I was talking politics with my Uber driver last week, and he said something to me that I hadn’t considered. He was a white man, and he said, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but alot of white people saw the black uprisings last summer, and while they didn’t come out and say it, they thought to themselves, ‘I don’t like this.’ Then Donald Trump announced his candidacy, and started using all of the standard white people dog whistles , and here we are today.” I hadn’t thought of Trump’s political success as a direct result of the Black Lives Matter summer last year, but the timing makes alot of sense. Still, that may be a bit narrow. Trump supporters aren’t only responding to BLM, they’re responding to every demographic, economic and social trend of the last twenty five years.
Here’s the thing though. Trump hasn’t just been whistling at the dog. He’s been screaming at it.
He hasn’t used the coded language of NIMBY or “local control” or “securing the borders” or any of the other secret phrases that Republicans (and some Democrats) use to let white voters know that the politicians are on their side. He’s flat out called Mexican immigrants drug dealers and murderers; he’s outright accused black people of murdering the vast majority of white people; he’s openly called for preventing Muslims from entering the country. Pundits and the Republican establishment have said over and over that a racist, misogynist businessman with no political experience could not win the Republican nomination, while completely ignoring that that’s what the people want. In our hopeful naivete, we forgot about the entirely predictable backlash that a more pluralistic American society would cause. The pushback was inevitable, and now it has arrived in the seemingly impossible: Donald Trump is the Republican nominee BECAUSE he is a racist and a misogynist, not despite it.
The title for this blog is taken from the first chapter in a book I used to have about World War II. The chapter describes how the world went down the path to overtly racist authoritarian states, and how that led to the most destructive war in history. Everyone keeps saying that Trump will get blown out in the general election by Hillary Clinton, but everyone also said that Trump would never win the Republican nomination. The Black Lives Matter blowback is real; the negative reaction to the first African American president is real; the anti-woman sentiment against Hillary Clinton is real; the xenophobia against immigrants is real; the hatred of Muslims is real. I have the terrible feeling that we’re going to find out just how real those things are this November.