But of course this did not happen in the slave-holding South -- or in the other non-Southern slave-holding states before the First Civil War either. For in the South in particular, the ruling oligarchy had, over a period of two centuries since slaves were first brought to North America in 1620, very carefully nurtured the false doctrine of white supremacy. Among other things, the doctrine held that "white" people were inherently superior to "black" people. They trumpeted this doctrine even though there had been inbreeding between European settlers and African slaves from the earliest days and the coloring became quite muddled. Given that inbreeding, the grouping of "black people" in particular was a totally artificial construct and of course still is. But logic and facts never troubled the Right back then any more than they do now.
Whatever could be said about the status and living standards of the poor whites in the South, the oligarchy could and did always buy them off with the notion that whatever else was going on in their lives, they were somehow "superior" to the "blacks." Race was the trump card. For the First Civil War the oligarchy managed this ideological trick so well that about 250,000 poor whites went to their deaths trying to perpetuate the institution of slavery on the territory (and Territories) of the then-United States. Of course the only beneficiaries of that system were the white Oligarchs, the Slave Power.
Then after the end of the War, during reconstruction when some efforts were made by both poor whites and newly freed men to form alliances, the oligarchy very quickly re-mobilized the doctrine, backed up by the Ku Klux Klan and other terror organizations, to make sure that the poor whites either continued to be bewitched by it or were themselves terrorized in submission. Of course, the doctrine of White Supremacy and its power over the "white" people of the U.S. has never gone away. In fact, its presence and wide-spread influence on the thinking of United States folk of all kinds to this very day is a major indicator of how the South actually won the First Civil War (see also Ongoing Supremacy of White Supremacy). As others have said, the Southern oligarchy lost the war, but over time, has won the peace.
And so we come to the present time. Instead of the Slave Power oligarchy ruling one section of the country and controlling much of its politics nationally until the first firing of the guns of South Carolina at Fort Sumter, we now have the Corporate Power oligarchy ruling the whole country and controlling virtually all of its politics. And many "white" folks actually support the Corporate oligarchy even though, like the Southern oligarchy of old, its politics are contrary to the best interests of most of those "white" folk. And indeed, the Corporate Power does it with same old doctrine: "whatever else is going on in your life, you are inherently superior to that 'black' person over there just because you are 'white' and he or she is 'black.' And oh by-the-way, the doctrine now extends to 'brown' people, to immigrants, to Muslims, to homosexuals, and to what-have-you. You are 'white,' and you have supremacy over them too just because of that very fact."
Race is still the trump card for the Right, for the Corporate Power, and increasingly for the Religious Right as well -- see the current performance of Franklin Graham regarding President Obama. Whatever other cards one may lay on the table in front of the GOPTP rank-and-file to attempt to show them that the Corporate Oligarchy is just as much their enemy as it is the enemy of anybody who is not one of them or one of their direct servants in the politico-legal-media-what's-left-of-US-industry sectors, the Oligarchy plays their trump card, and almost always wins the game. Which brings us (I know that you were waiting for this one) to Donald Trump.
Trump, a former Health Care Single-Payer supporter, a former pro-choicer, a former supporter of other liberal causes, may or may not be actually running for the GOPTP nomination for President. There are certainly plenty of observers who think that that is not the case if only because he would have to reveal a good deal about his personal finances. And since those are apparently quite murky if not quirky in the sense of his relationship to his variable real estate and gambling casino holdings and the banks with which he deals and had has dealt on them, he just might not want to do that. But be that as it may, for now he seems to be actively running.
And what is he using as his own Trump Card? Why the classic one of white supremacy/racism. For what else does the so-called "birther issue" stand for? Yes, the State of Hawaii has produced certification that a birth certificate exists in their files -- and President Obama recently produced the original. And, there were also the contemporaneous birth announcements. But the Right knows better than to confuse any of the adherents with facts. They keep on pretending that there is something there, when of course there isn't, and they are continuing to do so even after the release of the "long form." They are not the first to use the Big Lie Technique. Brought to its highest peak of proficiency by Hitler and Goebbels, it proclaimed that the bigger lie you told, if you told it over and over again with conviction, the people you wanted to reach would come to believe it, and their support for you would be increased.
Trump knew full well what the facts are. But how better to distinguish himself from the rest of the undistinguished GOPTP field than to openly play the race card, using the dog whistle of "birtherism" resting on the foundation of the Doctrine of White Supremacy that has been in place in this country since long before the First Civil War? It happens that Trump himself appears to be backing away from birtherism, but he planted the seed and it is sprouting very well, so well in fact that about 75% of GOPTP voters either believe that Obama is not a US citizen or have doubts about the fact. The attack is on Obama's legitimacy as a person, and "we all know what that means," don't we?
And then came the Trump attack on Obama's credentials for and in higher education. As Trump said: "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard. We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."
Must have been affirmative action, donchaknow. How else could he have gotten into Columbia College and Harvard Law School? And never did release his transcripts (as if they were anybody's business). He must have made President of the Harvard Law Review and Magna cum Laude by affirmative action too. And we know what THAT all means. (Of course, "affirmative action" has always not meant granting admissions or jobs preferentially to discriminated-against minorities, but rather simply giving them equal opportunity to apply and be considered on their own merits. However, that fact has never stopped the racists from using "affirmative action" as a weapon in their race war.) And then comes Franklin Graham, attaching himself to Trump's coat-tails on the racist "birther" issue as well as attacking Obama as not a "real" Christian (in Graham's terms of course), in a further attempt to delegitimize.
Yes indeed. Race is the trump card for the Right and for Trump himself, just as it was for the Slaveholding Oligarchy and is for the Corporate Oligarchy.
This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 173 for BuzzFlash, now at Truthout.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout ( http://www.buzzflash.com , http://www.truth-out.org/ ), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine ( http://tpjmagazine.us/ ); a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad ( http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/ ); a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post ( http://www.greanvillepost.com/ ); a Contributor to The Planetary Movement ( http://www.planetarymovement.org/ ); a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com ( http://www.opednews.com/ ), and a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter.