Make America great again? Has the candidate with that slogan ever asked what was the last year America was great? We haven’t heard it. But for his supporters, that year might have been the last time they had an unquestioned dominance in the body politic and in culture. Still, we don’t know when that was; it’s been known for a while that the white share of the population is shrinking.
This piece in the Chicago Tribune adds to the analysis of what makes the GOP candidate’s supporters – the white male voters – tick. This passage with a quote from a Texas talk show host frames the narrative:
“I want America to be America,” he says. “I want some semblance of what this country used to be. It’s worth protecting. It’s worth defending. I don’t recognize this country anymore.”
This is a white male voice preaching to a largely white male audience that has expressed many of the same sentiments, in dribs and drabs, in hushed watercooler conversations and boisterous barroom exchanges, around kitchen tables — and most of all, in the course of a presidential campaign in which Trump has become their champion and their hope.
Certainly, not all white males agree. But at this moment in American history, to be white and male means, for many, to question what happened to the opportunities once theirs for the taking, to see others getting ahead and wonder why, to feel centuries of privilege and values slipping away.
“They’re taking everything from us,” says one of the day’s callers, Stephen Sanders. “I don’t want my community changed.”
The callers express resentment of immigrants who came here illegally, suspicion of Muslims, disdain for gays. They rail against a coarsening of culture, while backing a man who brags about making unwanted sexual advances. They voice bitterness toward a society they see as rallying to save an endangered animal or to lobby for the bathroom rights of transgender children, while seeming to ignore their own pain.
Can someone say to them, “Okay, fine, I feel your pain”? And then tell them to knock off the bigotry?
Do read the rest of the piece. There is nothing about slipping economic clout or insecurity about economics. There may be some scapegoating in the “I want my country back” chants. But let’s call it what it is. For the most part this is nothing more than, with apologies to Dylan Thomas, rage, rage against the dying of the White.