How many times did we, Democrats living in big cities, say among friends, “It’s unimaginable to think of Donald Trump becoming president?” It turns out, unimaginable is a brain trick: If you cannot imagine it, you cannot think it, or admit evidence to the contrary. It’s a diagnosable state of being out of our minds on a certain subject. Like Trumpism. Which is why we lost.
I was chastened when a Republican friend sent me an article from National Review by Lee Habeeb, a reasonable conservative VP of Content for Salem Radio Network:
“The media elites don’t understand that this election wasn’t just about the economy, immigration, and national security. It was about them. This election was an outright rejection of their condescending ways — their smug indifference and outright hostility towards anyone who holds a differing opinion or world view.”
Are we are guilty of unconscious bias? I’ll say yes for myself. I thought that at the core, it was misogyny that fueled the retaliation of angry white working class men. I started listening to Democrats in Youngstown, Ohio during the last week before election. I was so often met at the door by a male, a registered Democrat, who virtually snarled as he boasted his Trump allegiance. Asked how his wife was voting, men like him would only grudgingly admit his “old lady” – still at work – was probably voting for the nasty woman.
I just don’t see that Trump has any thought-out policies to bring back Youngstown’s steel mills, which began shutting down in the SEVENTIES, beaten by Japan. Then their city was taken over by gangsters. Men with high school educations, who wanted to do the same work their fathers and grandfathers had done, remained in their rural areas or small towns or hollowed out city, expecting jobs to come back—jobs that were rendered obsolete by the pitiless march of technological progress. Meanwhile, their wives and daughters have been surpassing them in education and aspirations, moving to big cities and competing to be bosses in 21st century jobs, or risking success as digital entrepreneurs.
But that’s not the whole story. We have to listen and internalize the grievances of the other side, or there’s no rational debate or gradual reconciliation. Here’s an example of a truth that is hard to swallow, again from National Review:
“Watching the elites pounce on Trump’s every stumble and impute to him a racist heart only strengthened his connection to his followers.”
To be sure, Trump hit a nerve with his roguish exposure of an elite establishment in Washington. Showing off how he beat the system by making the government pay for his business failures and stiffing Uncle Sam on nearly two decades of taxes tickled people who wished they knew how to do the same thing. They never demanded disclosure of Trump’s financials because they didn’t want his chicanery to allow the elite to shoot him down.
The biggest shock for many of us was a gender backlash that did not materialize. 53 percent of all female voters chose Trump, according to exit polls. Almost fifty years after the birth of feminism, there weren’t enough of us women who saw the menace of a man raised to be a “killer,” a man whose role model is an autocrat – First Pal Putin – and who is using the well-worn strategies of Cult of the Strong Man to nullify many of values of democracy. It hurts to admit that more women than ever imagined want the protection of a demagogue.
I found relief from the waking nightmare when the women of my church gathered in a safe, intimate setting to admit the brokenness we’re feeling. The first was a fragile woman who was sexually abused as a child and is re-living her trauma, along with present fears over having a boastful sexual predator in the White House. Another was the mother of a daughter who was had been so proud as a pre-teen when Hillary Clinton first ran for president in 2008, she wrote the candidate a beautiful letter. When she called her mother at 2:30 am Wednesday morning, once the about face from polls and predictions hit home, the two women sobbed together. The mother told us “I had nothing to give her, I could not make it better “
An African-American grandmother told us how frightened the young men in her family are feeling when they see Go Back to Africa graffiti on their school walls. She feels helpless to protect them.
I haven’t heard any of my “cosmopolitan elite” friends vilify the white working class. They found their revenge against being ignored by both parties for decades with the election of Donald Trump. Yes, some are racists who were legitimized by him and the white supremacists. But many just found a scream of agony in Trump’s bellicose rhetoric that gave them a voice. I believe they were duped into believing he really cares about them. He promised “I alone can fix it.”
The neglect of rust belt left-behinds by both parties for decades is good reason to be angry. Beneath the anger is that harsher emotion – raw fear for survival.
I get it. I empathize.
But there are many other racial and ethnic groups who now fear for their survival, on hearing Trump’s darkest appeal: white nationalism.
How close is that to white supremacy – the kind that exhilarated the audience at an AlternativeRight.com conference to the point of raising their hands in a Nazi salute to their leader Richard B. Spencer? Here is a definition of the two by a professor of politics at Birkbeck University in London, who has spent years studying the behavior of ethnic majorities in the United States and Britain. White nationalism, he told The New York Times, “is the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity, and that white people should therefore maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life.”
Our prevailing demographic momentum is moving in exactly the opposite direction – toward a non-white majority before 2050. That may be the deepest underlying fear that is promoting voices of white supremacy. Here is the alarming connection between out-and-out racists and white populists:
“White supremacists and white nationalists both believe that racial discrimination should be incorporated into law and policy,” according to Professor Kaufman.
Richard Spencer, the publisher of AlternativeRight.com, has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” to remove non-white people from American soil. Whoever heard of “peaceful” ethnic cleansing?
Stephen Bannon, named by Trump as his chief strategist, is the former editor of Breitbart News, a platform he proudly defends as the voice of the alt-right. Bannon claims that he does not share Richard Spencer’s white supremacist views, but Bannon has spoken out even against highly-skilled immigration, casting it as undermining white dominance of the culture.
“When two thirds or three quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia, or Asia, I think…” he has said, critical of their non-whiteness – then adding, “A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”
The Trump machine is already in high gear. It’s the first TEN days of the Trump presidency we have to be prepared to challenge if necessary. I, for one, am most concerned at his surrounding himself with hyper-masculine men and military warriors. He appears to be elevating generals with heavy combat experience to top positions. This shows either ignorance or dismissal of the constitutionally enshrined principles of civilian control of the military. If Trump names another war-time general as secretary of defense, America may be led by a junta.
There’s one white Midwestern, middle-aged, ball-cap wearing, working class male whose voice we cannot dismiss: Michael Moore, who five months ago predicted—mirthlessly– that Trump would win. Moore is now rallying us to be prepared to fight back to stop Mr. America First from tearing apart immigrant families.
Immigrant women and girls are among the most vulnerable of Trump’s targets. The Tahirih Justice Center is the only national organization in the U.S that advocates and provides services for this population. I received a plea from its tireless founder, Layli Miller-Muro, an attorney. The Trump regime is expected to deny immigration and refugee protections for people from Muslim countries, and pose an “ideological test” for those wishing to enter the U.S. from any country. This would impact all refugees and immigrants, including women and children who desperately need protection from gender-based violence.
We must also keep reminding the public that Trump has turned his transition team over to foxes who are sucking up the same old salivating corporate consultants and lobbyists from the Washington swamp and putting them in charge of guarding the chicken coops that hold our purse strings, the reins on big banks, and the balance of our Earth’s imperiled ecosystem.
Above all, Trump wants to be adored. He is a master mind reader on what his audience wants. If he listens to his advisers at all, and they warn him that a policy will turn his worshippers against him, he will probably flip the script to please them.
Let’s milk his raw id to keep the killer Trump at bay.