It's Mourning in America.
It is the oldest form of identity politics in America. Address white Americans as exactly that, white Americans. Donald Trump, much like his ideological progenitor, Barry Goldwater, dispensed with the nicety of dog whistles à la Reagan and George H.W. Bush. (What a strange sentence to write.) Reagan's attack on the Welfare State, "young bucks eating T-bone steaks" was, in contrast to Bush's Willie Horton ads, subtle. If Reagan and Maggie Thatcher can be said to have disseminated the New Left through what Stuart Hall, following Antonio Gramsci, named "authoritarian populism," Trump cut right to the chase: call a Mexican (for him, after all, there is no distinction between the Latino citizen and the immigrant) a "murderer" and a "rapist" and be done with it. Call a grieving Gold Star mother an oppressed Muslim woman. Tell African-Americans that they live, the lot of them, in devastated, crime-infested ghettoes.
This specter of invading hordes (immigrants of the darker variety), the vision of an increasingly brazen Islamic terrorism on the home front, and the sight blacks, either those undeserving of the massive government cheques they are cashing monthly or those who have advanced in society (courtesy of affirmative action, which makes African-Americans congenitally undeserving), Trump wagered, spoke to the deepest fears of white America.
It is a simple political equation: Make America Great Again = Make America White Again. A white America, in his imagination and that of the tens of millions who voted for him, motivated to act in their and Trump's name - Whiteness - so that their domination of American society can be restored after the disruption of the Obama presidency, the social gains achieved by political correctness (to focus only on public discourse, after the result of early Wednesday morning, an entire repertoire of terms can be dusted off, one imagines, and ushered unceremoniously back into public usage) and the deleterious effects of globalization - outsourcing of jobs, the collapse of the American manufacturing, which of course long preceded the Obama presidency, or Bill Clinton's, for that matter.
Exactly how white power is threatened is hard to detect, but it resonates. Whites heard themselves represented, no matter the lack of substance, no matter the untruths Trump trafficked in ("I didn't support the Iraq war, ask Sean Hannity"); what the many millions of them sensed was an opportunity to turn the tables on liberals, African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims. Trump spoke, speaks, to and for not only non-college educated whites because his is an equal-opportunity, non-discriminatory address to whiteness - or, to phrase it another way, Trump offers all whites an equal right to discriminate, to behave in a racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic fashion.
His is the universal promise to whiteness, fitting the American pledge to immigrants to the white nostalgia for unfettered power that so permeates our moment: "Give me your unemployed manufacturing workers, give me your struggling minimum wage workers, give me your suburban soccer moms, and I will bring back white America."
By directly addressing them, Trump mobilized them with a rare, and therefore, disturbing, ease. He deliberately fed their resentment about an African-American president (he's been doing this for years), he promised to recapture national greatness in their name (patriotism, the first refuge of scoundrels, especially when it casts itself as a rhetorically revitalized Manifest Destiny), he appealed to their desire for "free market" healthcare (who wants a society in which every person has access to medical services?), he promised to "bring back" jobs, even as he preferred to make Trump products cheaply in Asia.
Donald Trump's politics is driven by the unthought dream of restoring America to global domination. "Make America #1, Again."
In order to make America great again, no small part of which rests upon supplanting China as an economic force (more like crush China, or, "ZhIINA," as Alec Baldwin so irreverently and accurately mispronounces it), Trump liquidated the rhetorical middle man. From the very beginning of his campaign he had no truck with vague insinuations or racially inflected analogies or straw men and women ("young bucks" and black "Welfare Queens"). For him it began with Mexican "rapists and murderers" and, well, after that, it all went downhill; or, swiftly ascended to the dizzying heights of racial self-affirmation not experienced by white America since Brown v Board of Education or when neighborhoods were legally segregated or when an inter-racial marriage was proscribed; whether the rhetoric achieved elevation or it deteriorated, depends, of course, on your point of view.
In the world according to Trump and his devotees, it's been a long six decades. The era of the racially impermissible is over: his election marks the end of the unending attacks on that inalienable historic right: white privilege, ad infinitum. The normal order of business, this is the governing presumption him and his supporters, is about to be resumed, racially speaking. Such is this new form of raging desire for the power of whiteness.
It mattered not to those white Americans who so enthusiastically threw their political weight behind him ("Women for Trump") that he threatens their right to reproductive health, that his behavior is that of a sexual predator (here thanks are due to Megan Kelly), that his vice-president is a confirmed homophobe (yes, those of you who happily waved your "Gays for Trump" placards), that his command of history . . . well, it amounts to adjectival politics, adjectival politics that we all know by now as that fearsome slogan: Make America Great Again.
