Are Trump Supporters Racists?

One is tempted to say yes, although one can imagine people supporting Trump because of a deadly mass psychosis different from racism/White Supremacy.  Something to do with xenophobia or misogyny, perhaps. Also, to parse the question with a bit more subtlety, one might argue that, in order to support Trump, people at least have to overlook or tolerate his racism, and especially at this stage of American history, toleration of racism is the same as racism because of the effects, which are both chronic and acute.

But how do we know Trump is racist?  Okay, I’ll play along.  Well, he and his father tried to bar African Americans from renting/buying their residential property in New York.  Also, Trump tried to de-legitimize candidate Obama by suggesting that Obama was born in Kenya, and of course this birtherism invited a range of other corrosive ideas: that a) Obama is Muslim, and b) that being Muslim is a bad thing; that Obama had various secret plans to . . . .take away Americans’ guns, use a syringe to inject “Sharia Law” into the Constitution, and so on. And now Trump is allowing his Attorney General to return to the excessive sentencing of African Americans for drug offenses, part of the “New Jim Crow” about which Michelle Alexander has written persuasively, piling up empirical evidence as she does so.

There is also the context of the GOP, which, after it absorbed the Dixiecrats, pursued (and continues to pursue) the racist Southern Strategy, used a variety of thin disguises to appeal White Supremacy (GOP operative Lee Atwater copped to this), supported the War on Drugs, which was and is a war on Black folks, and so on.  That is, we’re talking about systematic, deliberate, lethal racism–not a slip of the tongue, a gap in knowledge, or a half-conscious absorption of stereotyping.  Obviously these latter sorts of “racist moments,” although still wrong, deserve some slack. Some slack.   All White folks face a learning curve when it comes to race, as well as an unlearning-curve.  Learning and unlearning can take a lifetime.  In my case, it has taken a lifetime.

Also, to anticipate an objection, yes, of course, a supporter of Democrats can be racist; there are plenty of examples.  And not supporting Trump or the GOP doesn’t mean one has to support Democrats.

But the GOP has deliberately joined the line of history that goes from slavery to the post-Reconstruction nadir (a reign of terror in the South), Jim Crow (more terror), de facto segregation, racist financial and law-enforcement practices, the aforementioned Southern Strategy, the disrespecting of the first Black president in ways that go far beyond tough politics,  and so on.

Look, I get why smart people recoil at the suggestion that a Trump supporter is, by definition, racist.   For they have cultivated an internal detector that senses knee-jerk labeling. But in the case of Trump, and indeed of the GOP, it’s way past time to give people who support them a break with regard to racism.  The Confederate flag doesn’t stand for “heritage,” any more than Nazi regalia stands for achievements in beer-making and automotive design.  The Southern Strategy has roots in slavery.  So I don’t think it’s crude, unwarranted, or unfair to conclude that Trump supporters, at the very least, tolerate racism and White Supremacy–given American history, and American political history.  The burden of proof belongs to the supporters; they have to show they don’t help keep systematic racism potent.  There is no good reason to finesse this issue.

Link: Nell Irvin Painter on Whiteness in the Trump Era: Nell Irvin Painter

 

 

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The Real Taboo Topics of American Politics

In many respects, Trump and the phenomena surrounding him represent a toxic residue of almost everything wrong, indeed evil, about the GOP and American society.  He and his followers are White Supremacists or tolerators thereof.  The same goes for misogyny, anti-intellectualism, and a brutishly indifference to environmental collapse.  Throw in reckless, often criminal foreign policy and the perpetual economic scam, “trickle-down economics” (which is, among other things, a method to loot economy), and you have most of the package.

One more key feature, however, is what I’ll call the real political correctness.  You will remember that one of Trump’s go-to, complacent excuses in the campaign for having said or done something grotesque was to label the critique a product of “political correctness” and move on, accompanied by the cheers of zombies.

I always thought the rise of the political correctness concept was complete bullshit.  Pardon my French. It was simply a lazy way to make an excuse for being too inflexible to change habits of thinking with regard to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and so on.  I’m so old, I remember when the idea of using non-sexist phrasing–for instance, not using “men” and related pronouns to stand for all people–was considered politically correct.  Have there been people who were over-zealous about marking resistance to change?  Of course.  So what?  There are a range of over-zealous people (recently they elected a depraved, barking mad president) in workplaces, professions, and at large.  Their presence doesn’t amount to a an excuse not to adapt one’s language and thinking.

