“Thou hast it now.. and I fear thou play’dst most foully for ’t.” –Banquo (from Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 1)
So much has already been written and said about the 2016 election that I wasn’t certain I even wanted to contribute to the discussion. I’ve honestly grown weary of hearing about Donald Trump and considering his many (many) flaws. However, upon further review, it occurred to me that there are a few observations that I still want to share and that, given what we’re faced with when his administration takes office, those among us who care have a responsibility to make our voices heard.
For people who like to pretend that we’re living in a post racial society in which everyone is treated fairly and equitably, this election result (among many other occurrences) provided proof positive that such is not the case. The election of a man who actively antagonized blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, has, perhaps even more so than the many cases of police violence against black people, crystallized the fact that racism is alive (and doing quite well). Let’s be clear on this point: whites supported Trump over Clinton by a margin of 21 percentage points. He could not have done it without support from them. They were provided an opportunity to vote against sexism, racism, jingoism, nationalism and intolerance, and they shat the bed. 2016 was a year in which white America looked itself in the mirror, and the mirror cracked.
A Little About Donald J. Trump: Unqualified. Unethical. Unconscionable. Unacceptable.
Let’s start with an obvious declaration: Donald Trump is an abhorrent human being. He is wholly narcissistic and (to borrow a phrase from Barack Obama) temperamentally unfit for employment even as an entry-level analyst in a Fortune 500 company. You wouldn’t let a person this repulsive and deeply compromised cut your lawn, much less elect him to the highest office in the land.
That’s not to mention how woefully unqualified for office he is. The man has absolutely no government experience whatsoever. It makes me wonder why politics is the only industry for which Americans don’t require people to be qualified. In fact, we tend to consider it a benefit when candidates aren’t experienced. Rather than lauding those who have successfully managed relationships in Congress and learned the ins and outs of the Beltway, we smear them with the term “Washington insider” as if dedicating one’s life to public service is somehow a sign of low character.
And I haven’t even discussed his behavior. Here are just a few of the objectionable things Trump did/said during his campaign:
a) He promised to build a wall along the US/Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it.
Because this ridiculous promise has been so widely circulated, it’s become normalized, but take a moment to consider how absolutely, batshit insane it is. There was never even a remote chance of this happening; it is a logistical, economic and political impossibility. It is also transparently racist. This promise alone should have eliminated him from contention in the mind of a reasonable voter. The fact that white America found this absurdity attractive, not to mention feasible, tells you all you need to know about them.
b) “Grab Them by the Pussy!”
Ah yes, the much maligned conversation between Trump and sycophantic shitbag, Billy Bush, in which Trump bragged about leveraging his wealth and celebrity to molest women.
c) He publicly mocked disabled people.
Many have seen the footage of Donald Trump flapping his arms and mocking the disabled. Decent people wouldn’t allow their children to do this, but again the behavior was excused by all those who voted for him.
d) He attacked the family of a soldier who was killed in battle.
In an absolutely appalling display, Trump engaged in a Twitter beef with the family of Khizr Khan, an American soldier who died serving his country. Keep in mind that Trump, despite all of his tough guy bluster, has never lifted a single finger in service of the country for which he was elected president.
e) He bragged about tax dodging during a presidential debate.
I kind of feel as if I’m the only one who caught this. I didn’t hear anything about it from the various news sources that I frequent, but during the second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump bragged about not paying his fair share of taxes, saying that avoiding them made him smart. Remarkable, given that the overwhelming majority of us, with or without protest, dutifully ante up to Uncle Sam and pay our fair share.
f) He admitted that his VP would be responsible for foreign and domestic policy.
Trump essentially acknowledged that he would be serving the country as a figurehead, and that his VP would be running the show.
How Did This Happen?
In the aftermath of the election, pundits and Democrats were understandably looking for answers. Some believed that there was a silent majority that supported Trump’s platform and was eager to distance themselves from politics-as-usual (while, apparently, completely overlooking the fact that Hillary won the popular vote). Some believed that the Democrats had ignored the white middle class (an interesting conclusion to reach, given that affordable healthcare, a robust economy and maintaining the American auto industry benefits the white middle class at least as much as it does any other group). Bill Maher (who I find distasteful, despite his political leanings) even argued that the Dems lost because they didn’t do enough to appeal to white men (perhaps Democrats should have run a candidate who brags about sexually assaulting women).
For my part, I’ve come up with three primary reasons why Trump won the electoral vote.
1. The Dems Were Beholden to a Flawed Candidate
A friend of mine said something with which I completely agree. He said that the people who voted for Trump (in addition to his publicly self-identified supporters) are those who, when his name came up, uttered some iteration of the following: ‘Well, both candidates are terrible.’
In my mind, he’s right on. I don’t know many people, including Dems, who are/were head over heels about Hillary but at least she was a serious, experienced and accomplished candidate who has spent decades in the public sphere. We know where she stands. Still, she was the absolute wrong choice in that she the Republic noise machine has successfully spent decades disparaging her and linking her to her husband’s well publicized failings. To many Americans, Hillary Clinton represents the corrupt status quo, and Trump (despite the fact that he, himself, is awash in litigation) effectively used that against her. Hillary was blindsided by Obama during the 2008 primaries, and the Democratic establishment was dead set against allowing that to happen again. So, they enabled a ‘By Any Means Necessary’ campaign for Hillary and worked to discourage or outright dismiss anyone who challenged her. All involved felt as if this was her time, and the results speak for themselves.
