It’s All About White Panic

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.


  1. I guess the Trump supporters who are afraid of the “others” coming in and taking power away from them are worried that they will be treated as badly as they have routinely treated the “others.” Just as the “glass ceiling” metaphor indicates that men in power (white men, or course) are afraid that if women gain positions of power, men will not be able to automatically assume those positions. What will the world come to?

  2. Let’s hope the “White Resentment” stance of today’s Republican Party will end the same way it did for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

  3. “White panic gave us Trump.”

    The answer to the problem is simple. They will reject their white racism when they can see the BLOWBACK from it. That’s the ONLY way.

  4. There is still a lot of white panic in this nation. The Republican party long ago figured out how to rally the voters through fear and it continues to work for them. I fully expect them to use the immigration issue to their benefit in the upcoming election. They have also proven that they have no qualms about lying or stretching the truth to achieve their goals. Winning and staying in power is all that matters.

    Unfortunately, the Democratic party has not been able to employ the same level of strong leaders or people who understand how to design and manage campaigns that win elections.

    At this moment in time the Democrats running for President and for Congress need to consistently make healthcare a major focus of their messages to the people. The Republican party would prefer that no one have health insurance unless you are wealthy enough to pay for it on your own. They still want to downgrade Medicare with the ultimate goal of ending it. Democrats need to harp on this subject to get the attention of Republicans who don’t want to even think about the potential loss of Medicare.

  5. Republican national thought has been “ANTI-OTHER” since Nixon (“Southern Strategy”)
    This is nothing new. — Willie Horton? Anti Gay? it goes on and on
    They pick an OTHER to hate and then stir up their people
    It has worked VERY WELL for 50 years
    I very much doubt they will stop doing it
    WE need to defeat them as they will not change what they are doing.

  6. T. E. Lawrence, in a letter home from Arabia, wrote that “The foreigners (meaning the Europeans) come out here always to teach, whereas they had much better learn.” How true this is today in America where whites continue to believe that they can “teach” their way into racial peace without ever really learning from those they subjugate.

  7. Copied and pasted from Monday’s blog, “Uncommon Common Ground”: “Any initiative that boasts funding from both George Soros and Charles Koch—boogeymen of the right and left, respectively—is going to garner some attention. But the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a newly planned anti-war foreign policy think tank, aims to get noticed for more than just the money behind it. Its founders hope that, as operations ramp up in the coming months, the institute will provide a critique not only of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, but of the hawkish bipartisan consensus in Washington.”

    Is the funding from Soros and Koch based on altruistic ideals or feeding into Trump’s bogus claim of “America First” or is it to turn this country into a “closed corporation” (another movie quote I love)? Greedy corporations, including those owned by Soros and Koch, are located in foreign countries around the world. Research the story about Charles Horman’s CIA approved murder in Santiago, Chile, to see how deeply embedded this government and corporations are in those foreign countries. No one is stealing our products, companies or jobs; they are being given away to foreign countries…remember Carrier Corporation’s $6 MILLION deal brokered by Trump and Pence prior to their inauguration. Not based on race but solely on greed which is the basis for the “white panic” which did indeed give us Trump.

    But never lose sight of the “Red Lining” and “White Flight” and busing of millions of our children during the past century based on race which began a negative financial deterioration in our neighborhoods which continues to escalate racially and financially. We can’t escape it.

    “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.”

    But our rejection can and must begin with the November 2019 elections. The Indianapolis Mayoral race between Mayor Joe Hogsett and Senator Jim Merritt is vital to our progress. We finally have the possibility of a Democratic candidate to stand up against Gov. Holcomb; it is not an election with only one candidate running .

  8. It is less stressful to be a bully than to be bullied but both positions are demonstrations of a lack of confidence in who we are. Someone confident in their position would find neither advantagous. They know that they can defend their position because it’s reasonable and not competitive. This is the very nature of collaboration. You and I don’t defend, we contribute, we each add a perspective to whatever we are trying to do and teach and learn in every transaction.

    While I was born with and into every advantage what I was taught is that we are all in this together, everyone can contribute to happiness, and everyone struggles though it may be obscured by our many defenses. Get closer not further away and listen quietly as well as speak thoughtfully.

    There is nothing that we were born with and into that separates us. In fact it joins us in our common humanity.

