s exercise of white privilege:

[T]he 45th president tweets wresting clips starring himself, is a reigning MVP of sexual assault allegations, currently being investigated by a Justice Department special counsel, and has fallen short on many of his campaign promises. His gross amount of privilege is evident when you realize that he still has a job.

What if Barack Obama had played more golf in the first 100 days on the taxpayers’ dime than Bush did his entire time in office? What if Obama was suspected of cheating to get into the White House or caught swooning over his daughters. Would he have a job? Would he have even come close to winning? No. That is privilege at work.

His privilege allows him to get away with being a disconnected goofy old guy and then he uses it to distract from the things that matter.

Not that he ever sought to debase his office and reputation, but President Obama wouldn’t have survived in the court of public opinion for an hour as President Trump has for the entirety of his shameless time in office. The contrast is starkly evident as we examine the treatment of back-to-back presidents — one who is a graceful and well-spoken leader and another who is a petulant and childlike narcissist. The prevailing privilege afforded white men allows them to be judged by completely different standards of decency.