For some time now I have been heading my columns with the following aphorism:
"If this nation does not kill racism, racism will kill this nation (S. Jonas, August 2018)."
Never has it been more apt than it is now.
Introduction (present time)
So, Trump has done it again (no surprise there). That it is one of his most open, most violent, racist screams should come as no surprise. For Trump is already buckling down for an election fight in 2020 that is going to be a tough one, even for him. He is, of course, going to run on The Three R's: "Racism, Russia, and Repression (of voting)," just as he did in 2016. But Trump, history's consummate con man, who, knowing nothing about U.S. government, thinks always in terms of reality TV. He knows that in order to keep his audience (otherwise known as "his base") he's got to up the ante this time around. And so he has, in spades, as they used to say at one his (bankrupt) casinos. Of course, we hope that his electoral strategy this time around will be in the end as bankrupt as were those casinos, with no (unknown-but-we-can-guess) bank(s) to bail him out. But hey, you never know. There were many in Germany in 1932 who thought that that "crazy man" Hitler could never become Chancellor.
Peering into a Trump dream: Translucent Image of Hitler with Acolytes - Looking onto Parade Ground at Nazi Party Rally Grounds - Nuremberg Germany
(Image by Adam Jones, Ph.D. - Global Photo Archive) Details DMCA
And so, this time around, Trump has already decided that he is going to move on from the dog whistles of 2016 --- pretty loud ones, but they were, for the most part, dog whistles --- to open racism: attacking U.S. citizen women of color (of course, they have to be U.S. citizens, otherwise they could not be in the Congress), three of whom were native-born, using the old racist trope that originated in the mid-19thcentury days with the anti-Irish American Party (the "Know-Nothings): "Go back where you came from." (Few know that in fact the American Party, led by the former President Millard Fillmore, was one of the founding elements of the original Republican Party --- which accounts in part for the anti-immigrant policies that it has followed over much of the time since then.) And so, there it is.
In this light, I thought that it might be of interest to go back and take a look at when Trump first used racism politically. (He had been using it in other ways since the early 1970s when he and his father were cited for discriminating against "people of color" in their apartment rental policies.) And so, further, I went back to a column that I published on Trump and the subject back in 2011. I present an edited version of it here.
"Race and the Trump Card" (from 2011)
Not so long ago, in a land not at all far away, part of it was ruled by a tiny oligarchy of very wealthy large landowners. They made their wealth in part off the backs of unpaid farm laborers for whom they provided nothing more than minimal food and shelter, in part by trading in those laborers as property, and in part off the backs of another group of (much smaller) landowners/small farmers, who were generally poor, although definitely better off than the aforementioned unpaid laborers. Actually, the latter two groups had much in common. They worked hard, got nothing (in the case of the first) and precious little (in the case of the second) for their labors. They were both dominated and exploited by the oligarchy. One would have thought, in fact, that the two groups of laborers might actually join forces and struggle to improve their respective states in life.
But of course, this did not happen in the slaveholding South (or in the four non-Southern slaveholding states before the First Civil War either). For in the South in particular, the ruling oligarchy had, over a period of two-plus 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 tehn even though there had been interbreeding between European settlers and African slaves from the earliest days and the coloring became quite muddled. And they still do. Given that inbreeding, the grouping "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." Even before there was Donald Trump, 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.
Image taken from page 71 of 'A Short History of the War of Secession, 1861-1865' as the .South Will Rise Again. folks still like to refer to the First Civil War.
(Image by The British Library) Details DMCA
Then after the end of the War, during Reconstruction when some efforts were made by both poor whites and the newly "freedmen" to form alliances, the oligarchy very quickly remobilized 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. (It is highly ironic, is it not, that just as Trump is taking his racist tropes right out into the open that the state of Tennessee is actually in the process of honiring one of its own: the former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.) Of course, the doctrine of White Supremacy and the psychological power over a significant chunk of 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. Indeed, 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 [yes, I did use that term back then], for the Corporate Power, and increasingly for the Religious Right as well --- see the current performance of Franklin Graham in re President Obama. Whatever other cards anyone may lay on the table in front of the GOPTP ("GOP Tea Party") 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, but never a non- or anti- racist, 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 life. And since those facts 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. [That was written, may I remind the reader, in 2011. Trump is still getting away with revealing --- nothing.] 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 the certificate that certifies that a birth certificate exists in their files (and now, after this column was originally written the President has produced the original). Yes, there were the also the contemporaneous birth announcements in the Honolulu newspapers. But the Right knows better than to confuse any of its 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 one told, if one told it over and over again, with conviction, that 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."
Yes indeed. Just as it was for the Slaveholding Oligarchy and is for the Corporate Oligarchy, race is the trump card for the Right and for Trump himself.
No comment necessary.
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Conclusion, for present time
That's how I concluded that column back in 2011. Of course, that year his was only a trial run for the Presidency. But looking backwards, he was already gearing up for 2016, seeing how the racist tropes would work. And work well, they did. The only difference now is that he is bringing them right out into the open. (And notice how little Trumpublican (tm) critical response there has been to this new tack.) Is it going to work this time around? Well, it's powerful stuff. In my view, only a Popular Front that holds together is going to be able to best him. But whether the various factions of the Democratic Party plus the Greens and the other small left-wing parties that have run candidates in previous Presidential elections can manage that remains very much to be seen.