Charlottesville and the Trump Reich: The Faces of "Economic Anxiety"
Since the horrific events of Charlottesville and even more horrifying response from the top of our government, there has been a lot of focus on what Donald Trump said, what he didn't say, and how soon he should have said something. There seems to be a general agreement in the political Left, Right and Center that Trump desecrated a seminal moment in America, failing to condemn racists, Nazis, and White Supremacists, and equating the Nazis with those who showed up to protest the Nazis. The Nazis had a permit, you know, boasted the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But Donald Trump may not be the only one missing the seminal teachable moment that we stand on the edge of. While the condemnation of Trump and his white supremacist core is absolutely necessary, it does not even come close to being a sufficient response to this catastrophe.
For that, Americans must explore a darkness in the soul of our nation. The darkness in our national soul that allowed Donald Trump to get away with vicious displays of racism, sexism and bigotry as a candidate must be confronted. The darkness that fostered and swelled the candidacy of a man who rose in politics by questioning the citizenship of a black president must be battled. But most of all, the soul-crushing darkness of the voters and the political party that enabled the rise of the Trump Reich in America must be held as a mirror to our national character.
I have news for our news media. There is no way to address that deep darkness of our national soul effectively without putting to bed the persistent myth that "economic anxiety" among the "white working class" is the primary factor in Donald Trump's electoral victories in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin and thereby his path to the White House.
Donald Trump did not tap into 'economic anxiety' as a businessman, he made common cause with racists as a racist. Donald Trump did not win the votes of the "white working class" because of their "working class" roots but because of what they saw as an affront to a pernicious if not always transparent form of white supremacy: a white woman forcing America to confront institutional and personal racism. Hillary Clinton did not lose the votes of this "white working class" because she took money for speeches but because they viewed her as a race traitor. Donald Trump does not today enjoy vast support among self-identified Republicans because he's a self-identified Republican, but because the GOP has become a party of racism.
This is today's harsh reality in America. Whether this is the case for every individual Trump voter is irrelevant; it is abundantly clear that race, not economics, was the overriding current that made Trump president. Whether each individual Trump voter was a racist or they were merely passive enablers of Trump and by proxy the now-electrified Nazi movement in America, not a single Trump voter can escape their personal failing that brought us to this dark, low point in American history.
Likewise, the Republican party cannot escape a much larger responsibility for not just putting Trump in the White House but for making the rise of white supremacist hate groups possible. For eight straight years, Republicans railed against a successful and consequential black president, choosing to stand against everything he stood for, even in cases where Obama adopted policies previously advocated by those same Republicans. It is time we stopped pretending that opposition was motivated by anything other than the politics of race.
The Republican party welcomed birthers among their ranks, calculating the energy the birthers would create for the Republican turnout efforts in the elections to follow could outweigh the damage their racist hatred would do our nation. The Republican party accepted in their base and in their recruiting efforts those who took pleasure in bashing immigrants, rolling back the rights of workers and women, celebrated police officers (and wanna-be cops) who shot dead unarmed black people, backed "conversion therapy" for gays, and bullied transgender teenagers. The Republican party has made its mission to suppress the votes of black and brown people, students, and the poor. It bears mentioning that the Republican party did not become the party of racism when Barack Obama took the oath of office as President. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the GOP has sought and captured the deplorable souls of racists and bigots in America. The Republican party has stood every step against protecting the rights of disadvantaged communities and people of color, lest we demand the full right of citizenship.
Today, a Republican president is openly making common cause with the KKK and the American Nazis, and Republicans seem to be in a panic, even aghast at their president's attitude. But there is absolutely no assurance that the GOP's panic is not simply about the undermining of their agenda of incremental and pernicious racism through policy rather than overt and shocking displays of it at the podium.
The rise of Donald Trump and his band of modern-day Nazi confederates is a wholly Republican phenomenon, aided only by a media that thrives on conflict rather than truth. The Republican party as an institution is responsible for Charlottesville and for Donald Trump. Its voters - Trump's voters - whose resentment against the success of a black president and the diversification of America put Donald Trump in the White House are responsible.
As a nation, there can no longer be any question, any debate about what brought Donald Trump to power. It wasn't "economic anxiety", and his loudest supporters in Charlottesville told us as much.
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