Donald Trump is a threat to American democracy. He’s also a symptom. The 10.7M Americans who voted for him in the fractional, factional primaries, are part of the death throes of European, male-dominant white power struggling to hold onto control of an America, and a globe, that is coming out from under their long, tight grasp, in spite of the billions they spend on political power.
Mitt Romney handily won the white vote by 59% in 2012, and still lost that election to Barack Obama. People of color, minorities, will be the dominant population in this country by 2020, the U.S. Census tells us.
An Atlantic-Aspen Institute poll pegged the trend two years ago: American whites are feeling more and more pessimistic about their future in an America where there is a declining priority, preference, and privilege associated with a lighter shade of pale.
Meanwhile, as the graphic also demonstrates, minorities are feeling, on the whole, more optimistic that participating in the system may finally yield them the American dreams of owning a home, their own business, being their own boss, or running for political office.
Particularly over the last 30 years, Brookings reports, there has been a loss of income and power for males in general, and white males in particular.
We know, from multiple sources, that Trump’s core supporters are largely white, middle class to poor, less educated, and often from backgrounds where white racial superiority coding was part of their upbringing. Many of them, at least quietly, see the future in dark, foreboding terms because the information engines which cater to and feed their thinking stoke it with fear. The GOP Convention was textbook white fear priming.
The economy is in great shape. So are jobs. Better than they’ve been in decades. Yet, inside the GOP Red Kool Aid bubble, America is terrible, awful, in decay.
How do so many people buy into that? Republicans have been on that downward propaganda spiral since the days of the New Deal.
Old industrial elites, and their modern families, Kochs, Coors, Mellon-Scaifes,, et al, hate the New Deal because it wasn’t just about a loss of the white industrial oligarchs’ power in the Great Depression. It was the start of a whole progressive trend to get the United States to live up to the full meaning of “We, the people” and put some truth into “all men are created equal.”
For elite American industrial families, who believe their wealth and power comes from Social Darwinism, the mistaken notion that natural selection favors people of white, European, usually Christian extraction, true equality under law is anathema.
Put Trump on that timeline. His candidacy is not the freak occurrence of the American political experience that the news media portrays it to be.
A Brief History of White Power from Revolution to Revulsion
Trump is a carcinogenic tumor on the body politic, a backlash of white Americans who have been taught, for centuries, in church and school and daily living, of their divine right superiority not just here at home, but in the world, and, yes, even in heaven. Here is a brief, sad history of how we got there.
At the founding of the nation, wealthy white power was patrician. Think Jefferson, Washington, et al. Big ideas about the rights of the individual, and the responsibility of the state to uphold those rights.
We had enormous problems with equality, but, by the standards of the day, which were far worse, America was insanely progressive. The notion that individual human rights existed, albeit strictly for the praying and pale, was, itself, such a radical notion that it rocked the world order of its day.
Eighty years later, wealthy whites split along economic lines. Early wealthy white industrialists exploited cheap, mostly white labor in the north, but they were still free, not slaves. Women were subjugated nationwide, and those who struggled with gender did so most quietly, for fear of reprisal or death. Southern plantations ran on the cheap labor of human slavery.
To preserve their power, wealthy whites employed several bits of cultural propaganda to marginalize people of color. The Algerist lies from his books like “Mark the Matchboy” and “Ragged Dick” that poor, white males with “pluck” could pull themselves up by their bootstraps and, through hard work, grit, and determination, become as rich as the richest whites out there, did not pan out for 99.9% of the population.
The other edge of that sword was that people of color failed in life because they were “lazy,” “shiftless,” etc. Women were kept in the kitchen, feminized into roles that demanded domesticity and subservience. Those with gender differences were “eligible bachelors” and “tomboys” or “maiden aunts” and expected to stay in the closet to avoid offending the sensibilities of male, white, right, America.
The nagging inconvenient truth that slavery was inconsistent with the freedoms and civil rights afforded all humans by the Constitution pushed Northern patrician whites to take a stand against their Southern peers.
The Civil war was prosecuted, won, and ended, but the divisions over race and gender didn’t go away. They went underground slowly. At first, with “separate but equal” laws that still segregated society, then with the even more underground racism practiced today, ranging from police treatment of minorities to the infamous “Birther” movement against President Obama which Trump, himself, largely stoked.
