Donald Trump and the twilight of white America

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autograph following a campaign rally in Spokane, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jake Parrish FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. - RTX2DAOT
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autograph following a campaign rally in Spokane, Washington, U.S., May 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jake Parrish

“Racial resentment and economic anxiety are not separate forces,” according to this essay in The Atlantic. “For many Trump supporters, they are inextricably linked.”

“On June 25, 2015, a week after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president of the United States, the Census Bureau released a landmark report on the demographics of American children under the age of five,” Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic. “For the first time in U.S. history, it reported that a minority of this group is ‘white’—neither black, nor Asian, nor Hispanic.

“The notion of America’s ethnic majority has been dubious for a long time. What today many people call ‘white’ is really a catch-all for various European groups once seen as racially distinct. But this report threw the entire concept into chaos. ‘A majority of American babies are now minorities,’ Bloomberg reported, somewhat paradoxically. In a country where most people are minorities, the majority does not exist. Even within the headline, the word majority is collapsing in on itself.

“It is unlikely that a printed copy of this Census report hangs in a gold-plated frame on Trump’s wall. But the specter of America’s all-minority future has stalked his campaign. Trump’s core constituency is clear: Republican whites, particularly men, and especially those who didn’t go to college, who feel their American whiteness like a second skin. Many of these first beneficiaries of the franchise now feel disenfranchised. The original middle class feels cut out of the American Dream. The majority is collapsing in on itself.

“This moment in American history was inevitable, and it was never going to be a tranquil transition. In 2004, the influential political scientist Samuel Huntington published Who Are We?, his manifesto on the tumultuous future of the American identity. The growth of black and Hispanic minorities, he predicted, would provoke a backlash among whites:

“The various forces challenging the core American culture and creed could generate a move by native white Americans to revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity and to create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Historical and contemporary experience suggest that this is a highly probable reaction from a once dominant ethnic-racial group that feels threatened by the rise of other groups. It could produce a racially intolerant country with high levels of intergroup conflict.

“Trump’s platform is a remarkable manifestation of this 12-year-old prophecy. But Even Huntington could not have foreseen that this demographic moment would coincide with an economic crisis (which would be improbably overseen by America’s first black president). History has drawn these conflicts into a crucible, and the economic anxieties and racial anxieties of today are nearly inextricable.

“Some of Trump’s policy statements, on issues like the minimum wage and taxes, are like wisps of smoke—coming into existence, curling into strange shapes, and disappearing within moments. But his bedrock promises all relate to the white American middle’s central fears, including Hispanic immigration and global trade. In his first 100 days, he says, he would act to close the country. He would send additional security to the south and seal the Mexican border. He would begin the design and construction of the Mexican Wall. He would initiate plans to round up more than 10 million undocumented immigrants to send them overseas. He would potentially ban Muslim immigrants from entering the county.”

The rest of the essay is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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