House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) swearing in Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), pictured with her family.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) swearing in Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), pictured with her family. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We must begin by asking: Why is it so easy to expose the hypocrisy of the GOP's outrage over Rep. Rashida Tlaib's 'motherfucker' comment? We all know that the motherfucker in question has called black men exercising their rights as US citizens "sons of bitches." And by no means does it end there. He called black Africa a "shit-hole," called Chinese people "motherfuckers," and so on, and so on. The perplexing thing for some commentators is this: The outrage is either "fake or the people expressing it are colossally simple-minded," or the GOP thinks voters are stupid. Which is it? Have they forgotten that Trump, their leader, is the "master of rude"?

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No, they have not forgotten a damn thing. They know, you know, we all know who exactly Trump is and the foul things that regularly come out of his mouth. The outrage has nothing to do with the growing incivility of politics or protecting the ears of children. What the GOP is trying to assert is the only thing that holds Trump's power together: his apparent right to say and do whatever he wants. But we must dig deeper and ask: Why is it so important to maintain this perception of Trump's prerogative? Recall, he is not in jail and, with barely a scratch to his popularity, he has shutdown the government over a wall that polls show only his base wants.

In fact, if you read Rashida Tlaib's list of Trump's impeachable offenses...

...just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments. is a bit shocking he is still in the office at this moment, and is likely to remain there for the next two years.

Furthermore, many may wonder how in the world Trump had the nerve to make this statement about Tlaib:

I thought her comments were disgraceful.. I think she dishonored herself, and I think she dishonored her family using language like that in front of her son and whoever else was there... I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America.

Now, don't be surprised by this statement. It's not absurd or contradictory ("Trump slammed a Democratic representative's profanity as 'disgraceful' — right after reportedly cursing a bunch"). There is no hypocrisy here, no double standards. The logic of the statement is consistent with the form of his politics. His response to Tlaib's motherfucker comment means exactly what it means: If motherfucker comes out of his mouth, it is not disgracing the nation; but it if it comes out of Tlaib's (a Muslim, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, a woman), it is.

And this is what Tlaib re-exposed: the essence, the only meaning, the entire reason for Trump's presidency, which is to tell us all that he is free to do and say what he wants because he is a white man. This is what his base wants to hear and feel. It's why they voted for him and refuse to let him go, no matter what he says and does. He can even dishonor the war dead or a Gold Star family because there can be no dishonor if you are white (and openly proud to be so). But if a black man protests police violence? He is a disgrace to the nation. Any person of color who does not accept the pure (contentless) logic of white greatness or challenges it in any way is making America worse. Never has this understanding been made so starkly clear than in the motherfucker controversy.

We got used to this understanding (Trump says what he wants no matter what) until Tlaib directly voiced what most Americans think he is. And now that she has disrupted the sleep of everyday white power, Trump must reassert it by saying something even more shocking than "motherfucker" or "nasty woman." He has to go all the way: "that sand nigger." If he doesn't say it, and shows he can get away with it, and thereby normalize his form of politics, his presidency will face a serious crisis of meaning because racism (or, better yet, white exceptionalism) is its only meaning.