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Thursday, May 5, 2016

The "Secret" of Trump's Success (aka Don't Ask Questions You Don't Really Want to Know the Answer to)

So, I was watching Morning Joe earlier today, and enjoying Rob Reiner's take on how crazy the Trump phenomenon is. Then Willie asked the question of the hour--essentially, if Trump is so ridiculous, why are millions of people voting for him. To which, Reiner began his answer with, "There are a lot of people who are racist..." (see below or click here skip to the 8 minute mark).

To my shock and dismay, the response from the entire Morning Joe panel was... well, shock and dismay! In fact, Joe goes as far as to exclaim, "Oh my God, did you just say that!" As if Reiner had just uttered the most ridiculous words ever spoken. I was glad to see Reiner stand his ground and continue his explanation regarding racism and Trump's support. Unfortunately, the brief exchange highlighted two unavoidable facts: 1) the topic requires, and deserves, more time than what it was given, and 2) the topic will never be given that time because no one in traditional news media, nor traditional politics, is willing to have the discussion.

News anchors and political "experts" have fumbled around for months trying to understand the source of Trump's appeal. Most have ended up concluding that he has addressed economic and security fears of typical voters in ways that the Republican establishment simply hasn't, and that's certainly true. But let's dig a little deeper--exactly how has he addressed those fears? Certainly not with concrete policy solutions. In fact, his supporters have often explained that they don't care about those types of details. All they need to know is that he's for them and he's going to make America great again (because the Negro in the White House somehow messed it up)!

I won't go into all of the examples of Trump's racism and xenophobia; there are a lot of other articles that can do that. Many people recognize that the main issues that put him on top of the polls almost a year ago dealt with Latinos, Muslims and the Chinese, with a little anti-Obama and anti-Black Lives Matter sprinkled in. This much the media seems comfortable talking about, even recognizing that he's got an uphill battle to increase support among these demographics.

But to me, the bigger point isn't about Trump's rhetoric and the demographic hole in which he now finds himself. The point isn't about him, it's about his supporters. The point is most of the media seems absolutely unwilling to admit that the VERY thing which has him at such a demographic disadvantage, is the EXACT same thing that has millions of people voting for him. Whether this country wants to admit it or not, millions of predominantly white voters are supporting Trump not in spite of his racist rhetoric, but because of it.

Whether this country wants to admit it or not, the reason "White evangelicals" can give so many votes to someone whose relationship with the bible seems limited to holding it up as a prop during a stump speech, someone who is at best (at worst ?) ambiguous on reproductive rights and LGBT issues--issues which for decades have defined the religious right, is because such evangelicals have always been a, flexible, on religious beliefs as long as it helped to maintain the racial status quo. Thou shalt not kill, unless it's an uppity Negro who was trying to vote. Thou shalt not commit adultery, unless you promise to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out.

Whether this country wants to admit it or not, the reason low-income and/or working class White voters throughout the South and Midwest can find a kindred spirit in a billionaire from New York who has somehow become the voice of economic populism, is because poor Whites have ALWAYS been told that the reason they're poor isn't the slave-owner or the wealthy industrialist, it's these other people (read Black, Latino, Chinese, etc.) who are taking their jobs and destroying their country.

The experts can continue to act confused about Trump's electoral success, but his messaging is clear, just as clear as Bush's Willie Horton, Reagan's Philadelphia, Mississippi speech, Nixon's law and order, and Goldwater's... well, all of it. If you don't really want to know the source of Trump's appeal, just stop asking the question.

Is this an indictment of all of White America? Of course not. Even within the Republican party, there are millions who have refused to vote for Trump. And on the Democratic side, there are millions of low-income Whites who have the same fears as the Trump supporters, but instead of giving in to race-baiting, they have responded to Bernie's call for political revolution and Hillary's appeal to "make America whole". One might say they are listening to the better angels of their nature.

At the end of the day, the November election may in fact result in a repudiation of the Trump tactics, but that will not be the end of the story. This country will still be in need of a major conversation about race, and more importantly, there will still be serious questions regarding structural racism. Once again, questions that some may not want to know the answers to.

I'm Cliff, and on that "note"...

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