Meanwhile, down the decades, the real bedrock political correctness belongs almost exclusively to the White right wing.  Here are some examples of topics that, systemically, American treats as taboo topics:

The military-industrial complex about which Eisenhower (not a “liberal”) warned us.  In media, politics, and society at large, one almost never sees or hears a serious discussion of economic and political engine, which drives everything from formulations of budgets to foreign policy.

White Supremacy and, specifically, the White Supremacy of the GOP.  The “Southern Strategy” is plainly racist and White Supremacist, rooted in a Southern and Midwest tradition of Jim Crow, terror, de facto segregation, jerrymandering, and “voter suppression”: Jim Crow.

Anti-labor thuggery.  The White Right has basically neutered labor movements; recall that one of Reagan’s first moves was to fire unionized air-traffic controllers.  Then came the “right to work” laws (great Orwellian phrasing) used to gut unionization.

The abject horrors of American justice.  The sheer number of people we imprison and how we imprison them are evil, and that’s before we raise the subjects of race, poverty,  militarized, unaccountable police forces, the war on Black people [“drugs”], and the school-prison pipeline.  Emblematic of this nightmare: Walter Sullivan, a middle-aged Black man, unarmed, running away from a policeman, shot in the back and killed.  The policeman then plants a gun next to the body.  The trial of the policemen results in no verdict, in spite of videotaped evidence.  Tamir Rice: slaughtered.  Freddie Gray: neck broken during an arrest.  Michael Brown: shot and killed, his body left uncovered in the street for hours as a trophy of White Supremacist policing.

Almost all Whites, including Bernie Sanders, get to be indifferent to such topics.  They get to drool such phrases as “well, ‘they’ shouldn’t commit crimes,” “I’m tired of talking about race,” “my family worked for everything it has” [thanks for the non sequitur].  The State of Michigan and the U.S. government get to react sluggishly, or not at all, to lead poisoning.  The new EPA director gets to dismiss global warming, the settled science behind the idea, and the consequences.  The White Chief Trump gets to brag about sexual assault on video/audio and get elected President.

Meanwhile, the media get to treat both parties as if they are morally the same, when mountains of evidence suggest the GOP is at base evil, not just a typically slippery, corrupt political party like the Democrats.  They get to treat “the Southern Strategy” as if it were some kind of cute chess-move and not a continuation of the Civil War.  They cheerfully go along with “the war on terror,” the war crimes that came along with it, and the ancillary rampant xenophobia that Trump promotes.

The real political correctness is the kind that normalizes the evils the GOP.  Trump is a direct consequence of this political correctness, which sneers at the slightest hint of critique or objection, and which informs the Goebbels-like propaganda of Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, the president’s press secretary, and so on.

I recall viewing a Trump campaign rally at which, after Trump had said something ugly about Senator Clinton, a supporter yelled, “String her up.”  The crowd cheered.  Trump enjoyed the moment.  White Supremacy, in the form of lynch-talk, and vicious misogyny. Completely acceptable in our society.

“Populism”?

Here is a definition of populism:

  • S: (n) populism (the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite). [From wordnet via Princeton U.]

Given this definition, I can see why more than a few people might find the word almost useless with regard to the victory of Trump’s campaign.

First, Trump is of the privileged elite, obviously, and second, he wallows in this status in front of his followers.  Why the working-class sector of his followers celebrate his elitism has answers in studies of psychology, racism, misogyny, White Supremacy, mass media, and American history.   Second, perhaps they also truly believe he will represent and support their “struggle with the privileged elite; if so, then Pseudocracy did indeed triumph in this election.  Online, I’ve seen the term “drain the swamp” used by his supporters.  It is of course mostly an empty signifier, ready to be deployed in the service of blind rage and cultivated ignorance.  But even if we agree that it can refer to replacing elite insiders in government with commoners, it remains preposterous.  Most of Trump’s announced appointees seem to have spent a lot of time in the swamp.

I wonder if it’s also likely that Trumpster populism is actually anti-populism, a reaction against the demographic shifts in “the populace” that are making it less White, less Christian.  Trump’s loss of the popular vote may support this conjecture, and at any rate, the loss is certainly ironically counter-populists.  Trump’s obvious taste for authoritarianism and bullying help the irony to spike.

