A myth unveiled
Prominent Republicans are astounded by the phenomenal success of Donald Trump in his quest to become the candidate of their party in the next presidential election. An outsider and a political polyglot, Trump has breached numerous rules of Republican orthodoxy, yet his success in the primaries remains strong. The surprise of Republican leaders at Trump’s support suggests that they are out of touch with their party constituents.
Political pundits are now trying to provide a coherent reason for Trump’s extraordinary success, but they have so far been unwilling to state the apparent. Perhaps that is because many of Trump’s constituents see him as a president who supports their racially-hostile opinions. A recent report from the Pew Research Centers provides evidence for that opinion. The major media are unlikely to claim that Trump’s campaign is a political haven for bigots.
According to Pew research, about 80 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are white, and about 57 percent of them are whites who never attended college or did not obtain a degree if they attended college. In the Pew survey, non-college Republicans indicated much greater hostility to blacks and Latinos. When asked whether “immigrants burden the country by taking jobs, housing, health care,” 62 percent of non-college-educated whites agreed, compared with 42 percent of white Republicans who were college graduates.
When asked whether “increasing racial, ethnic diversity makes U.S. a better place to live,” 65 percent of white college Republicans agreed, compared with only 48 percent of those white Republicans with no college degree. Polls indicate that a disproportionate share of whites with limited education are Trump supporters. Trump’s acceptance of an endorsement from a Ku Klux Klan leader and support of violence against black protesters at his rallies send a strong message of his antipathy to black issues.
Thoughtful Americans should do what they can to ameliorate racial hostility. However, one commentator actually exacerbated the problem by ratifying the unconscionable attitudes of Trump’s throng. He asserts that the anger of Trump supporters results from political correctness, and then claims that political correctness is “the biggest issue facing America today.” He then defines political correctness as “invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism.”
Nowhere does the writer describe political correctness as the courtesy owed to those with whom we disagree. Nowhere does he chastise angry Trump supporters for their unbridled hostility against others.
A more perceptive analyst might have concluded that undereducated and financially-stressed Trump supporters might be angry because the American Dream has failed them. Many low-income white Americans believe the blame for their failures should lie with immigrants and blacks. Now comes Donald Trump who promises “to make America great again,” and restore the affluent status to which they are entitled.
Poor whites have been deceived for generations in this country by the affluent upper class. John C. Calhoun a Civil War senator from South Carolina stated the case clearly in a U.S. Senate speech in 1849:
With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals…
Clearly, like immigrants, blacks are the “others.” As Bernie Sanders asserts, “The game is rigged.” Unfortunately, poor and ill-educated whites have been tricked into believing that blacks and immigrants have destroyed America, but they have failed to notice that their upper-class brothers are the top 1 percent who have prospered. So far the major media have not disclosed the big lie.