Trump
05
Jan

Identity crisis in American politics

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Here we are on the cusp of the 2018 midterm election, and the closing arguments of each party have offered a stark contrast. In short, the Republicans, led by, and I would say eclipsed by, the occupant in the White House, are running on fear. Specifically, of the Scary Migrant Caravan, which is weeks away from reaching the southern U.S. border, and will likely be a fraction of its size now. On the other side, Democrats are implicitly and explicitly running to undo some of the damage they say has been done in the past two years of total Republican control. And they’re running on health care, which polls consistently show as the top concern of voters.

I’m not making any predictions about the outcome. I’m just pointing out that the Republican party right now is using tribal identity to win. By tribal identity I mean “white, Christian Americans who hate and fear those brown people.”

Am I being too harsh? Ezra Klein probably wouldn’t think so. In his great essay published today in Vox, Klein makes the case that the Republican party under the Obama years had become more white and more fearful about losing their, let’s call it what it is, white privilege. If the current occupant of the White House hadn’t descended that golden escalator in 2015 and immediately denigrated Mexican immigrants, another of the two dozen Republicans running would have won the nomination, but eventually another nativist – let’s call him white Nationalist – would need to emerge. Because that’s the way the party was going. Here’s Klein, boiling down Identity Crisisan analysis of the 2016 campaign from political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck:

• Trump destroyed the rest of the Republican field among primary voters who were angry about immigration. Trump did 40 points better among Republican voters with the most negative views of immigration than among those with the most positive views. Trump’s success, in other words, was that he ran an issue-based candidacy on an issue where he was closer to the Republican base than the other candidates were.

• The same was true with attitudes toward Muslims: “Trump performed significantly better with Republican voters who rated Muslims relatively unfavorably in 2011 than he did with Republican voters who rated Muslims relatively favorably.” By contrast, views of Muslims did not affect support for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

• And so it went for race, too. Republican voters who attributed racial inequality to a lack of effort among African Americans rather than past and present discrimination were 50 points likelier to support Trump. Similarly, Republicans who told pollsters they felt coldly toward African Americans in 2011 were 20 points likelier to support Trump than Republicans who said they felt warmly toward African Americans.

Klein goes on to quote the authors about how the election of the first Black President was a realigning moment. That is, and I’m injecting my own spin here, Republicans, especially those on the lower end of the education and economic spectrum, more strongly aligned their political persuasion with race; that is their own White race.:

“The Obama administration was not only eight years of a Democratic president—which meant that partisan polarization would only continue to grow—but also eight years of a black president,” write Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck. “Once Obama was elected, Americans’ racial identities and racial attitudes became even more potent political forces. The gap between the political opinions of whites and blacks grew larger.”

It was exactly ten years ago that Barack Obama was elected. Do you remember the elation around the country and around the world at this event? I do. But in other parts of the U.S. there were people on the other side who saw his election as not just a defeat of their candidate – John McCain, who, to his credit, explicitly did not make race an issue – but rather a sign of the coming doom of White Americans. Remember how people tossed around the term “post-racial” ten years ago? Yes, quaint. Instead of instantly becoming a post-racial nation, the election of Barack Obama deepened and hardened the racial divides that were always there (usually) just under the surface. And now we have an occupant in the White House who is using a klaxon horn instead of a dog whistle to the most racist of his base. The rest of his party is a bit divided: some in suburban districts are not saying his name, as I am not. They’re generally touting the low unemployment numbers. One wonders why the occupant in the White House is not doing the same; the economy is generally good. Other Republicans in mostly rural and deep-red districts are running on the same fear and racial resentment and terror that the Migrant Caravan – filled with, as was said in the Saturday Night Live spoof last weekend, “Guatemalans, the 1990 Detroit pistons and a few babadooks.” Will fear and hate work? For the sake of race relations alone, I hope not.

