We may dismiss the megalomaniac as unelectable. But Trump’s racist and misogynist rants give voice to what many White Americans are thinking—and validates their hate.
As with reality television and tabloids news, it was hard to turn away from the Republican “debate” last Thursday night. Chiiiiile, it was a hot-ass mess!
For those who missed out on the foolery, thank Sweet Black baby Jesus that you didn’t lose 120 minutes of your life.
The Fox News moderators were as impartial as Roger Goodell at the Tom Brady hearing. The GOP’s definition of diversity, on and offstage, didn’t extend beyond the candidate’s blue and red ties (Ben Carson doesn’t count because he doesn’t see skin color and hair; he only sees people’s brains). It was clear that the GOP’s candidates believe in a culture of life except when it comes to the death penalty, their love affair with war, denying people access to affordable health care, perpetuating poverty, ignoring all those dead Black bodies in the street, or letting endangered pregnant women die in the name of pro-forced birth.
As one of my friends reminded me the other night, the Republican candidates are brilliant marketers, and the right wing is a giant marketing scam that uses religious, patriotic, and traditional values to whitewash its corporatist agenda. They will spew whatever bullshit Fox News tells its viewers because that’s what appeals to its base. Meanwhile, they are getting a shitload of money from super-PACs and lobbyists while their base rants about food-stamp fraud, drug-testing welfare recipients, and claim that Mexico is sending teeming hordes of drug dealers and rapists across the border.
The takeaway: Grab your guns and batten down the hatches, White America! Oh, and Ronald Reagan is god so bow down, bishes!
Here’s a quick recap of a few debate lowlights, before I focus my column’s attention on the current front-runner clown masquerading as a contender. Because the 1890s version of Survivor had other colorful contestants besides The Donald.
We have former governor turned Fox News contributor toward perpetual candidate Mike Huck-a-boo, whose platform revolves around the kind of fear-mongering that Ricky Perry only dreams of achieving: He suggested that transgender people should not be allowed in the military because they can’t “kill and break things.” Huck-a-boo said he’d criminalize miscarriages by granting 14th-Amendment rights to zygotes. He also wants to raise taxes on “illegals,” prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers who he believes are mooching off the government. Beyond regulating all women’s bodies, the subtext here is that these staunchly pro-life candidates are so desperate to get White babies born that it doesn’t matter how they get here, no exceptions for incest or rape. Damn any White woman who does not fulfill her patriotic duty, even if it means losing her own life while filling the cradle. Meanwhile, the same candidates would continue to criminalize women of color while cops taser, punch, and body-slam pregnant Black women during traffic stops, and states like Texas refuse to issue birth certificates to children born in the state to undocumented parents.
Not to be outdone, Scott “I Kill Unions” Walker announced that he would let a pregnant woman die rather than have an abortion that could save her life. How much do y’all want to bet that in the future one of these dudes will propose legislation officially declaring that life begins when a man gets an erection? (Those who lose this bet can pay me in chocolate. Dark chocolate, please. Click here.)
Chris “the Bridge” Christie wants to slash Social Security entitlements and Medicare so that we end up working until we die, while Rand “Yes, My Dad is Ron” Paul made clear that he never hugged President Obama. Case closed.
John “My Father Was a Mailman” Kasich, the Fox contributor turned governor, tried to mask his homophobia and opposition to same-sex marriage by revealing that he recently attended a same-sex wedding, and that he’d still love his hypothetically gay child, and would be a friend and be respectful to people who “happen to be gay.” Which, my friends, is the functional equivalent of saying, “I’m not racist, I have a friend who is black.” Or, “I’m not racist, my shadow is Black.”
Bush wishes he could just be known as Jeb. He also thinks that America’s education system and economy will improve dramatically if we just set higher goals.
Ben Carson barely got any airtime, but he sure did have a lot to say: He lamented political correctness, which has led so many to speak out against waterboarding. If only the Japanese soldiers tried for war crimes would have known about the p.c. defense. Uncle Ben was too busy shucking and jiving and telling people he’s colorblind, that he didn’t even notice that Megyn Kelly had strategically directed the only frank matter-of-fact question about how to improve American race relations to the token Black guy on the stage. Clearly Carson must have given half his brain to those conjoined twins he separated.
