On Tuesday night’s O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly condemned efforts to abolish the Electoral College system as a “hidden” liberal plot to marginalize working-class white voters and take the power “away from the white establishment.”
“This is all about race,” O’Reilly said. “The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore, white working-class voters must be marginalized.”
The Talking Points segment may have slipped by largely unnoticed by liberals who don’t regularly watch Fox News if not for the fact that the cable network tweeted out the “white establishment” quote. Twitter users quickly jumped on the tweet as an admission by the conservative commentator that there is a white establishment at all.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 21, 2016
Some appeared to reluctantly agree with the O’Reilly quote, while others saw it as evidence that the Fox News host was pushing further into white supremacy politics.
I… yes. Okay. Honestly. Yes. https://t.co/nUrWMpBkpb
— mcc (@mcclure111) December 21, 2016
this is… unusually direct https://t.co/NVmExnVMQa
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) December 21, 2016
When I was on Fox News earlier today, they were denying systematic white supremacy. Now Bill O'Reilly says this https://t.co/7bBYFSvKYp
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) December 21, 2016
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) December 21, 2016
Closer to the mark than 99% of O'Reilly's talking points segments. https://t.co/XBzs6190V0
— subscribe to my newsletter (@brianbeutler) December 21, 2016
He's not wrong. https://t.co/VFjYTHxyDV
— ana marie cox (@anamariecox) December 21, 2016
Furthering my theory that conservatives are often right, but almost always for the wrong reasons. https://t.co/PiJBSB87IA
— Greg Jarrell (@gregontuck) December 21, 2016
Clearly, in context, O’Reilly’s argument is not some endorsement of liberal politics but a mocking warning to white Americans who feel oppressed by historically marginalized communities as the U.S. population becomes more racially diverse.
In fact, this is not the first time O’Reilly has admitted the existence of a “white establishment.” On Election Night in 2012, he lamented the end of “traditional America” ahead of President Barack Obama‘s reelection, claiming that “the white establishment is now the minority.”
So, this is clearly something O’Reilly—who, one could argue, is a heavyweight in this white establishment—has been thinking about for years. The Electoral College fight is just the latest talking point he’s used to further this narrative.
It is true that many liberals and Democrats have called to abolish the Electoral College since the victory of President-elect Donald Trump, who solidly won the electoral vote despite losing the national popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.
It is also true that race is part of the argument against the institution; as the New York Times editorial board wrote in a recent op-ed against the Electoral College, “it is a living symbol of America’s original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes.”
The anti-Electoral College movement is also a reaction to the feeling of inherent unfairness in a system that denies the presidency to the candidate who received the most votes—by counting the votes of citizens in more populous (and more diverse) states less than those in more rural (and more white) states.