At the moment, I don’t see any effective means for opposing Trump’s anti-populist scheme to pimp the rage that springs from angry ignorance and ignorant anger. For one thing, his anti-populism relies on a disdain for facts, hallucinations induced by slogans (“Lock her up!”), and a depraved indifference to sensible solutions.  A cult-leader, Trump will probably not have to face any serious consequences for failing miserably to address material conditions unfavorable to those not wealthy, those not elite, and he will continue to benefit from expressed, livid opposition to parts of the populace that struggle mightily: many immigrants, many African Americans, many LGBTQ persons, many Muslims, and many women.

Uncomfortable Questions About the Next U.S. President

As noted in a recent post, I frequently asked myself and others over the past year or so why Trump wouldn’t be elected, and although occasionally I allowed myself to think he would not, I never really believed that a significant percentage of White voters wouldn’t vote for him–or do something with their vote equally as stupid.  My realism or pessimism was based on two assumptions: the U.S. remains a deeply, perhaps fatally, White Supremacist nation (empire), and its misogyny is also difficult to over-estimate, even among women.

Now that Trump is President, I find myself asking questions that are, in their specifics, perhaps more alarming than “Why wouldn’t they -White Americans – elect a White Supremacist, sexually predatory, misogynistic, politically irrational man?”

Such as . . .

  1. Why wouldn’t Trump deploy nuclear weapons?  What is to stop him?  Not the military structure, and not the governmental structure, not the advisers he is appointing, and not his capacity to make sober judgments or think about consequences.  He embodies  nihilistic impulsiveness.
  2. Why wouldn’t Trump’s presidency approve of/instigate even more violence against Blacks, LGBQT persons, Latinos, the press, and anyone perceived to be Left of Himmler? We already know his administration will be White Supremacist and misogynist, and we already know the sadistic nature of his campaign and his rallies.  And we can see how racist police personnel and White nationalists are emboldened, further licensed to spread misery and lethal harm.  (The FBI warned in 2006 of significant infiltration by White Supremacists in American police departments.)  Trump’s apparent pick for Attorney General is the Segregationist  Jeff Sessions, who regards the NAACP and the ACLU as un-American and “Communist.”  For what this appointment might mean, see this article: Jeff Sessions
  3. Why wouldn’t Trump wreck the national and global economy?  His own business-management “style” seems to be reckless and sometimes hopelessly inept.  His main skills are bullying, cheating, and declaring bankruptcy. His personality is such that he focuses mainly on looting, and now he may loot the largest economy in the world. We also know how vacuous he is with regard to history, economics, law, and–well, anything involving complexity. You might even say his campaign was the anti-knowledge, anti-complexity campaign.  The debates made that plain.  One participant was informed and rational (Clinton); the other, not.

People recoil from such questions, and why wouldn’t/shouldn’t they?  They want everything to seem all right, and they just want to get through their day.   Plus a significant majority of White people expect great (positive) things from Trump, not great disasters, in spite of mountains of evidence pointing (along the Bayesian spectrum of probability) to the contrary.  They view is having been elected with relief and joy, ecstasy.

Few people find comfort in acknowledging the likelihood of enormous disasters because, well, such acknowledgement requires discomfort and discourages the normalization or minimization of evil.  I can’t seem to put away these and other questions only because they seem logical to me, but that’s probably not a good enough reason to keep bothering people with them (this blog post notwithstanding).

A final question, one that is, I hope, less dour, alarmist, and cautiously pessimistic–and more academic: Is there a future for rhetoric, for public discourse that is in some fashion tethered to reason, logic, and some evidence?  It now seems an eon ago that a lot of us were concerned about “truthiness,” that slurring/blurring  of accuracy, agreed upon facts, and well defined terms.  Now the greater problem seems to be a complete rejection even of discourse that pretends to be rational.  For one main rhetorical message of the Trump campaign was anti-rhetorical.  It was “Shut up if you don’t agree with me.” Secretary Clinton’s knowledge of and experience with policy and her debate-preparation meant almost nothing when pitted against the beastly irrationality of Trump’s movement. And  I lost count of the Trump supporters who proclaimed, “I don’t care what he says–I support him.”  That seems like a post-rhetoric, post-propaganda stance.  Cultish. Will rhetoric be relegated to a hobby played by people who seek escape from the futility of trying to stop what Trump and his gangs will do?