  9. I witnessed ‘white panic’ in large scale during the early 90’s while consulting with a non-profit that served the community for decades. It was a small city in southeast Texas of 50,000 population that hosted the world’s largest petroleum refinery. The refineries had been shutdown for eighteen months for the first time in three generations. When the flares reignited on the horizon, local families celebrated for a very short lived time until they found out the renewed operations only required 10% of the previous workforce that drove a family narrative for three generations. Pervasive racism ensured employment entitlement to white families for a narrative passed on that all of a sudden did not work anymore. Not only did the refineries require a much smaller workforce, they became more proactive in equal opportunity employment practices in hiring minorities who completed training required to perform work now required for automated operations. Many white families waited for jobs that became obsolete. They were all of a sudden competing for jobs in the service sector where the minority workforce had been working for many years. In some cases, former refinery workers had to take jobs at lesser wages under supervision of veteran minority managers. Only families, a few, saw the reality of the future, encouraged their young men to return to school to retrain. They are the ones the re-outfitted refineries hired. Scores of the unprepared acquiesced to flipping burgers or drugs to mask the pain of depression. White panic found scapegoats to blame. The refineries had dismantled labor intensive infrastructure to rebuild overseas in far less expensive ready and willing labor markets. As time reveals all that happened, deep seated resentment infiltrated those left behind who had limited capacity for many reasons to adapt to new realities. How many times has this story repeated in so many industrial communities across our nation the past 30 years of an entire generation. Who is to blame other than those vested in the narrative of unmerited white entitlement?

  10. W.E.B. Dubois used this famous phrase over 100 years ago: “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the colour-line.” Now, it’s the problem of the 21st century, too.
    And it will always be the problem. As America becomes ‘more brown’, the difference in shades of brown will still be present and be used for all sorts of excuses for evil behaviors.
    But, what will really shock those of European Caucasian stock will be the realization that this culture, light or dark, being based on the rule of law, will be basically the same.
    It will be a gun-loving violent culture, a money-worshipping capitalist economic system, and a Constitution-loving society that worships all things of a selfish nature — no matter the actual color of one’s skin.

  11. Reject Trumpism… from your lips to their god’s ears. And may the apathetic be miraculously healed.

  12. White privilege. White panic. A bunch of prog blogs and opinion pieces using racism to tell cons that they’re racist?

  13. We all choose among the ways we are familiar with early in life a path to lifelong economic survival. Unfortunately the world changes faster than we age and what might have been a good guess when we made it turns out to be a dead end before we don’t need it any longer.

    The best we can do is make this a shared risk: in other words insure it publicly.

    That means there is a public social responsibility to help retrain people in order to recover from the career ravages of technological and social change.

  14. What you folks above don’t understand is that it is not about race, but that God’s hand is on Trump. He has been wronged by Muller, the media, anti-trumpists, and never gets credit for anything.
    At last that’s the way it goes in discussions with my trump supporting friends. The discussion is very hard when the prejudice is so ingrained. What seems to work in discussions with trump supporters is to deny allowing labeling discussions and stick soley to issues i.e. how do we solve the roots of this immigration issue?, how do we solve the need for the uninsured or underinsured to get needed medical attention?, how do we get a livable wage for those working for Amazon and the other giant corps. that are increasingly dominant?, how do we expose the independent contractor movement as an increasingly popular way for corps. to pay less to workers?

  15. Not all GOPers are racist but all racists are GOPers. 😉

    All the politicians (polished) before Trump were more tactful in using “dog-whistle” speech to appeal to the privileged white crowd. Ronald Reagan was famous for his welfare queens and young bucks language. Trump is more in your face…MAGA literally means, Make America White Again.

    Sorry to those afflicted with racism but the demographics of this country are turning brown and brown tolerant.

    Here is another truism, if we stopped meddling in foreign countries like Honduras and Venezuela, there wouldn’t be so many immigrants starving and flocking to America. If we applied the same tactics to Canada, we would see the same pasty white immigrants coming to this country. Would we then close down our northern border??

    Europe is flooded with the same immigrant problems because of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It’s our fault these people pick up and leave their countries for less warring land. And it’s not just dropping bombs or MIC action either. It’s our economic sanctions which hurt the poorest citizens the most. This is why they are the ones fleeing on foot. They have no options but to flee.

    I blame the media for not properly educating Americans on the causes of the immigrant flow vs showing them as disruptive criminals on the border. Why are they showing up should be every news channels purpose but would Fox viewers buy from their advertisers if the truth was shared? Same for MSNBC?

  16. Sandy,

    Your statement, “Let’s hope the “White Resentment” stance of today’s Republican Party will end the same way it did for the Confederacy in the Civil War.”, is false on its face. The Old Confederacy has NEVER lost its resentment nor its attitude about race. It has been passed on from one generation to the next since slavery was accepted as a norm.

    It is not surprising that white panic is once again being exploited for political purposes. The Republican party has a “base” that is shrinking and they need ALL of it to hold on to any semblance of power. There is no pendulum here. Republicans have always been about white wealth and the defeat of anything resembling socialistic capitalism. The mindset is ingrained and perpetuated. The big money people create “think” tanks to ensure that these memes and fears and policies remain embedded in the minds of what passes for their constituents.

