When the current president was a candidate, he swelled the hearts of angry white men and women who believed they had been treated badly in America. He would “make America great again,” which many interpreted as meaning “make America white again.”
His supporters – many white and some of other races as well - supported him with deep enthusiasm. They finally had a proponent and supporter of the “good old days” when white people ruled and everyone else knew their place and stayed in it. Though they were reported to be only 30 percent of the electorate, they were and are a mighty 30 percent, and they will support this president no matter what he does.
While it is puzzling to many as to why white people feel so mistreated, what is not puzzling is the fact that white supremacy is a belief system which is as wide as it is deep. While candidate Trump went after the African American vote, bellowing, “What the hell do you have to lose?” it is telling that this president has marginalized African Americans consistently and regularly since he took office, working to undo all of the work done over the past 50 years to allow African Americans on a level playing field.
Apparently, what African Americans have stood to lose is …everything.
But it is not just African Americans who are being marginalized by this man who embraces white supremacy. Women, poor people, children, the elderly, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, Muslims …all of these groups, already fighting for the basic rights guaranteed to American citizens, are fighting for survival.
The White House is being taken over by white men, wealthy white men, who historically have not had room in their agendas to worry about those who were not white, male, and wealthy. This administration is disrespecting the basic tenets of American democracy, attacking freedom of speech and freedom of the press, putting people in cabinet positions who have historically worked against the principles of the institutions they are now running.
These white men (and they are primarily men) are working to destroy “big government,” which they hate; they are showing disrespect for the government they swore to uphold and protect, and they are putting policies in place that will negatively impact everyone except for wealthy white men and their families.
One of the most frustrating things to watch is the ongoing attack on the press. It is a known fact that one of the ways authoritarian leaders get absolute control is by destroying the press, silencing (and worse) journalists who write what the leaders do not want known. It is not clear that enough people understand and can see what is going on but the warning signs are there. If this administration can effectively silence or limit the freedom of the press, our democracy is in deep, deep trouble.
There are not enough of us – people in the streets and people in positions of power – defending our institutions. In his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” author Timothy Snyder says that “anticipatory obedience is a political tragedy.” In the Nazi takeover of Germany, Snyder writes that “people …voluntarily extended their services to the new leaders.” In Austria, he writes, “after the Austrian chancellor conceded, it was the Austrians’ anticipatory obedience that decided the fate of Austrian Jews.” He further writes that it is “our institutions that help preserve decency.” In democracies, the people believe that the institutions are impenetrable, but Snyder notes that such thinking is dangerous. “It is a make to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change of destroy those very institutions, even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.”
He notes that it “took less than a year for the new Nazi order to consolidate. By 1933, Germany had become a one-party state in which all major institutions had been humbled.”
White supremacy was the impetus behind what happened in Germany and it is the impetus behind what is happening in this country and all over the world. This administration is careening toward a government which promises to do all it can – in whatever way it wants – to keep white people in power.
American democracy is being destroyed, right in front of our eyes, and only when the destruction has been completed will those who supported this demise of our democracy will understand what their support of white supremacy has done.
Wealthy, white people will be all right, but everyone else – poor and middle class whites included - will have to endure the consequences of having supported an administration which has no respect for the democracy it swore to uphold and protect.