Tag Archives: Trump support

White Panic

Charles Blow is one of the columnists for the New York Times whose essays I almost always find thoughtful and perceptive. In this one, especially, he hits the proverbial nail on the head.

Every so often it’s important to step back from the freak show of the moment so that you can see the whole circle. That has never been more important than at this moment and under this administration.

Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control. White people don’t want to become one of many minority groups in America and have others — possibly from Asia, Latin America, Africa or the Middle East — holding the reins of power, and dictating inclusion and equity.

Once you see White Panic as the root of Trumpism, so many other things become clear: the imperviousness of Trump supporters to evidence of the harm he’s doing, the hypocrisy of “Christian” support for a man who has admitted to violating the values they purport to hold, the utter lack of concern for the humanitarian tragedy at the border…

Blow identifies the thread that connects so many of the issues that we’ve been confronting:

This is manifested in every issue you can imagine: the Confederate monuments fight, opposition to Black Lives Matter, intransigence on gun control, voter suppression laws, the Muslim ban, the hard line on asylum seekers coming across the southern border, calls to abolish the visa lottery, the defaming of majority black countries, efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the addition of a census question that could cause an undercount of Hispanics, the stacking of the courts with far-right judges (the vast majority of whom are white men). You name it, each issue is laced the white panic about displacement.

I have previously posted about the Cato report documenting the percentage of terrorist attacks attributable to White Nationalists; Blow references similar testimony by  the assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division. Of the 850 domestic terrorism investigations currently underway, he testified that 40 percent involve perpetrators with racist ideologies.  A significant majority are self-identified White Nationalists or White Supremacists.

Just as Trump saw fine people among the Nazis in Charlottesville, he is unable to see — or more precisely, to admit and address — white nationalism and white supremacy because he is at this moment these causes’ greatest champion.

The loyal MAGA-hat wearers may tell themselves that they differ from the violent fringe, that they aren’t like the David Dukes and other “out” Neo-Nazis, but their motives aren’t all that dissimilar.

The violent white nationalists are simply the leading edge, the violent vanguard, of the teeming masses of “soft” white nationalists and white supremacists, those who use stigmas and statutes as their weapons, those who have convinced themselves that their motivations have nothing to do with American racism and everything to do with American culture.

Blow connects some important dots. As he notes, in this “iteration of America,” securing white power and delaying displacement is to be achieved “through a fundamental restructuring of the laws around which babies get born, which addictions get treated, which bodies are allowed to immigrate or seek asylum and whose voice and votes get counted.”

Did you wonder why White Supremacists cheered the news about Alabama’s draconian anti-abortion law?

As the racist Iowa congressman, Steve King, tweetedin March of 2017, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The proposed census changes have a similar goal: If you’re losing in the game of numbers, change the way you count.

As NPR reported on Tuesday:

“Challenges threatening the upcoming 2020 census could put more than four million people at risk of being undercounted in next year’s national head count, according to new projections by the Urban Institute. The nonpartisan think tank found that the danger of an inaccurate census could hit some of the country’s most difficult to count populations the hardest. Based on the institute’s analysis, the 2020 census could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latino and Latina people in the U.S. since 1990.”

Don’t just grouse over each individual fruit of the poison tree, also focus on the root.

Right now, America is facing a moral challenge every bit as profound as the country’s earlier conflict over slavery.

Will we live up to our professed values, or–like the “Christians” who have discarded their theology in order to protect their privilege–will we elevate loyalty to our tribes over adherence to our ostensible principles?

What’s WRONG With These People?

We hear that question all the time–when we see pictures of babies in cages, see viral videos of racist incidents, or interviews of Trump supporters applauding his vicious rhetoric and bigotry.

Facebook comments posted by those supporters parrot Trump’s celebration of “achievements” that aren’t–mimicking his habit of declaring “wins” that are wholly imaginary. As Dana Milbank wrote recently in The Washington Post,

A Trump-boosting Republican member of Congress has been indicted on charges of insider trading — from the White House, no less. Trump’s former campaign chairman and another former aide are squabbling in court over who is the bigger criminal. And in a closely watched special congressional race in Ohio — a seat Republicans have held for 35 years in a district Trump won by 11 points and Mitt Romney by 10 — the Republican was clinging to a 0.9-percentage -point lead Wednesday despite Trump’s intervention and vast sums of Republican dollars.

In situations such as these, there is only one thing for Trump to do: declare victory.

“Congratulations to Troy Balderson on a great win in Ohio,” Trump proclaimed, even though the number of uncounted provisional and absentee ballots meant the race could not be called.

Milbank followed up with a partial list of Trump’s bizarre claims, including a tweet saying that tariffs are being used to pay down “large amounts” of the debt”  (Obviously, Trump doesn’t understand how tariffs work), and that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. Evidently, his base accepts these pronouncements at face value, despite the undeniable fact that the national debt has increased rather dramatically, and as widely reported, North Korea is continuing to add to its nuclear capabilities.

A fairly recent poll from Quinnapac, one of the better polling operations, found that 30% of Americans “approve strongly” of Trump. The poll also found that 31% of American voters like him as a person. (59% dislike him, and 54% disapprove of the job he’s doing–48% strongly.)

I find it astonishing that anyone could find Donald Trump personally likable. Be that as it may, the more relevant inquiry is: who are the 30% who “strongly support” him–and what is it that they support?

An article in Vox may shed some light on that question.

The article focused on a study of the “alt-right” from the University of Alabama. It is no secret that figures like Richard Spencer and David Duke are ecstatic about the Trump Presidency, but I think I’m representative of most reasonable Americans when I say that I have assumed the attitudes they represent are found in a pretty small slice of the population.

Evidently, that assumption is wrong.

According to Hawley, a political scientist who specializes in demography and the far right, roughly 5.64 percent of America’s 198 million non-Hispanic whites have beliefs consistent with the alt-right’s worldview. Whether or not they would describe themselves as alt-right, Hawley argues, they share the movement’s belief in a politics that promotes white interests above those of other racial groups.

If Hawley is right, then the alt-right’s constituency isn’t a tiny fringe. It’s about 11 million Americans….

The wrong thing to conclude from Hawley’s data is that there’s a massive number of people who are active participants in the alt-right. Last year’s Charlottesville rally only had several hundred participants; this year’s DC sequel isn’t expected to be orders of magnitude larger.

This isn’t a surprise. The alt-right is an extremely online-focused, extremely marginal movement. People who don’t closely follow the news or spend a lot of time online are unlikely to know a ton about the movement or self-identify with it, let alone spend time and money to attend its rallies.

But while the alt-right as a practical political movement is marginal, Hawley’s research shows that its ideas are more popular than it might seem. Large numbers of people think the way that they do, and shape their political identity around a sense of white grievance and identity. They may not march around the streets yelling, “Jews will not replace us!” but they are extremely receptive to a politics that positions whites as victims and a growing minority population as an existential threat.

I think that explains where a sizable part of that 30% comes from–and what it is about Trump that they support.