After I watched the first presidential debate last night, I asked myself how someone as unprepared to serve as president, as ill informed about the world and national policy, and as badly composed could be the nominee of one major political party. Many citizens must have been asking the same question, and I will add, although I shouldn’t have to, that the question pretty much ignores the politics of it all. The perplexity has to do with the candidate, not his policies (?) or his Party’s policies.
It then occurred to me that Trump may be the ultimate affirmative action candidate, and here I am using “affirmative action” in the parodied, distorted sense its many critics have used it. In their minds or in their cynical rhetorical strategies, affirmative action means that unqualified candidates take jobs that White candidates deserve because of liberals and their quota systems. In reality, affirmative action mostly means this: because racism and bigotry have been at the heart of American history from the get go, perhaps some proactive (affirmative, as opposed to passive) steps to enlarge candidate pools should be taken. I teach at a university that is “an affirmative action employer.” All that has ever meant here is that the university advertises jobs so as to attract women candidates and candidates of color. It has never meant that any department or program must hire person X because of that person’s gender or ethnic background. Never.
But using affirmative action in the reactionary, parodic way, one may easily conclude that Trump is that affirmative action candidate the White Right has always warned us about. He is completely unqualified for the job, if we take experience, temperament, knowledge of history, knowledge of global politics, grasp of policy, grasp of economics, ability to handle complexity soberly, patience, etc., into account. But a mass of “angry White voters” wants him because they must have a White reactionary, and even a White Supremacist, president. Birtherism is nothing more than an iteration of showing that “uppity” Black man who’s boss.
Trump’s supporters suffer from the cognitive dissonance of there having been a Black president for 8 years. Even White evangelicals are flocking, so to speak, to Trump’s candidacy. Don’t laugh! I’m just spit-balling here, but I can’t see evidence of Trump’s representing a Christian view of the world. He is, for one thing, the Mammon candidate.
Even the media are in on the game. They tend to normalize the horror he represents. They discuss him as just another Republican nominee, except for his fame and eccentricity. The appropriate responses–incredulity, perplexity, outrage, urgency, figurative evisceration–are infrequent, at best.
Somewhere between 35 and 40 million citizens will vote for Trump–maybe more. They will do so because they must have a White male president, a White avaricious male demagogue, racist, misogynist, and xenophobe. Qualifications be damned. The country be damned.