It's been barely a week and we're seeing it already. Numerous Muslim women across America getting attacked, students in universities calling black classmates "cotton pickers," and reports of racist graffiti surfacing all over the country. Already more than 200 incidents of harassment have been reported since Donald Trump won the presidency. America's ugly underbelly suddenly got much louder and Trump handed them the megaphone.
Hillary was supposed to win just like all the polls, experts and pundits suggested she would. After all, she represented the establishment, had Wall Street firmly behind her and all her years as a Washington insider was supposed to lead her to the presidency.
Trump's racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric resonated as much as his anti-establishment credentials.
Yet it would seem she did not succeed precisely because of those reasons. While the electorate was looking for a populist, anti-establishment, anti-politician the Democrats gave them someone who represented the opposite. She became a victim of her own duplicity, inauthenticity and corruption. Her visionless campaign offered nothing in response to Trump's strong, nostalgic vision for a greater America. The establishment was defeated, and for that Trump deserves credit.
But let's not fool ourselves and attempt to sanitize Trump's win as solely a function of middle class disillusionment. In a Global and Mail piece, Doug Saunders breaks down the data. Evidence shows that the poorest Americans with salaries under $50,000 actually voted for Hillary Clinton and Trump also enjoyed the support of higher-income groups, college graduates and women. Saunders notes:
"...proximity is a bigger driver of extremism than is actual experience: It is not economic decline or immigration that cause people to become right-wing radicals, but proximity to those things, from a vantage of white security that feels threatened by the unknown."
As much as this may be about a disgruntled middle class trying to come to grips with a world that has passed them by, it was more an affirmation of white identity politics. Trump's racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric resonated as much as his anti-establishment credentials. He is now seen as the political messiah who will deliver what voters perceive to be the golden age of America before the influx of mass immigration. The white security blanket will be restored and America will once again return to its rightful path.
There was a method to the madness and now the madness of white rage threatens to engulf America.
This is not to downplay the myriad real problems prevalent across Middle America, or to dismiss the concerns of those affected. Technology has changed the world and what once required an assembly line of human labour now only requires a machine. The U.S. is probably most affected as innovation continues to flourish and young entrepreneurs continue to get rich. This is what perhaps accounts for the marginally greater black and Latino support for Trump as compared to Mitt Romney in 2012.
However, intentionally redirecting real frustrations and fears towards America's minorities by painting bulls-eyes on them and declaring them as the cause of America's dysfunction is not just irresponsible, it is downright criminal. Minorities are now fair game including blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, women and even the disabled. It's not uncommon for minorities to be targeted during times of economic distress, but this is the first time a presidential candidate provided carte blanche and actively took part in and enabled their marginalization.
Trump harnessed that misguided energy and nurtured it for his political aims. Not only did he become the anti-Hillary, he became a representative of white America hence the supremacist movement he now represents even if he doesn't want to admit it. Support from the nefarious Alt-Right movement, notorious Islamophobes such as France's Marine Le Pen and Netherland's Geert Wilders and even the Ku Klux Klan tells us all we need to know. Trump's recent appointment of Steve Bannon, former chairman at Breitbart News and alt-right sympathizer as White House chief strategist is further indication of the far-right fringe making its mark. There was a method to the madness and now the madness of white rage threatens to engulf America.
Trump has already misled his voters. The secret to economic growth, middle class opportunity or a return to a white utopia does not lie in the ink of racist graffiti targeting Latino's, in the tears of a black girl being called a "nigger" or in the blood of a Muslim being shot for being a "terrorist." Societal prosperity is the result of a responsible government addressing real frustrations and fears by bringing people closer together regardless of race, religion, caste or creed.
But maybe things have to get worse before they get better -- assuming they don't get even worse.
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