    Donald Trump has enabled the weak to vent their ire and blame those “others” for their own failings. It’s always easier to blame somebody else for an inherent lack of ability to deal with life. Add to that the crushing reality of corporate/banking America being allowed to put profits above all else no matter who gets squeezed, and we have this systematic disinformation and warped reality. It should be noted that brown people are affected even more than white people when the jobs go away. They were poor and oppressed to begin with.

  17. Kudos Nancy! “Unfortunately, the Democratic party has not been able to employ the same level of strong leaders or people who understand how to design and manage campaigns that win elections.”

    We at CommonGoodGoverning worked hard with several of the “new” folks who won for the US House in 2016, especially on turning out young people and minorities. With relatively non-partisan and non-ideological messaging, amazing things can happen, like in Oklahoma. Check out this woman, the only DEM in Congress from that Red state:

  18. Todd is right the immigrant issues stem from for the most part from the actions of USA’s Militant Foreign Policies in Latin America (think Iran-Contra as one example) and the Perma-Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Add to this our attempts at Regime Change in Syria, and Libya. White Privilege on a Global Scale. This worldwide Militarism is good for Corporate Profits. The Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex could not be happier.

    Besides the Militant Foreign Policy, we had Steroid Capitalism, which exported our jobs out of the USA and left millions out of work only to find low paying service industry jobs available.

    At some point there had to be blow back against the system that created America’s economic decline. Corporate America was not about to allow themselves to be seen in the daylight. Our two Corporate Political Parties have managed to deflect the blame away from Wall Street.

    Finding enemies is never a problem: Unions, Blacks, Hispanics, Environmentalists, and Liberals in general. Once an enemy or enemies has been found, it becomes easy to divide and keep the Proles fighting among themselves.

    The Evangelicals have been enlisted and eagerly embrace a return to a Mythical Past.

  19. Things haven’t changed much since the inception of this country. People flocked here from the beginning and demolished the indigenous population and civilizations. Then because they believed in an agrarian society, they went to Africa and demolished civilizations there to bring slaves back to this country, and basically build it from the ground up. The minority indigenous population was good for basically target practice. Slaves were good for anything from labor to the Masters sexual gratifications. The night rider’s, the dyed-in-the-wool KKK, the German bund, white Christian supremacist groups, all manipulate the Christian religion to make people feel that it is okay to have these sort of feelings against everyone who is not white. of course those same individuals will give to charities and such to satisfy their conscience, but in reality they just wish all but the white race would disappear. Unfortunately they seem not to realize that every major war that was fought in our modern history was started by the white race. There is no cure for this mentality, and nothing anyone can attempt or conceive of will change that.

  20. Such a coincident! Sheila’s theme in her blog today coincides nicely with a book I just started reading yesterday, entitled Dying of Whiteness, by Vanderbilt Professor Jonathan M. Metzl, in which he shows how the politics of racial resentment is killing America’s Heartland. His research is limited to Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee, but there is good reason to believe that the remaining forty seven states are dying of such resentment as well. One of Metzl’s book cover praisers is Thomas Frank of What’s the Matter with Kansas fame, a classic in its own right.

    Dying of Whiteness is the result of years of traversing the three states above cited by Metzl in gathering the research upon which his thesis (the book’s title) is grounded, the results of which are alluded to by Sheila in her blog today. Racial resentment is not only bad for those of color; it is bad or worse for white people which, for instance, causes many of them to vote against and make other choices adverse to their own interests in a form of ritual political and economic suicide, thus hastening the day when the resented black and brown people take over, a result they were attempting to avoid, among other negative outcomes from their narrow and racist point of view. Repercussions to such views include Ferguson, Detroit , Black Lives Matter et al.

    I am only half way through Dying of Whiteness, but it is a good read and an important one given today’s political tumult, so I here recommend it to my fellow contributors.

  21. It used to be that whites owned everything. Now they only own almost everything. But for too many whites, even that is scary. The fact is, America is becoming increasingly diverse and less monolithic, and you can no more prevent that than you can prevent the seasons from changing. It’s going to happen, and the only question is how easy, or how difficult, do Americans want to make that process. Sadly, it appears they’re going to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new world, and creating a lot of chaos along the way. There’s not much that can be done with people who define themselves by who or what they hate, and that they can only succeed if someone else fails.

  22. The fact of people like Trump is not news, we’ve always been burdened by them. What’s new is the number of people who can be sold on not believing what they see and hear about the damage that was inflicted on the GOP through the hostile takeover by Trump. They say that Americans are not treating him fairly when that’s the precise opposite of what is revealed daily in all the news. It’s Trump who is treating us contrarily to the Constitution and nearly 250 years of the norms of our country.

