Charles Blow is one of the very few columnists who almost always cuts to the very heart of an issue. His clarity was particularly pronounced in his January 11th column, “The Lowest White Man.”
He began with a description of Donald Trump that mirrored what most sentient Americans already know:
I guess Donald Trump was eager to counter the impression in Michael Wolff’s book that he is irascible, mentally small and possibly insane. On Tuesday, he allowed a bipartisan session in the White House about immigration to be televised for nearly an hour.
Surely, he thought that he would be able to demonstrate to the world his lucidity and acumen, his grasp of the issues and his relish for rapprochement with his political adversaries.
But instead what came through was the image of a man who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about; a man who says things that are 180 degrees from the things he has said before; a man who has no clear line of reasoning; a man who is clearly out of his depth and willing to do and say anything to please the people in front of him.
Blow acknowleged Trump’s antipathy to people who are not white, but refused to attribute his intransigence about the wall to anything as coherent as bigotry, reminding readers that the original idea of building a wall and making Mexico pay for it was just a cheap campaign stunt. (Trump doesn’t have actual policy positions; that would require reading more than the chyron running on the screen beneath Fox and Friends.)
The column then asks and answers the real question, the one I’ve heard a million times–from family, from friends, from colleagues: why can’t his base see what we all see? How can anyone still support this pathetic buffoon?
That is because Trump is man-as-message, man-as-messiah. Trump support isn’t philosophical but theological.
Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.
It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man.
As President Lyndon B. Johnson saidin the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Trump’s supporters are saying to us, screaming to us, that although he may be the “lowest white man,” he is still better than Barack Obama, the “best colored man.”
There is, of course, a copious history that prompted Johnson’s observation. Poor whites in the post Civil War South were kept compliant by reassurances that–no matter how wretched they were–they were better than those black people, and entitled to their superior status.
There are too many white guys, north and south, who still cling to the comforting belief that their skin color and male genitals make them better than those “others”–women, Jews, gays, immigrants, and even (as we have recently seen) Native Americans. But consistently and especially, black people.
They found Obama’s Presidency intolerable, and they are Trump’s committed base.
No matter how much of an embarrassment and a failure Trump proves to be, his exploits must be judged a success. He must be deemed a correction to Barack Obama and a superior choice to Hillary Clinton. White supremacy demands it. Patriarchy demands it. Trump’s supporters demand it.
That belief, ultimately, is what the resistance is about. That is the worldview that absolutely must be left in the dustbin of history.