This is the call to which white America of the Trump variety responded. Gleefully. Responded with a frightening enthusiasm, unless you're a woman, black, Latino, an immigrant, gay or a Muslim, among others, and understand yourself as the target of that enthusiasm; in fear of what that enthusiasm can become; in fear of what forms that enthusiasm, now basking in its triumph, is about to mutate into. This is what a movement for just-emboldened whiteness looks like. Live and in brilliant orange.
The effects of the triumph of whiteness, the trumping of whiteness, is entirely intentional. It is to render the body of the Other - blacks, Latinos (it matters not a jot that you voted for him more than you did for Mitt Romney; a word of advice: should your travels take you through Arizona, stay well clear of Joe Arpaio, he's not likely to believe you voted for Trump), women, gays, transgender folks, immigrants, Muslims - utterly vulnerable. It is to restore racial order, it is to sanction misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia; Trump gives explicit license to those who have fought hard against this reconstituted America to act, with impunity, if necessary (test the limits, there's a new sheriff in town), against those who struggled to make this a society of possibility (let's call it equality of opportunity). Watch the updates on those websites who track an increase in hate crimes. "Number 1," indeed.
It is surprising that this movement has not yet claimed its proper moniker: White Lives Matter . . . Most. More than any o/Other.
The new racial order is the public demand for a return to the old racial order. The Civil Rights Act, the triumph of Stonewall, the equality of marriage before the law, Barack Obama's presidency, that was the unfortunate interregnum and can now, mercifully, be put behind us. White America has awoken from the nightmare prospect of racial and sexual diversification, the possibility of equal treatment for all, the diminution of white power.
This is what those who voted for Trump, those who so strenuously deny the charge of racism or misogyny, those evangelicals who proclaim themselves Christians, Christians whose faith is under attack, no less (where in the Scriptures does Jesus-the-Christ endorse attacks on immigrants? What of his advocacy for the stranger, his admiration for the Samaritan? What of his distaste for the money lenders in the temple? What kind of blasphemous, anti-Christian Christianity is this that gives itself up for thirty pieces of silver, adjusted for inflation, of course?, for entry to Trump Tower? What kind of Christianity denies solace and succor to the weak and the vulnerable, vilifies other faiths? Here's a question for those Christians-in-name-only: WWJD? Yes, what would Jesus do?), those white women and men who looked past - or, is that looked admiringly at? - his crude, violent language against women, underwrote. The groping of American women begins in the White House. There can be no dissembling on this score: if you voted for Trump, you cannot disarticulate yourself from him. He is your political conscious come fully to life. You are indistinguishable from him. You traffic in hatred, pretend otherwise all you will. Hatred is your currency.
Such is the power of the direct appeal to whiteness, an appeal that gives voice to two kinds of mourning: the bitter victory of those who regret that they were displaced from the proper place by women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays, transgender people, and have since late Tuesday evening basked in the glory of their triumph, threats to the Other emanating from their every cheer as Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, all capitulated to the force of whiteness. And then there is the mourning of those who feared exactly this: white liberals, the various minority constituencies. In their turn, there was - there remains a sense of foreboding, the kind of shock produced by the recognition that the worst has come to pass - despair and the renewed, perhaps intensified, vulnerability of those who must now quickly grasp that their place in the public square is under threat, that they are not welcome any more. And not in a funky Gloria Gaynor feminist kind of way, unfortunately. Will we survive? We must survive. How will we survive? We must commit to making plans to struggle against this - we must grow strong.
We must grow strong because the message is stark, the threat existential: White Lives Matter . . . Most.
This is the reality of mourning in America. It has not, to my knowledge, been figured as such, but I imagine it as Reagan's vacuous image of America as that shining city on a hill now being framed as the retaking of the White House: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as that residence inhabitable, immanently and by proxy, only by and for whites. The White House is for whites only. Trump and his supporters' mourning is the unadulterated dream of a revivified empire, of the reassertion of America's global domination, of the determination to reassign minorities of all persuasions, to their proper - that is, lesser - place.
When your political ambitions are so grandiose, it may very well be that it is already, by definition, too powerful, too vivid, too racist and misogynist, too visceral in its xenophobia, to be contained by, in, the euphemisms that are the trademark Republican dog whistle. I ask, in advance, James Brown's indulgence (forgiveness, maybe?), but the only way to say you're a racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic white American, is to say it loud and proud. Say it more than fifty million times. This is how white mourning of genus Trumpus ends. For the rest of us, well, we've only just begun to live in mourning.