Republicans Need Racism
Trump's Order Requiring Meat Packers to Continue Operating is Just More Republican Racism
Donald Trump has ordered meat packing plants in the United States to continue operating despite multiple cases of Covid-19 among employees and a failure of employers to test them all. Because employees in the plants are predominantly Hispanic, this move fits well into Trump's war on Hispanics.
The point here is really obvious, but it merits repetition: Trump is a good Republican in many ways, but in no way more than his eagerness to grab and hold political power in the interest of the worst sort of white solidarity. He won in 2016 using naked racism and he will only win in 2020 insofar as his racist appeal remains appealing.
Viewed through a class lens, Trump's decision about meat packing plants plainly shows the contempt Republicans have for workers. Yet voters without a college degree voted for Trump by 50 to 43 percent, while voters with college degrees voted for Clinton by 57 to 36 percent.
This can serve as a rough proxy for class position. It's imperfect, but it is what is readily available.
Why do poorly educated voters choose the Republican candidate, or Trump in particular? Republican policies of cutting taxes first, last, and only, with the express purpose of making various federal programs look too expensive, when poorly educated people are most likely to benefit from those federal programs, usually harm the very people who vote for them.
The obvious, easy answer is the myth of racial solidarity. Note that the percentage of non college graduates voting for Trump is even higher among white people. Among non-whites, the percentage of college graduates voting for Clinton was even higher than for the class as a whole, while for non college graduates, the choices are the opposite of the class as whole -- most non white non college graduates voted for Hillary, at a higher rate than non white college graduates.
That is, non white non college graduates recognize their class interests better than white people without a college education. White privilege is a powerful motivator.
Looking only at race/ethnicity, apart from educational achievement, the point is stark. A majority of white people voted for Trump, while black and Hispanic voters chose Clinton, by large majorities.
This has been the Republican strategy since Nixon, who came up with the "silent majority" as his device for sundering the New Deal electoral coalition of working class white people and African Americans. Without explicitly invoking race, he put himself on the side of all the respectable white people who were at home, not protesting anything, whether racial discrimination, the Vietnam War, or anything else. No matter what apologists for Republican racism may wish were true, Nixon threaded the needle between Humphrey on his left and Wallace on his right, pursuing his border South strategy of making sotto voce racism the centrist position. This has worked for every Republican who has won the presidency since, except George W. Bush in 2004, when he had the psychologically gratifying proxy of opposing same sex marriage to satisfy the opponents of civil rights.
Democrats win when they nominate southerners, who understand race and racism viscerally, like Carter and Clinton, or our first black president. Hillary lived in Arkansas long enough, and benefited from her connection to Bill, and won the popular vote, losing only because of the archaic mechanism the slave owners who wrote the Constitution inserted to make sure that only the best, property owning, white men became president. The electoral college is obviously a total failure.
But a Democrat who can inspire black voters the way Obama did can win. The Democrats now have the enormous advantage of four years of Trump's gross incompetence, which the 2018 results suggest voters in general are very tired of. Trump got lucky. Most people in the United States are comfortable with far more racism than we should be, but most people prefer subtle to overt racism. It seems unlikely that Trump's overt racism will triumph a second time.
We hear that Trump is not racist because he mostly picks on Hispanics and Muslims, neither of which is a racial group. But the conceptual move is exactly the same: demonize an abjected population that has an irrelevant characteristic and promise to heap discrimination on them. Black voters could easily see that this impulse to discriminate would get turned on them if Trump felt the need. This in addition to other evidence of Trump's racism.
Trump won on the back of, and has governed in the interest of, white racial solidarity.
His presidency is vivid testimony to the horrors of affirmative action for white people.
About the author
Ph.D. in U.S. history from Vanderbilt, with an emphasis in the history of public policy; two articles published as a graduate student, two books as a historian. J.D. from the University of Wisconsin; eight law review articles in print.