One other thing. If the rise of Donald Trump – there, I said his name – is the major legacy of Barack Obama’s tenure, well, that’s sad. I don’t think it will be seen as Obama’s most important legacy. After all he accomplished many things apart from just being who he was. But if the rise of Donald Trump and naked nativism is a key fallout from 2008, I hope for the best: that it will be able to lance the boil of racism that has plagued this nation for hundreds of years. I remain optimistic.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty images)

07
Jan

Fears of a Non-White Majority

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By now it’s clear that the current administration has whipped up fears – that were already there lurking under the surface – and, anger – about the decline of whites as a percentage of the U.S. population (and, by extension, the decline of white’s perceived cultural power). Witness that two weeks ago, just as Trump’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen, fingered his boss as an co-conspirator in a crime to get elected, the President’s fixation was about the Criminal Mexicans – his favorite refrain – coming across the border to kill white people. It just so happened that as Cohen was singing, it was learned that an undocumented worker had killed a woman in Iowa. Guess which was the top story on Fox news that week?

A New York Times opinion piece by the fantastic Thomas Edsall suggests that the rise of Trumpism came along at just the time when projections showed a declining white majority and a rising non-white population (the way these are phrased are important in how threatened people feel about these demographic changes, as it turns out).

Some of those I contacted suggested that only Trump and his fellow Republicans have the power to change the anti-immigrant, anti-minority tone of the political conversation. Nathan Kalmoe, a political scientist at Louisiana State University, argued, for example, that

“Politicians and other opinion leaders play an important role in helping citizens make sense of the threats and opportunities they face. I expect the views of many white Americans would shift if President Trump and other leaders who deploy ethnonationalist messages collectively changed their tune, at least in terms of attitude intensity and priority.”

In the highly unlikely event that that happened, “prejudices wouldn’t vanish, but they would be less politically potent for most people.” More realistically, Kalmoe wrote, “as long as prominent leaders continue to mobilize white fear and anger on the issue, citizens who trust them will follow.”

Having a leader with a more inclusive – and less incendiary – view of race and demographic changes in the U.S. would help to mitigate some of the anti-immigrant and anti-white animosity, but it wouldn’t completely erase it (Edsall doesn’t say that it would). It’s a problem we’ve been bumping up against for the entire history of what we call the U.S.

Edsall also surveys many other academics regarding demographic changes in the U.S., covering issues such as who identifies as white – a growing number of people with mixed heritage think of themselves as white – and whether the U.S. Census binary non-Hispanic white-minority division may be stoking the anxieties of whites fearful of a majority-minority America.

The bottom line is what I’ve been expressing for years: America has a race problem. What we’ve learned in the past three years is, a leader who tells white Americans “the other” coming to kill their daughters, take their jobs, take their prestige, only makes the problem worse.

Regarding the Iowa woman who was murdered, Mollie Tibbits, the family is fed up with anti-immigrant mouthpieces using her daughter’s murder to score political points, calling them “heartless and despicable” and racist. Where’s the reporting on that, Fox News?

28
Jan

John McCain’s complicated history with race

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mccain_obit_061114gn_lead

Photo credit Greg Nash

 

The U.S. Senate has lost one of its lions, and, predictably, the coverage of John McCain’s death ranges from hagiography to screed to everything in between.

That middle ground is most interesting. For those who aren’t familiar with McCain’s long Senate career, they’re surely aware of his 2008 Presidential run against Barack Obama. And a now-iconic moment involves pushing back against a racist woman who called Obama an Arab town hall.

McCain grabbed the microphone from her, cutting her off. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

He could have added, “and even if he were an Arab, or a Muslim, he’s still an honorable American, because Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans can be decent family men too.” But that’s a bit of a quibble. Especially considering how toxic the political environment has become in the past decade. And considering we have an open racist in the White House now.

You may remember the Reverend Wright controversy in the 2008 campaign. That’s where video of Obama’s longtime reverend surfaced with him saying “God damn America,” but lacked the context of why Wright said this in a sermon (Wright was denouncing America’s foreign intervention and its original sin, slavery). Campaign watchers point out that in 2008 McCain declared it verboten to mention Reverend Wright or anything about Obama’s religion. He wouldn’t play the religion card. He wouldn’t play the race card. It’s the decent and statesman-like stance to take, but can you imagine that happening in a Presidential campaign today?

