Not long after the 2016 election, I had a conversation with my youngest son in which I shared my absolute amazement that any sentient person could cast a ballot for Donald Trump. How could they miss his total ignorance of government–not to mention his other repulsive characteristics? (Surely, people couldn’t see themselves having a beer with him–the usual explanation people offered for supporting George W. Bush..)
His response–which I’ve shared on this blog previously–was that every single Trump voter fell into one of two–and only two– categories: those who shared and appreciated his racism, and those for whom his racism wasn’t disqualifying.
My son’s explanation struck me as correct then, and the racist underpinnings of the MAGA movement have only become more obvious since. Now, as Jennifer Rubin has explained in a column for the Washington Post, there’s added evidence of its accuracy.
As she begins,
It has long been understood that the MAGA movement is heavily dependent on White grievance and straight-up racism. (Hence Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow racist groups and his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” in the violent clashes at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.)
Now, we have numbers supporting that thesis.
Rubin proceeds to describe a survey recently fielded by PRRI–the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey had 11 statements that had been designed to probe the respondent’s views on racism. The researchers then used their answers to quantify a “structural racism index,”basically, a score from zero to 1 that measured attitudes on “white supremacy and racial inequality, the impact of discrimination on African American economic mobility, the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, general perceptions of race, and whether racism is still a significant problem today.”
The higher the score, the more receptive to racist attitudes.
The results shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention to the MAGA crowd’s rhetoric and veneration of the Confederacy. “Among all Americans, the median value on the structural racism index is 0.45, near the center of the scale,” the poll found. “The median score on the structural racism index for Republicans is 0.67, compared with 0.45 for independents and 0.27 for Democrats.” Put differently, Republicans are much more likely to buy into the notion that Whites are victims.
The survey also looked at differences among religious groups, and found that White evangelical Protestants had the highest median score, at 0.64. Latter-day Saints, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants all came in at a median of 0.55. Religiously unaffiliated white Americans scored 0.33.
It turned out that the “Lost Cause” –the effort to rewrite the history of the Civil War and downplay or ignore the role played by slavery– is. popular on the right:
Republicans overwhelmingly back efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy (85%), compared with less than half of independents (46%) and only one in four Democrats (26%). The contrast between white Republicans and white Democrats is stark. Nearly nine in 10 white Republicans (87%), compared with 23% of white Democrats, support efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy.”
That “legacy,’ of course, is treason in service of slavery.
Rubin quotes Robert P. Jones, who leads PRRI, as saying the result is attributable to the fact that Americans don’t know their own history. That history includes a “widespread, centuries-long Christian defense of white supremacy.” Given that history, Jones says, “it’s hardly a surprise that a denial of systemic racism is a defining feature of White evangelicalism today.”
Those who want to keep Confederate monuments and offensive mascots in place might deny that their views have anything to do bigotry, but then again, they often deny the legacy of racism and paint Whites as victims, too. In general, MAGA forces have one goal when they amplify “replacement theory” or fuss over corporations promoting inclusivity: to maximize White anger and resentment.
The PRRI poll shows the degree to which the MAGA movement has convinced the core of the GOP base that they are victims. As Rubin says, “And let’s be clear: An aggrieved electoral minority that believes it has been victimized and is ready to deploy violence is a serious threat to an inclusive democracy.”
The results of this research aren’t a surprise. The survey not only confirms what most of us can see, it answers an otherwise imponderable question: why would anyone support Donald J. Trump–a truly loathsome, ignorant (and clearly mentally-ill) man without a single redeeming feature?
The answer is: He hates and fears the same people they do. And shared racism is evidently sufficient to outweigh all the rest……