Trumpism

Is there anybody doing a better job providing insights on Trump this year than Josh Marshall?  Ezra has some great columns, but here’s another terrific one from Marshall on the meaning of Trumpism.  Of course, you should read it in its entirety, but this wouldn’t be Fully Myelinated if I didn’t post my favorite parts:

I don’t want to attempt some grand overarching theory of Trumpism. But, broad brush, I continue to believe that it is best understood as a reaction to the erosion of white privilege, supremacy and centrality in American life. [emphases mine]

That brings us to the second key point: Trumpism is about loss. And that loss is real. It’s not just about being haters or uneducated or stupid. The fact that what’s being lost is in most respects something that wasn’t legitimate to have in the first place – status, centrality and racial privilege – should not blind us to the fact that the loss is real and that it will have political consequences. As I mentioned when I wrote up that mortality study last December, I think this demographic and actuarial marker – an almost unprecedented reversal of a particular group’s mortality statistics – is hugely significant to understanding our contemporary politics. It almost unquestionably points to some acute socio-cultural stress. It’s just a matter of discovering what it is.

Consider this chart.

I looked this up when I started looking at the polls showing Hillary Clinton competitive or even in some polls ahead of Donald Trump in Georgia. There’s a powerful story here. If you were a 25 year old white man in Georgia in 1980, you lived in a state that was almost literally black and white. And whites were the overwhelming majority of the population. A mere thirty six years later the picture is dramatically different. According to the 2015 US Census estimate, non-Hispanic whites make up only 53.9% of the population. The African-American population makes a up slightly larger percentage of the population – I assume descendants of the early 20th Great Migrationreturning to the state. The same year Hispanics made up 9.4% of the population, Asian-Americans made up 4% and the remainder is made up of citizens who identified as being of multiple races or ‘other’. If you identify politically and culturally with your whiteness this is a profound and profoundly unsettling change…

But if you look at the language of Trumpism we see repeated references to getting stuff back, reclamation, anger. This is a politics of loss and grievance. The appeal of an extreme dominance politics is particularly to those who feel they’ve lost power and who feel increasingly marginal to the direction of the country as a whole…

You don’t need to hate non-whites to be attached to the dominant position whites have historically had in American life. But if you identify with your whiteness, simple majorities mean security. Losing that dominance, if you don’t feel able or ready or willing to relinquish it almost inevitably generates hatred and a desire for revenge.

What is that quality, that politics? In any other country, we’d easily know what to call it: ethnic nationalism. In this case, white nationalism. For very good reason, those two words are extremely charged in American political and cultural life. They seem synonymous with ‘white supremacist’, with folks like David Duke, neo-nazis and all the other list of horribles. It’s not quite the same thing. But at its heart, simply as a matter of definitional clarity, that’s what Trumpism is: the politics of white nationalism.

Yep.  Though, that does strike me as just too loaded.  I have taken to unashamedly referring to Trump’s “white ethnocentric” appeal in interviews.  But, hey, whatever, you call it, that is clearly what is going on here and it sure is hell not a healthy direction for our country.

And, yes, this post is already long enough, but I may as well put it here instead of quick hits, but there’s also a very good Jamelle Bouie piece about how Trump’s supposed appeal to Black voters is completely part of his appeal to white voters (in this case, college-educated white voters):

But as with his rhetorical moves on immigration, the content of Trump’s message is less important and less interesting than the audience he’s trying to reach. Hint: He’s not trying to win over black voters. If that were true, Trump would have made this pitch at a black church or any other space where black Americans are in wide attendance. And while Trump has an uncanny ability to convince himself of virtually anything, he must know that he stands little chance of winning even a sliver of the black vote, which has turned decisively against his candidacy.

No, the point here—and the overall goal of this latest “pivot”—is to salvage Trump’s standing with college-educated whites, who have turned decisively against the alleged billionaire for his outright bigotry and general buffoonery…

The goal is straightforward: If Trump seems more normal and less erratic, then he could begin to win those white college-educated voters who are critical to victory in states like Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. For Team Trump, it’s a simple equation. If those voters are turned off by his racist rhetoric, then he could address their fears by loudly reaching out to black voters. It’s an old strategy, meant to assure a critical set of Republican-leaning voters that they aren’t backing a bigot.

Conway [Trump’s new campaign manager] herself gave away the game in a Sunday interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I live in a white community. I’m white. I was very moved by his comment,”

And Bouie’s conclusion is spot-on:

Yes, Trump is aiming some rhetoric at the center of American politics. Yes, he’s doing “outreach.” But don’t mistake this for some kind of “pivot.” There is no pivot. Trump has one move for this election, and he is going to keep playing it and playing it until he loses.

As for that “move,” well let’s just say it’s not about economic anxiety.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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