But McCain had other, more complex – and some might say troubling – conflicts regarding race. During his first run for the Presidency, in 2000, the Confederate flag was a controversial issue in the pivotal South Carolina primary. At first, McCain said that the flag was a symbol of “racism and slavery,” but it up to each state to determine whether to display it or not. His rival, George W. Bush, had essentially the same position, without excoriating it as a symbol of slavery and racism. McCain lost that primary to Bush, for a variety of reasons, including a smear campaign against him suggesting he had fathered a bi-racial child. After the race, he went back to South Carolina and clarified his position and apologized for putting political interests ahead of candor.

“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary,” the Arizona senator who named his campaign bus “The Straight Talk Express,” said at a luncheon in the state’s capital city. “So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”

His Confederate forefathers in Mississippi, McCain said, “fought on the wrong side of American history.”“I don’t believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors,” he continued.

He didn’t have to make that statement. It didn’t gain him anything. But it shows that, when political considerations are put aside, McCain was more likely to be progressive in terms of race.

But he was a Republican, running in a state with a very conservative base (Arizona). So, sometimes politics won. Like in the 2010 primary, where he was facing a challenger from the right. He responded by releasing a TV ad blaming immigrants for home invasions and saying the U.S. needed to “complete the danged fence” on the border.

This is the same man who co-authored – with another Senate lion, the liberal Ted Kennedy – a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2005. The bill failed, scuttled by hardliners in his own party. But it remains the benchmark for immigration reform efforts, still.

We could assume that the real McCain was the bipartisan reformer he showed in the immigration bill efforts, rather than the “complete the danged fence” angry old man of 2010, at least when he didn’t have to face his base.

In 1983, as a new Congressman, he voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday. Years later he said he changed his position, he evolved.

So, a complicated history. But he was willing and able to admit when he was wrong. This is something that stands in stark contrast to his party today, and the leader of his party.

09
Jan

Do Americans really like Trump’s immigration policies?

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News-Press

If you are one of the people who rolls their eyes when they see a juxtaposition of “Trump” and “reelection” – because he can’t run for office from jail – just take a minute and consider an alternate scenario. A scenario where not only is he not sentenced for conspiracy, but also one where a majority of Americans actually like some of his policies, whether they’ll admit it or not.

Consider this op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle, which posits that his cruel and obviously racially motivated will not deter people from voting for him in 2020, but will make them more inclined to vote for him:

As far as Trump’s Democratic and progressive opponents are concerned, they have failed to understand that as righteous as it is to attack Trump’s positions on immigration, they are playing right into his hands by engaging him on one of the few public policy issues in which public opinion is clearly to the right of the elite consensus of both parties.

If you pull together a focus group of Democratic voters and ask them to design a new immigration system from scratch, they will very likely design one far more restrictive than our current immigration system. In the Harvard/Harris poll of January 2018, 72 percent of Democratic voters support scrapping our legal immigration system and moving to one that emphasizes skills over family reunification. The poll found 31 percent of Democratic voters support cutting down legal immigration levels by more than 75 percent, from 1 million a year to fewer than 250,000 immigrants a year. And, when it comes to the infamous Trump barrier/border wall, 30 percent of Democrats (along with 54 percent of independent voters) support its construction.

The article suggests that Americans are angry at politicians of both parties for abandoning citizens while inviting in immigrants. In other words, you’ve got to put your house in order before inviting over company. The article also centers on one key poll, and as we know with polls, it all depends on how you frame the question.

For example, there is also a recent poll showing three quarters of Americans believe immigration is a net-plus to the nation.

But it’s worth considering that just as Americans are, and have been since forever, conflicted about race, we’re also conflicted about immigration, which is, of course, tied up in race. Possibly we could take a look at what’s happening in Europe. Progressives in the U.S. were shocked that Brexit passed in 2016 – in many ways it was a precursor to the (electoral college) victory of Trump. Many English people outside London still favor Brexit, though many Londoners are horrified by it.