It wouldn’t be a GOP gathering without having a “Who Is the Most Christian?” contest. Here’s when things started sounding more like a tent revival than a political debate. Carson would have folks bringing their tithes, rather than taxes, to the White House since “God is a pretty fair guy.” Kasich confirmed that he outsourced his decision to accept Medicaid money to God. And so maybe it was little surprise, then, that the debate ended with a question that came from Facebook, the moral and theological center: “I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.”
Ted Cruz, the son of a preacher, referenced Matthew 7 to posit himself as a pure conservative and a true prophet. Walker eschewed those silly platforms of his opponents since he is guided by the Ten Commandments. The 11th commandment must be, thou shalt oppose all public-sector unions.
By the end, it was clear, that nine of the candidates were indistinguishable from one another. It was like going to any number of fast-food restaurants at 2 a.m. Sure, there are “food options,” but no matter what you choose you will be sick in the morning. Because no matter who is selected from this all-male, mostly White candidate pool, all of them would cut entitlement programs, undermine women’s health care, block immigration reform, limit minimum-wage increases, and try to roll back marriage equality. They will drop enough bombs to make heartless Dick Cheney proud; unite America through building walls; shut up anyone who talks about racism; lock up more and more people; and deport as many “illegal aliens” of color as possible.
And those are just the nine. I haven’t even gotten to Donald “You’re All A Buncha Losers” Trump, who has said that if Ivanka wasn’t his daughter he’d tap that.
Yes, Donald Trump, who lamented America’s Obama-led free-fall into ideological bankruptcy (he is an expert there). That is, America’s greatness is a thing of the past. We are “losers” and “stupid,” Trump said, because the Mexicans and Chinese are “beating us.” If he’s president, he will build a wall to keep the Mexicans out since presumably they lack the morals to make America great. Never mind his moral compass includes calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” who look better “on their knees.” And he’s audaciously unapologetic about his sexism because ain’t nobody got time for “political correctness.” Clearly his nostalgia for the 1950s does not extend into the arena of manners and chivalry.
It is easy to dismiss him as little more than the driver of the GOP assclown car, a caricature of a caricature of an openly racist, sexist, no fucks to give presidential candidate—the GOP’s Bulworth.
But, while we are treating him as a clown, as a form of entertainment, we must remember that those who are taking him at least seriously enough to support his popularity in polls are highly motivated to vote. He is the Fox News of the presidential race: While he says nothing of substance, offers more lies than truths, and is activated by fear, he is a window into America’s racist underbelly. Sure, he has no agenda other than self-aggrandizement, but he is also toxic stew of -isms spewing hate at everyone who isn’t rich, White, male, and heterosexual. And he is dominating the presidential field.
The Donald is no more a joke than George Wallace was. He is a sophisticated version of Huey Long—the epitome of an unscrupulous politician who craves power for all the wrong reasons and wields it as a weapon of destruction.
Like his White Populist predecessors, Trump is capitalizing on widespread anti-immigrant sentiment. And this kind of rhetoric is just a more socially acceptable form of anti-Black racism. Trump with his anti-p.c. stances and anti-Mexican rhetoric can rally his White troops against everything from #BlackLivesMatter to demands for the expulsion of ethnic studies out of our classrooms, for more prisons and police. He is the personification of White supremacy and patriarchy, cloaked in a mirage of the American Dream and its related ideology of American exceptionalism.
He is recycling a trusted playbook of demonizing immigrants of color, playing on the fears and anger from the White working- and middle-class people who have long supported the GOP since the introduction of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” which capitalized on White bigotry throughout the South while mobilizing White fears of Black crime by advancing an aggressive law and order platform.
