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Racial equality not a Trump priority

Melvin B. Miller
Racial equality not a Trump priority
“No matter who the Democratic nominee is, we have to get the people to the polls in November.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

The issue of America’s race relations often comes to the fore during campaigns to elect a president. In 2008 and 2012, the campaigns of Barack Obama aroused the antagonism of the bigots. In the 2012 election Donald Trump established his credentials as the champion of white supremacy. His leadership of the “birther campaign” paved the way for him to emerge as Bigot-in-Chief. Now thoughtful voters will have to determine whether they will challenge the concept of racial supremacy this November or will leave the nation still impaired with invidious racism.

Trump has demonstrated his mastery of public opinion. His birther attack on Barack Obama was designed to mobilize a constituency for his political emergence. It should be noted that during the present campaign Trump only casually mentioned that Ted Cruz could not legally seek the presidency because he was born in Canada. Some legal experts have opined that Cruz did not meet the constitutional requirement of being native-born, but Trump still failed to press the point. The birther ploy was primarily an effective tactic to mobilize racial hostility.

While racial hostility has been prevalent in America, the income disparity has been a provocation. With wages stagnant since 1979, workers have become angry and pessimistic about their future welfare. The widening wealth gap has made whites who had tumbled from the middle class quick to blame others for their financial difficulties. African Americans were often cited as the cause of the nation’s wealth gap, even though blacks were suffering even more than whites.

Trump clearly plans to enhance his support among the bigots. He has adroitly avoided any opportunity to renounce the support of Ku Klux Klan members like David Duke. He has encouraged supporters to attack protesters, many of whom are black. He even offered to pay the legal expenses of a white supporter who was arrested for sucker punching a black protester in North Carolina as he was being led away by the police.

It would be a mistake to conclude that the racially biased support for Trump is only a Southern phenomenon. In the Massachusetts Republican primary on March 1, Trump tallied 49.3 percent of the vote with five candidates contending. Up to that time, this was Trump’s greatest primary victory result. There is no indication that the economic issues driving the racial hostility will change substantially by the November election.

The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution has found that full time employment for men without bachelor’s degree has fallen from 76 percent in 1990 to 68 percent in 2013, and wages have also fallen for men with no college degree. Exit polls indicate that undereducated white men are a major source of Trump support. And according to a Rand Corporation survey, voters who believe that “people like me don’t have any say about what government does” are 86.5 percent more likely to support Trump.

There seems to be very little that African Americans or major Democratic Party leaders can do to change those circumstances that drive support for Trump. The prospect of a Trump presidency should be so horrifying to African Americans that there has to be a massive commitment to vote in November, and to vote for the Democratic candidate.