What if this article is correct, and there are parallels in Europe? I and many of my colleagues and friends think immigration and multiculturalism are beneficial to a country’s economy and quality of life. Others do not. The question is the relative sizes of the two sides. It’s hard to get an idea of the size of each group because we all naturally surround ourselves with people who share our views. And, it is difficult to tell how many Americans hide their true anti-immigrant feelings because they feel that their viewpoints are not acceptable outside of their political or social groups. Like I said, Americans are conflicted.

Two years is an eternity in politics. And, you know, there may be indictments coming. But leaving Trump out of the picture, I would be saddened to think that a majority of Americans are eager to scapegoat immigrants because they feel – accurately – that the middle class, even in this time of full employment, continues to fall behind. If that is the case, then it should leave an opening for a smarter and more humane politician than Trump to take on real immigration reform (not Trump’s immigration reform), and, just as importantly, some of the issues that really trouble the U.S.

15
Jan

Why not Straight Pride? Here’s why

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636633824757363897-AFP-AFP-PY3FC-91962591

(Canadian Prime Minster gets into Pride spirit. AFP/Getty images)

June is officially LGBTQ Pride month, but you wouldn’t know it from the radio silence on the matter, two years running, from the White House. It’s been celebrated every year in June since 1970 after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York.

There has been a tremendous amount of progress in the U.S. on LGBTQ rights in my lifetime. Heck, even in the last five years, despite, of course, the retrograde attitude of the White House.  Younger people, Millennials and Gen Z’s, are less likely to identify as gay or lesbian. And not because they’re closeted, as was the case back in the day. It’s because, thanks to the rights being won for LGBTQs and the idea among this cohort that sexuality is no big deal, therefore why claim to be anything?

But I don’t think we’re in a post-gay world – remember the post-racial world we had apparently entered a decade ago? And I don’t think that Pride parades are a relic of the past. Not yet. And neither does this op ed writer for USA Today.

Never has a person lost their job for being white or straight in North America, or been denied an apartment for being white and straight, or been leered at or attacked by strangers for simply holding hands with their significant others. There is a level of social and systemic privilege not afforded to many members of the LGBTQ community in North America, and certainly in many countries around the world…

Living proudly and openly in societies where your well-being (emotional, physical, professional) is constantly at risk is nothing short of brave. The fact that we are seeing more people live openly and honestly despite these challenges is a miracle.

Almost every day, we see threats made against members of the LGBTQ community. The scaling back of hard-earned rights and protections of LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, is difficult to ignore.

Quite true. So we can scoff at Pride parades as being commodified by corporations. And there’s some truth to that. But remember when it was a big win when the first corporations co-sponsored Pride events? I do. It wasn’t all that long ago.

Rights are granted, and they can be taken away. I think it’s not a bad idea to remember that and celebrate them. And for the young or not so young LGBTQ person to find others like him/herself, proudly marching, it can be a transcendent experience.

Next time someone sneers and suggests a Straight Pride month, feel free to roll your eyes. Or, feel free to politely educate the people suggesting this. See also: Why Black Lives Matter – Why Not All Lives Matter.

 

06
Jan

Racism’s New Normal

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RFK

Robert Kennedy, building a Rainbow Coalition

Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, minutes after he was projected to win the California primary and was – maybe, we’ll never know – on a path to securing the Democratic nomination for President. It’s just anecdotal, but in my experience, people who were alive and aware at that time, and who were Kennedy supporters, still tear up when they speak of him. Even more so than the reaction of those who remember where they were when his brother, JFK, was killed. They believe that hope was killed on that June day in 1968.

There’s an excellent documentary on Netflix right now, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which chronicles RFK’s awakening to racial issues of the 60s. The film makes note that he started off that decade as his brother’s Attorney General, wiretapping Martin Luther King and being highly resistant to making overtures to communities of color. Near the end of the decade, and his life, he strongly embraced Black and Latino communities. We can credit Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for his change of heart. But whether it was political calculation or a sincere evolution – many historians come down on the latter – he was the first politician running for President to not ignore communities of color or at least pay them lip service. Historian Richard Kahlenberg superb has written an excellent paper, “The Inclusive Populism of Robert Kennedy,” making the case that RFK was building an alliance of working-class whites and minorities, a coalition that just might have won.