His anti-immigrant and racist message is an old historical narrative. It worked from the Know-Nothing Party that mobilized around anti-Irish and anti-Black sentiments. It worked for countless Republican politicians who used fear of the “Yellow Peril” which led to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the 1942 Bracero Agreement, a labor and wartime strategy that was used to maintain political power. And of course, racial fear has been fundamental to the maintenance of slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and the amped-up militarization of the police who are disproportionately killing people of color and being acquitted for it.
So much of White America feels they are losing their country, their identity, their power, and their privileges. Every time they see and hear from the Black man in the White House, every time they see Census projections about the decline of the White birthrate and the inevitable browning of the nation, and every time they are reminded that they are living in a global village where they are outnumbered by people of color, the anxiety increases. Donald Trump validates their angst and gives them hope where they can dream of a White future again.
We must recognize his appeal among his lower-income cousins—those dudes openly wielding loaded machine guns in Walmart, Target, schools, churches, movie theaters and other public spaces, and those gleefully waving the Confederate flag and shouting the lie: “heritage not hate.” These folks are desperate. The economy has turned against them. Many of their jobs are being shipped overseas to non-White people who will work for less money under worse conditions.
Trump strikes many folks as refreshingly blunt, straightforward, and unapologetically politically incorrect. He says what all too many voters say behind closed doors, to their friends, through their racist jokes, in comments sections, and at their Thanksgiving dinners. He can and does say what no other candidate—with their party agendas, handlers, public-relations teams and slick scriptwriters—could even dream of saying. Trump’s outspoken tirades make him seem less robotic and more human than his competitors.
The accusation that Trump is “bringing out the worst in people” distracts us from the fact that he is only bringing out the devil that’s been inside them all along. He is tapping into a patriarchal White supremacist belief system that is fundamental to America. He’s not creating something new. There is a danger in seeing him as the source of the vitriolic social and political discourse.
These frustrated racists can’t fight the rich so they go after the nearest targets—Mexicans and Blacks. White people are being screwed en masse and instead of recognizing the systemic source of their misery, they blame their neighbors of color rather than the super-rich like Trump who are robbing them blind. Trump is in touch with the popular sentiment and he can’t be controlled by the Republican elite who are scared shitless of this anti-immigrant feeling because they need at least a modest percentage of the Latino vote. Trump doesn’t need the Koch brothers for funding so he can go rogue.
Trump represents fertile ground for the care and breeding of terrorists like Dylann Roof and others like him. Each time he takes to his bully pulpit he issues a clarion call: “Make America great again!” Which means breed more White babies, hold the color line, and preserve White supremacy, be strong, pick up your guns and firebombs. So when Trump speaks, the nut jobs feel comfortable coming out of the woodwork to wage their attacks because a presidential candidate is expressing their racist, sexist, and xenophobic sentiments. Since Ferguson, these folks—the ones we scorn but dare not ignore or underestimate—have been encouraged by all the acquittals of White police officers accused of killing unarmed Black people.
So even if Trump doesn’t win, we need to recognize him as part of a larger and more perilous ecosystem of hate, and the larger plan to dial back rights and opportunities for non-Whites and for women. We dismiss his ridiculous rants as harmless or benign but every word, and the message behind those words, is feeding the fear, rage and hatred that threatens our lives. His presence and rhetoric sends the message that it’s okay to attack.
And what Trump represents is not limited to the United States. White fear and rage is global. Right-wing politicians like The Donald are finding increased popularity in Greece, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe. No matter how far he progresses, he could poison the (trans)national political arena, offering yet another framework for amped-up attacks on immigrants and people of color.
Underestimating him is a mistake we simply cannot afford to make, especially in such a volatile political climate—the killings in Charleston, a litany of heartbreaking hashtags memorializing dead Black people, the systemic assaults against ethnic studies, efforts to deny birth certificates to children of illegal immigrants, the denial of voting rights, assaults on women’s health, stop and frisk, mass deportations, and unfettered state violence. We must pay attention to his rhetoric of fear, his demonization of people of color, his misogynistic ethos points to the ongoing threats against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.
Donald Trump may be a fool, but he is a fool with a platform, an audience, and a bankroll. Donald Trump is dangerous because his ideology kills.
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