    We will survive and replace him soon enough but what to do about those blinded by him and the GOP which has been led so far astray from their mission as a political party?

  23. Thank you Gerald Stinson … for bringing my attention to Dr. Jonathan Metzi’s: The Dying of Whiteness. I looked up the book review and ordered my copy from Amazon (yes … Amazon … at origin, only an online bookseller). The book review and your comments resonated with my earlier post regarding Port Arthur, Texas and the radical transformation of refinery operations in America during the late 80’s. And thanks again to Sheila for another insightful blog. I learned some new insight today on an experience some time ago that has dogged me since then.

  24. White-flight……White-privilege. There’s something to be said when a group of whites living in white-flight enclaves point their fingers at other whites and accuse them of being racist. That’s privilege. Unless you have dated/married outside of your ethnicity,you don’t get the luxury of accusing others of racism. The majority of whites are racist. That’s why the majority don’t marry outside of their race. That’s why so many live in suburbs and white-flight enclaves. Everyone reading this blog is aware of it. Racism isn’t exclusive to Republicans. We all know many within the confines of the Democratic Party that are racist. Joe Biden is a racist and misogynist. The party will back him and you will be told to vote for him. You will comply,because Republicans? Ha!

    Would it bother the reader to know that Democratic Party has forgotten the working-class? Those Latinos and Black folks doing the menial jobs at the airports—how come the supposed party of the working-class acts as if they don’t exist? They’re never mentioned on this blog. According to this blog,only white-working-class people exist and y’all hate them. Yee Haw.

    Moreover,look no further than the Women’s March post found on this very blog,titled; We Hang Together Or We’ll All Hang Separately,January 22,2018..

    That contribution could only come from someone with a myopic and privileged worldview. And most definitely that post came from a former Republican.

  25. We in Indiana have only to turn our eyes northwestward to understand the depths and impact of racism. I grew up in and around Gary, IN in the 60’s & 70’s.

    And therein stands the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, at least in melatonin-deprived circles. A city of approximately 100,000 that was essentially abandoned by white residents who tore out of that town faster than a fox being chased by hounds when people of color finally began to gain some economic parity and started buying homes in previously implicitly defined white neighborhoods due to enforcement of the Civil Rights Act. Discussions abounded about economics of the time and the downturn of the steel industry. These were factors, yet were not the overriding anxiety that gripped my relatives and permeated their conversations. Tolleston, West Gary, Glen Park, Morningside. These were just some of the neighborhoods ravaged by white flight because of “those people”.

    This is why I have to laugh at the consternation of conservatives who claim we have no more room here in America. There’s an entire cityscape that could accommodate 100,000 and more residents, add to our state’s GDP and tax coffers, and provide opportunities for economic growth. Add a terrific location at the base of Great Lake Michigan and within eyesight of the Chicago skyline, and we could witness one of America’s great urban rebirths right here in our own backyard.

    If only we didn’t have that pesky recurring issue of melatonin differences.

  26. “White-flight……White-privilege. There’s something to be said when a group of whites living in white-flight enclaves point their fingers at other whites and accuse them of being racist. That’s privilege. Unless you have dated/married outside of your ethnicity,you don’t get the luxury of accusing others of racism.”

    Gerald Bostock; I wonder if people realize that those of us who date, marry, procreate outside our ethnicity become a new minority…not accepted by either race viewing the mixed ethnic coupling? Racism comes in many forms as well as many colors.

  27. Marv:
    “They will reject their white racism when they can see the BLOWBACK from it.”

    When they see the blowback from white racism, they will rejoice (that people are finally getting it) and become more assured than ever that their way is the only way to survive.

  28. Jo Ann:
    “But never lose sight of the “Red Lining” and “White Flight” and busing of millions of our children during the past century based on race which began a negative financial deterioration in our neighborhoods which continues to escalate racially and financially.”

    The American black middle class came into being during the busing period, and busing was a direct factor in that. It was the new black middle class that became the primary buyer of my paintings. At art dealer conventions, attended by thousands of collectors and dealers, black collectors told me their stories of success, none of which would have happened without busing and the resulting attendance in better schools.

  29. Larry,

    “When they see the blowback from white racism, they will rejoice (that people are finally getting it) and become more assured than ever that their way is the only way to survive.”

    Your vision and my vision seem to differ as to what the BLOWBACK will look like. Maybe your first response should have been to ask me my interpretation of the BLOWBACK, but that is not how you operate.

  30. Larry Kaiser:”The American black middle class came into being during the busing period, and busing was a direct factor in that.”

    That’s probably why Joe Biden was opposed to busing. He didn’t want the development of a Black Middle-class.

Comments are closed.