Mirrors can be vicious–and educational.
I know I’m not the only one who finds it easy to indulge in forbidden food and drink, and to ignore the consequences–until I take a good look at myself in the mirror and decide it’s past time to begin that long-postponed diet and exercise regimen.
Four years ago, Christopher Parker, an African American political scientist at the University of Washington, made the provocative argument that Donald Trump’s candidacy could “do more to advance racial understanding than the election of Barack Obama.”
“Trump’s clear bigotry,” Parker wrote in the American Prospect, a liberal journal, “makes it impossible for whites to deny the existence of racism in America. . . . His success clashes with many white Americans’ vision of the United States as a fair and just place.”
Milbank lists several examples of Trump’s increasingly brazen embrace of racism; interestingly, the column appeared before the most recent example: his incendiary speech at Mount Rushmore, in which he barely stopped short of donning a white sheet.
It’s not just Trump. it is getting more and more difficult to ignore the evidence that the GOP has become the party of white supremacy. As Milbank reports,
Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.
Milbank reviewed the changing responses of Americans to a question that has been used by several pollsters over a number of years to determine racial animus: the question asks people to agree or disagree with the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.
In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).
The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.
What these statistics don’t reflect is the rapidly diminishing number of Americans who identify as Republican, and the growing numbers of Democrats, Independents and “Never Trump” Republicans who find the party’s racism abhorrent. Milbank quotes other political scientists whose research confirms the extent of that revulsion; white women, especially, are offended by the GOP’s appeals to racism.
Vincent Hutchings is a political scientist at the University of Michigan who specializes in public opinion research. He has found that racist appeals disproportionately alienate white, college-educated women, and has opined that such appeals exacerbate the gender gap even more than negative references to gender.
I’ve previously noted that the voluminous visual evidence of bigotry, captured and disseminated by our ubiquitous cellphone cameras, has made it very difficult for comfortable white folks to believe that America is the idealized, equal-opportunity country described in dusty government textbooks. Every day, Donald Trump adds to that growing, uncomfortable body of evidence by loudly and publicly reconfirming his own ignorance and racism.
The iPhone pictures and videos, amplified by the constant tweets and utterances of a repulsive President, are providing Americans an extended look in the full-length mirror, and most of us don’t like what we see.
We need to remind ourselves that we have the power to change it.