As anyone with eyes open has seen for years now in the American political context, the Republican party has long used racial resentment cynically, as a tool to get white working-class voters to vote against their own economic self-interest. As anyone with eyes open has also seen, those working-class white voters have included an ample proportion of working-class white Catholics in the North who deny any racial motivation for their decision to abandon the Democratic party for the GOP, while strong evidence exists proving that this trend among white working-class Northern Catholics is, indeed, fed to a large extent by racial animosity.
In much of the commentary about Donald Trump's popularity now being cranked out by the media, we're encouraged to focus on the alleged anger of his supporters, without being encouraged to notice that the anger Trump supporters are said to feel at being stuck in economic stagnation should logically be directed against the very political party that has used racist dog-whistles for years now to get these voters to choose the GOP. And perhaps the anger of these voters ought logically to be directed at themselves, for letting the GOP exploit their racism to get them to vote against their own economic interests — not at people of color.
Here's some good commentary on race matters and the current U.S. presidential campaign I've read in recent days:
Phillip Cryan suggests that Republicans who profess to be shocked that Trump is stirring an ugly pot of racial animosity ought to look in the mirror: he writes,
For more than four decades, many Republican candidates for elected office have – as law professor Ian Haney Lopez documented in his 2014 book Dog Whistle Politics – used coded language about race to appeal to the basest instincts of self-preservation and enmity among white, and especially white-male, voters. . . . For forty-plus years, the party has used coded references to race ('crime,' 'welfare,' 'inner city,' etc.) to appeal to white voters. Now Trump and his supporters are making the worldview underneath that set of codes transparent: all people who aren’t white are suspect; and it’s time for white men to stand up and fight back against the changes our country has been going through.
Sean McElwee bluntly challenges the self-serving media meme that Trump's popularity is due to diffuse "anger" and not to white racial resentment:
A vast political science literature shows that racism is indeed what is causing whites to leave the Democratic party. Explanations that obscure the importance of race simply cannot explain the voting patterns of white Americans. . . . Obama’s election has brought to the fore issues of race, and continued the trend of racist whites leaving the Democratic Party. Many of these whites have now embraced Trump. That story is intimately tied to race. Arguments that obscure this reality ultimately do more harm than good.
Robyn Pennacchia wonders why voters who so patently are making political choices on the basis of racial animosity are so reluctant to admit this is what they're doing:
There is always a frantic despair in the voices of white people who fervently demand more talk of "black on black" crime, and more talk of what they deem "problems in the black community." It's not about any kind of genuine concern, although they do try to play it as such–you don’t see these people demanding any talk about white-on-white crime, despite the fact that, contrary to what this person suggests, 83% of white homicide victims are killed by other white people. You also don’t see them expressing this concern when no one is talking about racism being a problem, or police brutality against black people being a problem.
Gary Legum focuses on the "quiet" — and therefore all the more vicious (who, us racists?!)— racism of Republican voters in Wisconsin's suburbs, which has protected and promoted the likes of Scott Walker:
Pity Scott Walker and the Republicans of Wisconsin. Here they have taken the time and energy to gain power partly by using racial dog whistles, and along comes a group of white nationalists to make the once-implicit coded language suddenly explicit. And it's happening just as the political world turns its eyes to the state for today’s big primary. With a voter-ID law passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Walker and threatening to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of mostly minority voters in this election, the last thing the Koch brothers' favorite governor wants is people who are going to say the quiet parts out loud.
Jamelle Bouie explores the role that the election of the nation's first African-American president has played in bringing the "quiet," "hidden" racism out into the open in this election cycle:
The ascension of a black American to the nation's most prestigious office—coupled with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression—produced a jolt of material and racial anxieties for millions of working white Americans. In the past, whiteness brought a measure of social stability. Even when poor, whites would never be at the bottom of America’s hierarchy—they would never be niggers. Suddenly, that wasn’t as true, as the downturn destroyed jobs and brought "inner-city" social ills to white rural and suburban enclaves. Moreover, the visible rise of a nonwhite elite (both black and Latino) challenged notions of any kind of social superiority. Now, perhaps, they were at the bottom, or close to it. . . .
And if the GOP weren’t so reliant on white voters—that is, if it weren’t such a dysfunctional party—Trump might have stayed at the margins. But the GOP’s extreme conservatism—inculcated and heightened in the state houses and governors’ mansions where it has complete control—and contempt for basic norms of politics has given Trump (and Trump-like figures) space to grow and flourish.
Michael Bourne wonders where all the racist rage is going to go if Trump loses, since it's clearly not going to go away:
What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?
One way or another, we’re going to find out soon.
And Reverend William Barber and the Moral Mondays movement offer an antidote, as they launch a national campaign to revive moral values:
In reference to the Vietnam War in his 1967 sermon, Dr. King told the nation that "silence was betrayal." If silence was betrayal in the 1960s, revival is a necessity in 2016. Way too much of our national discourse has been poisoned by hateful language and policies. The extremists see nothing wrong with insulting the poor, the sick, our children, immigrants, communities of color, voting rights, women, LGBTQ people, the environment and religious minorities with their language and their policies. True faith and true evangelicalism place love, justice, and compassion at the center of our public life.