Fast forward to 2018. Where are working class whites now? Oh yes. They helped propel Donald “Mexicans are rapists” Trump to the White House.

Remember when Presidents of both parties, at least in words, tried to appeal to our better natures? What happened? Was a half-century of progress wiped out with one divisive campaign and one highly divisive and bigoted President. Yes, some of it, at least, we can hope, temporarily.

A recent Washington Post editorial stated that everything we’ve witnessed recently, from the ugly Roseanne tweet that ended her show, to the rise in open racists running for office, are predictable and predicted byproducts of the hate spewed from the resident of the Oval Office:

Can I prove that Trump’s hate-mongering is infecting the culture? No, I can’t, but it stands to reason — and there are signs that it is. This year, there are at least 10 white supremacists running for office — and that doesn’t count failed West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who excoriated “China people,” and failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams, who campaigned in a “deportation bus.” Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, and the Southern Poverty Law Center report that the number of hate crimes and hate groups has increased since Trump became president.

I can’t prove that the rise in overt racism is a direct result of Trump’s hate-mongering. But if not that, then what has precipitated it’s ugly rise?

I think reasonable people can agree on a few things. Racism never really left the U.S. It’s just that many racists and bigots were, for a while, afraid to say what they really thought. During that shining illusory interregnum in blatant racism –how quaint the term post-racial society sounds – people with racial animus – as opposed to racial bias, which, sadly affects a much wider swath of America – became resentful about feeling like they had to moderate their views. What was happening was, they were keeping the views out of sight, but within their bubbles, they were free to not only say what they wanted, their sense of white victimization grew. Hey, bubbles reinforce beliefs, don’t they?

Speaking of bubbles, we all live in our own. Here in southern California, a melting pot, salad, whatever metaphor you want to use, of every race, bigotry is generally not cool. Because I live in this region, which is relatively free of overt racism – oh it’s likely there, but tamped down by social norms – I’m left astounded and a little depressed every time I see support for Muslim travel bans, racist rallies, and polls where whites say they’re victims of discrimination.

And now, here we are, in a time where racism, for the time being in at least in a too-large part of the population, is normalized again. We’re a much more diverse nation than 50 years ago, and on the verge of, as you’re probably aware, of becoming a nation where whites are not the majority. And yet, we have an occupant in the White House who has, time and again, shown more racial animus than any major candidate for President since George Wallace, a man who doesn’t use coded dog-whistle terms to speak to racists, but rather, a bullhorn. It should be noted that George “Segregation Forever” Wallace didn’t come close to winning any of his Presidential races. Pendulums swing back and forth. We may be seeing a certain percentage of the white population unleashed and angry that they’ve had to keep their racism under wraps for so long. But it’s pretty clear that Trump gave them the freedom to unwrap it.

Still, America is changing, and it will not become whiter. I fear that America will always have a problem with race. But with more time, and with leaders who, at the very least, accept that this is a multicultural nation, we’ll keep making progress.

While I’m on the RFK-Trump comparison, one more thing. Charles Blow, opinion columnist in the New York Times, has an excellent piece today outlining what he sees as the darkness in Trump, and concludes:

He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.

So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.

Surely RFK had his detractors. But I seriously doubt anyone made the case fifty years ago that he was a “hater.” Maybe that’s why he’s still beloved by so many who were adults at the time. And I’m trying not to be mean here, but I can’ help wondering how many people get weepy at the memory of Gov. George Wallace, who, to be fair, recanted on much of his racial animosity at the end of his life. And I can’t help wondering, after all the ways Trump has taken us backward into bigotry, after he’s gone, how many people will choke up at the memory of him?

 

 

 

 

05
Jan

Study: many whites voted for Trump for his embrace of whiteness

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Trump voters

Trump supporters: white and afraid of losing their majority (wikipedia commons)

 

For the past year and a half, there’s been a vigorous, sometimes tortured, effort to answer the question of how the election of Trump happened. Let’s forget for a minute that Hillary Clinton actually won 3 million more votes. She’s not sitting in the oval office.

