It’s indisputable: Trumpism is primarily about race.
Political science research in the wake of the 2016 election confirms that the characteristic most predictive of support for Donald Trump was “racial anxiety.”
A recent article in Vox even explains Trump’s damaging trade policies by reference to race.
“We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” Trump declared in his inaugural address.
But was his appeal to voters on trade, especially in the Upper Midwest, separate from his more baldly inflammatory arguments on immigration and refugees? Or was it all wrapped up into one overall message that appealed not so much to people’s economic circumstances but instead to their anxiety over their place in the American and global power structure?
In recent research, Peterson Institute scholar Marcus Noland found the backlash to free trade and the turn towards protectionism associated with the views, largely held by white people, about America’s perceived decline in global position and the status of whites within America.
The negative reaction to the rising tide of globalization “is particularly intense among some communities, low-education whites and older whites,” that “diversity in and of itself seems to be provoking and intensifying these reactions,” he told Vox….
“Considerable evidence indicates that attitudes toward international trade and domestic minorities are not separable … the Trump campaign’s articulation of protectionist positions and the use of racially charged, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic political language amounted to a self-reinforcing package.”
I’ve previously cited to Charles Blow’s article making the same point in the New York Times.
Everything that has happened during recent years is all about one thing: fear by white people that they will inevitably lose their numerical advantage in this country; and with that loss comes an alteration of American culture and shifting of American power away from white dominance and white control.
Even the uptick in efforts to ban abortions have been linked to white panic– an effort to ensure that white women will produce more white babies. (60% of the 1.6 million abortions annually in the United States are for white women.)
This isn’t just a leftist perspective. An essay from last year in Reason Magazine–-a libertarian publication–analyzed anti-immigrant rhetoric and came to the same conclusion. The article began with quotes from longtime racist Pat Buchanan:
Over at his blog, Buchanan asserted, “The existential question, however, thus remains: How does the West, America included, stop the flood tide of migrants before it alters forever the political and demographic character of our nations and our civilization?”
Sadly, this is not the first time in our history when bigots have urgently prophesied that America would soon be destroyed by a rising tide of allegedly unassimilable immigrants. We are now in the midst of the third such anti-immigration panic.
The article noted that sentiments very similar to Buchanan’s were expressed in 1850s by the anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party, and that the threat of
tides of national-character-altering immigration as a political bogeyman has a long and undistinguished history in America. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, foreign-born immigrants comprised just over 13 percentof our nation’s population—about what it is today.
The animus against immigrants, of course, is directed at our Southern border–no one seems concerned that those pasty Canadians might cross from the north.
One of the most authoritative books on the subject of white panic was last year’s The End of White Christian America, by Robert Jones. From the synopsis:
Drawing on findings from one of the largest troves of survey data on contemporary politics and religion, Robert Jones shows how today’s most heated controversies – the strident rise of a white “politics of nostalgia” following the election of the nation’s first black president; the apocalyptic tone of arguments over same-sex marriage and religious liberty; and stark disagreements between white and black Americans over the fairness of the justice system – can be fully understood only in the context of the anxieties that white Christians feel as the racial, religious, and cultural landscape has changed around them.
Today, although they still retain considerable power in the South and within the Republican Party, white Christians lack their former political and social clout. Looking ahead, Jones forecasts the ways that white Christians might adjust to their new reality – and the consequences for the country if they don’t.
White panic gave us Trump.
We can only hope that people of good will recognize the extent to which Trumpism is a politics of hate, and reject it soundly in 2020.