Charles M. Blow, New York Times, August 4, 2016
Reports of Donald Trump’s demise are an exaggeration, to paraphrase and repurpose Mark Twain.
But Donald Trump is bigger than all of this, or shall I say, smaller.
He appeals to something deeper, something baser: Fear. His whole campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is in fact an inverted admission of loss–lost primacy, lost privilege, lost prestige.
And who feels that they have lost the most? White men.
As the New York Times’ Upshot pointed out in July, “According to our estimates, Mrs. Clinton is doing better among basically every group of voters except for white men without a degree.” Put another way: “Hillary Clinton is largely performing as well or better than Barack Obama did in 2012, except among white men without a degree.”
These are the voters keeping Trump’s candidacy alive.
He appeals to a regressive, patriarchal American whiteness in which white men prospered, in part because racial and ethnic minorities, to say nothing of women as a whole, were undervalued and underpaid, if not excluded altogether.
White men reigned supreme in the idealized history, and all was good with the world. (It is curious that Trump never specifies a period when America was great in his view. Did it overlap with the women’s rights, civil rights or gay rights movements? For whom was it great?)
Trump’s wall is not practical, but it is metaphor. Trump’s Muslim ban is not feasible, but it is metaphor. Trump’s huge deportation plan isn’t workable, but it is metaphor.
There is a portion of the population that feels threatened by unrelenting change–immigration, globalization, terrorism, multiculturalism–and those people want someone to, metaphorically at least, build a wall around their cultural heritage, which they conflate in equal measure with American heritage.
In their minds, whether explicitly or implicitly, America is white, Christian, straight and male-dominated. If you support Trump, you are on some level supporting his bigotry and racism. You don’t get to have a puppy and not pick up the poop.
And acceptance of racism is an act of racism. You are convicted by your complicity.
I am not accustomed to dancing around an issue; I prefer to call it what it is. I prefer to shine a bright light on it until it withers. Supporting Trump is indefensible and it makes you as much of a pariah as he is.