It’s been posited that it was economic anxiety among rust belt voters that led so many Ohioans, Michiganders, Wisconsinites and Pennsylvanians to vote for Trump and deliver him an electoral college victory. The theory goes, he’ll bring back jobs by… doing something. Like tariffs, which he’s done. And… doing deals (he never was very specific about how he was going to bring back jobs, was he?)

We’ve also been told that voters wanted a change in Washington, drain the swamp as it were. Try not to laugh, given what you know about the D.C. swamp, which has become a nationally protected wetland with extra alligators since January, 2017. But maybe some people did believe that Crooked Hillary line. Surely many people just hate Washington, and having some other guy in there – a businessman, sports figure, singer, whatever – would do the nation good.

What a lot of mainstream pundits have tap danced around is what many of us have suspected: many whites voted for Trump because of his pretty explicit embrace of white nationalism.

Well, now there’s a study that backs up what we’ve been thinking. A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a segment – though not all, but hey, he only lost three key states by 80,000 votes – were motivated to protect their own dominant status in American culture and politics. Make America Great Again, for some, meant Make America White Again.

The study looked at a group of the same voters who cast ballots in 2012 and 2016, focusing on those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Many of these voters, instead of expressing pocketbook fears, showed deep concern about America’s declining global power and – this is key – about the projected demographic changes that will put whites out of the majority by 2045.

 

The study’s author, Diana Muntz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, found that one factor in particular increased the likelihood of voting for Trump: the belief that white people are more discriminated against than people of color. Mutz also found that the people who switched their vote from Democrat to Republican liked Trump’s aggressive stance on free trade and China’s ascendance as a global superpower. And they wanted group hierarchy, not equality, with their group on top.

So, remember that escalator speech where Trump announced his candidacy, the one where he said Mexicans coming into the country were rapists and murders? Turns out he knew his base pretty well. Or, maybe, he created this base. After all, no major nominee of any party has been so openly bigoted.

Now that naked bigotry is out in the open – and, sadly, growing – how do we as a nation deal with what has been unleashed? It’s a pretty good time for a real conversation on race. Unfortunately the one with the biggest megaphone and tiniest twitter fingers is the one setting the agenda. For now.

 

16
Jan

“You will not replace us!”

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IMG_TK-Confederate_flag__2_1_JDB86S2U_L310756755     On Saturday, several dozen torch-wielding protesters gathered in Charlottesville’s Lee Park chanting “You will not replace us,” “Russia is our friend” and “Blood and soil.” It was a short protest, quickly dispersed.

It was a response to the Charlottesville City Council, which in April voted to sell the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that stands in the park. A judge earlier this month issued an injunction that prevents the city from doing so for six months. It’s part of a – well, movement is too sweeping a term – concurrent effort to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces throughout the south.

It’s hard to say how representative the protesters are of white Southerners today. The removal of the confederate flag from South Carolina in 2015 after Dylan Roof massacred black people in a Charleston church. Yet the fight over the flag hasn’t ended.

It’s easy for many to day, “you lost the Civil War, get over it already.” But to some – okay many, even most – Americans who see Civil War symbols as a reminder of slavery, to some, they’re something else (but don’t call these people racists). In banning the Confederate flag in 2015, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said that it could be displayed, but in a museum. Many others equated it with Nazi symbols, something you just don’t wear in public. Then again, one wonders how many people have both swastikas and Confederate flags in that venn diagram of white supremacist groups.

Right, we’re not supposed to call those who want to preserve Confederate symbols in public places racists. Just historians. Okay then. We’re actually not interested in debating that. What we do find interesting is this: the Charlottesville protesters chanted “you will not replace us!”

Replace hard-core Confederates? Replace white nationalists? Or replace… white people?

White Americans – north, south, east and west – are very touchy these days. In study after study, the idea that white people were losing ground – economically and culturally – was a main reason they voted for Trump.

Now, the latest research offers more evidence that it was fear of diversity – okay let’s just call it racism, mixed with xenophobia – that motivated Trump voters:

Sixty-eight percent of respondents to the PRRI analysis said they believed the U.S. was in danger of losing its cultural identity. Similarly, 65 percent responded that American culture had deteriorated since the 1950s. And more than half of white working-class Americans said that discrimination against whites was as big a problem as discrimination facing blacks and other minorities.

