Politics Magazine

Trump Won By Appealing To America's Racism

Posted on the 27 November 2017 by Jobsanger
Trump Won By Appealing To America's Racism (This cartoon image is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.)
Pundits have come up with various reasons for Trump winning the 2016 election, but most ignore the most obvious. Trump appealed to the racist tendencies of White voters, and they loved it (even though most would deny being racist). Here is just a tiny part of an excellent article on this subject by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic:
Even before he won, the United States was consumed by a debate over the nature of his appeal. Was racism the driving force behind Trump’s candidacy? If so, how could Americans, the vast majority of whom say they oppose racism, back a racist candidate?

During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked. It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum . . . searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of. . . . Most Trump supporters I spoke with were not people who thought of themselves as racist. Rather, they saw themselves as antiracist, as people who held no hostility toward religious and ethnic minorities whatsoever—a sentiment they projected onto their candidate. . . .
Far more numerous and powerful than the extremists in Berkeley and Charlottesville who have drawn headlines since Trump’s election, these Americans, who would never think of themselves as possessing racial animus, voted for a candidate whose ideal vision of America excludes millions of fellow citizens because of their race or religion.

The specific dissonance of Trumpism—advocacy for discriminatory,even cruel, policies combined with vehement denials that such policies are racially motivated—provides the emotional core of its appeal. It is the most recent manifestation of a contradiction as old as the United States, a society founded by slaveholders on the principle that all men are created equal. While other factors also led to Trump’s victory—the last-minute letter from former FBI Director James Comey, the sexism that rationalized supporting Trump despite his confession of sexual assault, Hillary Clinton’s neglect of the Midwest—had racism been toxic to the American electorate, Trump’s candidacy would not have been viable. . . .

One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency. Their support was enough to win the White House, and has solidified a return to a politics of white identity that has been one of the most destructive forces in American history. This all occurred before the eyes of a disbelieving press and political class, who plunged into fierce denial about how and why this had happened. That is the story of the 2016 election.

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