 

 

 

Why Did Trump Get Elected President: Coda

Statistics on the White vote vis a vis Trump:

Working class White voters 72 to 23 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White non-college-educated women: 62 to 34 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White college-educated men: 54 to 39 per cent in Trump’s favor.

White college-educated women: 51-45 per cent in Clinton’s favor (barely, obviously).

There seems to be no evidence, according to CBS news’s polling,  that level of income among White voters significantly affected White support for Trump.  Tentatively, we can entertain the hypothesis that the vaunted “rage” of White voters was focused on something besides economics.

Source: White Voters

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/

 

Why Did Trump Get Elected President?

He and Pence won more electoral votes.  Reason one.

Other reasons I have listened to: The White working class was angry about its economic position, post-recovery.  This seems to be a favorite of both the gleeful Trumpers and the Bernie-Left.  I’ll accept it for a moment.  But then, of course, the obvious question is “Why did they channel the anger into support for a White nationalist, self-admitted serial sexual assaulter?”  Answer: something else about Trump besides his economic stance (which is at best nonsensical and at worst anti-working class) appealed to these voters.  You don’t have to be a political scientist to know this.  It was probably the White nationalism, although it could have been the sexual assaults.  Or both. Also, please note that if Black people express frustration or outrage, the most prevalent White responses are, “I’m tired of hearing about race.  My relatives were Irish [or whatever] and had a tough time. Why are they so angry? What about Black on Black violence? Blah, blah, blahgitty blah.”  (What about White on White White Supremacy?)  When White men  get angry, we are conditioned to genuflect. ” They were angry, so they voted for Trump.”  (Please nod in agreement; it’s the rules.)  Sorry, Bernie or Bill O’Reilly enthusiasts.  Your logic doesn’t pass.

Other reasons  I have rolled my eyes at: Hillary Clinton is corrupt.  Hillary Clinton kept her own server which had [actually, did not have]  classified material on it.  She is a nasty woman. She’s been in or near government a long time. She’s married to Bill Clinton.  Okay, whatever.  So thus it follows that a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter is preferable in this binary voters’ choice?  It makes no sense.  A child could see through the “reasoning.”

Another: “Both candidates were unappealing, so I a) didn’t vote b) voted for Johnson c)voted for Stein, or d) wrote in my cat’s name.  Terrific.  Both candidates were equally unappealing, so I decided to help elect a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter who is homophobic and xenophobic (etc.)  Note also that Trump deployed the “international [Jewish] banking conspiracy, too.  Remember who else used that?

The candidates were equally unappealing?  Sorry,  not credible.

When Trump announced his candidacy, I repeatedly told friends and acquaintances that they (White people) would elect him.  Yes, some non-Whites voted for him, but let’s get real: No Whites, no President Trump.  Anyway, I repeated my prediction for this reason and this reason alone: I wanted to hear an argument to persuade me otherwise.  Wanted desperately to hear one. Wanted to think the majority of Whites in this country had evolved, at least modestly.  I never heard an answer to my question that satisfied me, given what the USA is and always has been.  So I expected him to win, and when Florida started going for Trump, I concluded, “She’s toast.” (Sorry for the crass phrasing.)  Never have I hated being right than I did on election night.  My accuracy disgusted me.  I turned off the TV, vomited, and slept hardly at all.

A few observations to cut through the bullshit:

  1. After 2012, “Nearly half of counties [in the South and Midwest]that previously approved voting changes with the federal government have cut voting places [before the 2016 election].”  The number is 868.  The reasons are two-fold: 1) The Roberts Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a White Supremacist decision. 2) White Supremacist, pseudo-Jim Crow governors, legislators, and/or secretaries of state said, “Thanks, Roberts Court!” and went about suppressing the vote in ethnic areas.  Several states passed Voter ID laws to further suppress the Black (for example) vote.  The GOP = White Supremacy = hatred for the Black president = Trump. This is called getting down to brass tacks, in my late mother’s lingo.  Did these White Supremacist actions get Trump elected?  I do not know.  It doesn’t matter.  We may know the GOP by its actions and its incapacity to denounce Trump.   We may know Trump by what he has said and done and bragged about. (The quotation is from  Ari Berman, THE NATION.)  See also Emma Roller’s “Willie Horton’s Heirs,” New York Times, Willie Horton’s Heirs and “No, David Brooks, Trump is the GOP and You Own Him,” by James Leo, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/4/1495734/-No-David-Brooks-Trump-is-the-GOP-and-you-own-him
  2. I hope you have cash in your wallet or purse.  If you do, take out a one dollar bill, a two dollar bill, and/or a ten dollar bill.  All bear likenesses of former slave-owners.  Washington inherited almost a dozen slaves when he was 11.  (Meditate on that for a moment.) By the time he died, he owned over 300.  Thus he presided over a concentration camp for decades.  Same for Jefferson: inherited slaves as a boy, ended up owning over 600, and presided over a concentration camp for decades.  He also had children with a slave woman. (No power differential there!) When biographer Fawn Brodie pointed this out decades ago, she was ritually attacked by White liberal historians (several of them on my campus).  Later, the DNA tests proved her right. (As if we needed the DNA test.)  Hamilton, beloved Federalist, White liberal hero:

“As the letter excerpted above reveals, Hamilton’s relationship with slavery is far from unblemished. It contains a bit of family business involving two of Hamilton’s sister-in-laws, Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Angelica Schuyler Church, and their desire to reacquire a slave named Ben who was, at the time, under lease to another political acquaintance. It is one of many such examples in Hamilton’s papers in which he acted as a financial agent for the sale, lease, or acquisition of slaves for his immediate family.” – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153639#sthash.KxD7migF.dpuf. From “Alexander Hamilton’s Exaggerated Abolitionism,” by

Now imagine a visitor from outer space who is given the currency, informed about the these slave-holding men, and then told that White Supremacist, serial sexual assaulter Trump has been elected president.  The visitor’s detached response: “Oh, okay. That makes sense. The country honors such men. Got it.”

3. Folks, it’s a White Supremacist nation.  A majority of college educated Whites in the South and Midwest voted for Trump.  College-educated. So much for the vaunted liberal-elite universities.  I have observed nothing to dissuade me from assuming that sizeable percentages of the student body, staff, and faculty at my liberal arts college either voted for Trump or did something with their vote that helped Trump get elected.   The schaudenfreude on campus on Wednesday was as thick as fog.

As a candidate for a job in African American Studies at my campus recently opined, “The law says you can, but you can’t.”  The post-Civil War amendments gave Blacks the rights of citizens and the right to vote, etc. (Except they didn’t.) Then came the lynching and other horrors after 1877.  Then came Jim Crow. Then came the mid-1960s civil rights legislation, much of it ignored in the South and often in the North (restrictive housing covenants, for example.  Note that Trump and Dad refused housing to Blacks).  Fast forward to “Stand Your Ground” and open carry.   A Black woman in the South stood her ground when she was about to be beaten up again by her husband.  She killed him with a gun because she (legitimately) feared for her life.  She was convicted and sent to prison.  She eventually got out, but that’s beside the point. The law says you can, but you can’t. Black men or women openly carrying guns?  Likely to be shot dead by a white man or woman and/or a police person.  Fast forward to events that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement.  People who say “All lives matter” are either gleefully indifferent to Black misery or are unable to absorb rudimentary linguistic subtlety in the English language.

I heard a Trumper at a rally, in response to something ugly Trump said about Clinton, yell, “String her up!”  People cheered.  Trump heard the comment and obviously thought it was appropriate.   Lynching-talk topped off by lethal misogyny.

4. White people from far Left to Far Right, can we please cut through the bullshit?  White people have never done right and made it stick for Black people.  Or for Latinos and Muslims, gays, lesbians, and the transgendered.  How many White people either voted for Trump or somehow knowingly enabled him to be elected?  A sizeable majority.  It’s moral depravity, and it never stops, and that’s why Trump got elected.  The rest is window-dressing.  A large majority of White people (many on my campus) would/will recoil from these statements (to say the least), go into wounded/outraged White-victim mode, and switch on the rationalization machine (and take it up to level 10).  They simply don’t have the moral character or intellectual maturity to fess up.  They are useless.

Donald Trump, the Ultimate Affirmative Action Candidate

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.

 

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