White male power, both Northern and Southern, ruled the latter part of the 19th century with an iron fist. The Great Depression, greed and overreach at their peak, shattered the notions of patrician white rule.
Unionization, the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, and the LGBTQ movement all pushed for civil parity with white America.
The progressive revolution of the 1960s and 1970s sprung out of the Civil RIghts movement. They mocked backwards blue-collar racists like Archie Bunker of “All in the Family” in the 1970s.
The notion that, even if you’re a poor white, you are still “No. 1,” better off because you’re not of color, remains an ingrained part of white American culture.
So much so, that, with losses of jobs to offshoring started in the Reagan years and accelerated dramatically during the George W. Bush administration, American whites are being primed by the funders with the constant buzz that they are now the ones being discriminated against.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 43% of Americans believe that whites are discriminated against just as much as people of color. With the possible erroneous conclusion that the vast majority of those respondents are white, and America’s white population standing at 63% currently, that means that roughly 6 in 10 white Americans buy into the notion of white discrimination.
America has made huge strides in gender equality for women, but still remains 28th in the world. The same is true of gender identification in the LGBTQ communities, although quantitative tracking data on workplace, living, and legal discrimination is harder to come by.
The Republican Party has been both the cheerleader and the security blanket of angsty whites. Highly divided between the Neocons, who favor big business, and the rabidly anti-government Tea Party/Freedom Caucus, the GOP created a gap where a majority of disenfranchised, less religious or anti-government fearful whites ended up as largely independents.
Trump was able to capture that base by tapping into their lust for a return of their status that was enjoyed for more than two centuries: 1950s style white male power.
Out of Step, Out of Tune, Out of Time
Barack Obama has been, primarily to older white conservatives, an omen of their loss of control of the nation to “others.” Which explains everything from the fact that 50% of this country bought into the Birther myth, to their irrational resistance to policies which Obama supported including the ACA (Romneycare) which were long-fought for Republican proposals.
A woman in office affirms the continuing loss of male white power, especially a Clinton, which the GOP machine has ginned up millions to revile like Civil War vets used to utter “Yankee” and “Reb,” is equally anathema to older white males who are lower or middle income, or just social and racial regressives.
“This old white people business does get a little tired,” Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, and poster child of white male angst, said in response to a comment by Charles Pearce on MSNBC about white America’s political struggles with minorities and women. He then posed the question, referring to white European Americans: “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
That comment, aside from being so woefully ignorant of the contributions of people of all colors and races to world history, is a symptom of white American males’ fear of real equality domestically, and of globalization internationally.
The bad news for those who long for the days of June Cleaver serving dinner to dad in her cocktail dress, African-American servants and Japanese gardeners, is that the financial tide is turning against them not just here in the United States, but all over the world.
Worldwatch reports that the “consumer class” is now about 1.7 billion people strong, with more than half of that number in the developing world.
“A lifestyle and culture that became common in Europe, North America, Japan, and a few other pockets of the world in the twentieth century is going global in the twenty-first,” their report reveals.
China and India, not surprisingly, top the list of rapidly-growing nations. The number of “consumer class” citizens in Asia is around 16%. Europe by contrast, is 89%.
Growth, that all-important metric for capitalism’s march towards greater profits, requires new consumers. Those will be found more in Asia than North America or Europe.
Which is not to say that there will be no jobs in America for working class high school to undergrad-educated whites. There are around 5.8M jobs that go unfilled in America, largely due to skills gaps. People aren’t trained or qualified to do them.
Thus we have the delicious irony: Millions of poor and middle class white Americans flock to Donald Trump, captain of the GOP Titanic which has hit it’s out-of-step iceberg and is taking on water, who has nothing other than platitudes about how “great” he will make America, when the real solutions offered by Bernie Sanders, Mrs. Clinton, and the Democrats for job retraining, affordable college, and infrastructure rebuilding all offer those self-same whites the greater opportunity to prosper.
The hardest key to their success? Changing understanding of pronouns.
The “our” in “Our America,” means everyone. Everyone.
White America: It’s time to play nicely with others, and position yourselves to succeed in a changing world.
All people are created equal. There is no preference for being white. Get past the generations of lies. America can only be great when all of us live and contribute to society on one level playing field.
It is time to move forward and move on, without putting dangerous, ignorant men like Donald Trump or Steve King, in charge of a nation whose truth is so much bigger than your fears.