Discrimination against whites. So, we’re at a chicken-or-egg question. Did Trump stoke the fears that were already there, making white pride a thing? Or did he funnel all of the fears of white Americans into one convenient container: race?

You will not replace us: those projections that the U.S. will be racially plural in this century really, really have struck at the heart of white America.

17
Jan

“Those people” and white racial resentment

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There’s a story in the Washington Post today about how Trump supporters trust him to do the right thing on health care, no matter what the evidence shows them.

Near the end of the story is a telling anecdote that shows how easy it is for whites to blame non-whites for their economic insecurity. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. In this case a mom, Nancy Ware who has helped her 35-year-old son find an insurance plan and complains about the lack of competition in the exchange in Nashville making her premiums too high. Legitimate complaint. But who does she blame? Not the insurance companies or Tennessee’s political leaders who wouldn’t expand Medicaid. She points the finger at… you know.

Ware is a landscaper and often works near Section 8 housing in the Nashville area, and she becomes furious when she sees residents who “drive better cars than I do, they have weaves and hair color better than I can, they have manicures.” As Ware, who is white, waited in line for the rally to start, a group of young African American protesters walked by, and she yelled at them, “Go cash your welfare checks!”

“He gets penalized on his income taxes, while these people that don’t know how to pull their pants up can go get it for free,” said Ware, whose employer covers the full cost of her health care. “Make it even. Make it balanced.”

Anyone remember Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” anecdote? Now that welfare queen has health care and a better manicure than white people, apparently.

We’ve been told again and again how the Trump vote was all about economic insecurity. Perhaps. But the blame for that economic insecurity, as it has been throughout American history, is cast on the most convenient scapegoat. In this case, the welfare queen with the better hair color has stolen a white woman’s health care. Because… just because.

And Trump? He’s been doing what race-baiting politicians have always done. Except they used to do it in coded ways, dog whistles like “welfare queen.” The dog whistle is gone. The megaphone is here.

 

12
Jan

The White Male Resentment Election

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Wait. Keep reading. We know that elections have a lot of moving pieces and there are many ways to explain a “loss”: we put that in quotes because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, possibly by more than two million when all from California are counted.

But we’ve commented many times on the “Make America Great Again” slogan. Do its adherents have any idea exactly what date when America was last great? 1956? Before they were born? What has been making America not so great?

There are many answers these voters have been giving. They’ll blame NAFTA, they’ll blame ISIS – which is a minimal threat within America’s borders, but whatever – and they’ll blame the “elites” (gee, who did you think you voted for? Joe the Plumber?)

But what many have said – many white men – have said, explicitly and covertly, is that they’re losing their power. From The Nation magazine:

Indeed, when these voters scream about the economy, when Trump appealed to them, over and over, by claiming that the government was wasting their money, a big part of that was the perception that government money was going to help African Americans, single mothers, and the white people in their neighborhoods they deemed lazy. Trump ally Roger Stone said in September, about his candidate’s appeal to black voters: “When you are trading your vote for a welfare check, yes, that is a form of slavery. Yes.”

Again, not just loss of white privilege, but white male privilege. The Nation continues:

They were voting against an economy they believed was giving women a step up. In July, David Frum, in The Atlantic, compiled all of the conversations and interviews he’d done with Trump voters into an anti-elite screed written from their perspective. “In our America, the gender gap closed a long time ago—and then went into reverse,” he wrote. “Obama in the Oval Office was humiliating enough. But Hillary will be worse: We’re going to lose any idea at all that leadership is a man’s job.” I looked into this and it isn’t true. Everywhere in the country, women do worse than men in both job-market participation and in salaries. If there’s a tiny pocket of the country where women do better than men, it is not large enough to measure or make even a tiny difference in what we do measure. What is true is that women had been gaining ground. Men in rural communities across the country are unable to perceive that as anything but a loss to their own advantages.

So. Will America be great enough for them after four years of the new administration? We have to doubt that.