2. A Decades-Long Push to Create A Culture of Second-Guessing Legitimate News Sources
Fox News launched in October 1996. Under the slogan, “Fair and Balanced” it has spent the last 20 years blurring the lines between objective news and propagandistic cheer-leading. The very reason for the existence of the station has to do with the ridiculous notion – spread by Reagan-era conservatives – that the media is too liberal to objectively report the news. In reality, many Repubs were merely irritated that the news media wouldn’t kowtow to them and blindly support the military industrial machine, so, rather than risk another Watergate, they simply created and mass circulated the idea of an duplicitous “liberal media.” This idea was used as the foundation to create a conservative news station that served as a salve to the beleaguered consciousness of conservative white America. The something happened: Fox News went mainstream. Buoyed by ratings that Fast forward to the election cycle of 2016 in which few people readily believe anything that the traditional press reports, conspiracy theories run amok, and no one is sure who to believe. This environment of second-guessing created the perfect backdrop for the Trump victory. An America in which citizens perilously confuse entertainment with factual information was a safe haven for a candidate who regularly confuses his own bluster for a political position.
3. 2016 Obama Backlash and Anti-Black Resentment
It is an extraordinary understatement to say that white America never cozied up to President Obama. They treated his ascendancy as a direct assault against their right to rule, and poured an enormous amount of energy into attacking him, his wife and his policies. The election of Trump is the culmination of white resentment, not only towards Barack Obama and his presidency, but towards the very idea of black empowerment. Trump didn’t create the current environment of racism that we’re seeing; frankly, it has always been present. What he did was take the Southern Strategy – previously employed by the likes of Richard Nixon – and use it on a national scale. He used the racial resentment held by many whites who couldn’t stomach the idea of having a black president, or losing their position, to an unknown black menace. Evidence of this resentment is easily visible, from the murderous rampage on a group of unsuspecting black churchgoers in SC, to a general white embracing of redneck culture.
Consider the redneck television programming that was created/became popular during the Obama administration:
Honey Boo Boo
Sons of Anarchy
My Big Redneck Wedding
I Married My First Cousin (nah, but is it really that far-fetched?)
What we’ve witnessed over the course of the past eight years is a crystallization of animosity towards black progress. In the past, we have seen whites abandon their own neighborhoods when blacks establish themselves in the same vicinity. This time, they have abandoned their entire country. When taking all of the white anger, resentment and bitterness that has accumulated (particularly over the past 8 years) into consideration, a Trump victory begins to seem almost logical.
What To Expect: Should We Really Give Him A Chance?
So what can we expect? I’ve heard people argue that we should give him an opportunity to operate prior to judging him. They make the claim that condemning Trump prior to his even taking office would be akin to what Republicans and other critics did to Obama; they never gave him a chance.
In my mind, this thinking is not only misguided, it is dangerous. Given the tenor of his campaign, we should already know what to expect: divisiveness, ethnocentrism, and an appeal to the most belligerent, poorly educated and openly bigoted portion of the population. Moreover, he has given every indication of what his plans are by those with whom he has surrounded himself. Just look at some of his rogue gallery of appointees:
VP, Mike Pence – a retrograde wack-job who doesn’t believe in evolution, a woman’s right to choose, or equal rights for the LGBT community
Chief Advisor, Steve Bannon – the pied piper of racists who is on the Mount Rushmore of the disgusting “alt-right” movement
Head of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson – an unapologetic Uncle Tom who believes that a lot of people go into prison straight and come out gay, and who seemed so ludicrously under-prepared during the campaign that one almost felt sorry for him
Head of Energy, Rick Perry – particularly dumb, even for a Texan, Perry is a man who has openly admitted that he would shut down the Dept. of Energy if he could
Head of Health and Human Services, Tom Price – This one is especially unfortunate, because this department is responsible for both Medicaid and Medicare, and Price is a huge proponent of privatizing healthcare. We can expect funds to be diverted accordingly
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson – A comic book villain who is in bed with big oil and the Russians
Given these nominations, Trump will appoint people to run the country who are either archaically conservative or completely incompetent.
Many liberals have painted an elaborate nightmare scenario of Trump America. Blogger, Leah McElrath provides a particularly disturbing view (https://twitter.com/leahmcelrath?lang=en), one in which an American president with a complete lack of conscious and accountability. She goes on to write, convincingly, of an America in which a thin-skinned Trump takes aim at his list of enemies, tramples on civil liberties, and sinks the country into an economic and social quagmire from which we will spend years trying to emerge.
In addition to this mess, I think we can also expect a continuation and expansion of the racial harassment and religious intolerance (https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/11/18/update-incidents-hateful-harassment-election-day-now-number-701) that we have seen surge since 11/8/2016.
What Do We Do Now? Resisting the Machinations of Trump America
Understandably, many of us are concerned about what Trump America will look like. I’ve had numerous conversations with black folks who worry about the future of our people in this country.
Be honest about what happened and what it means
The time for excuse making is over. We need to be honest with ourselves about the implications of the Trump election. White America has worked diligently to overturn the progress and positive symbolism created by the election of our first black president. This was calculated and intentional. We shouldn’t let them off of the hook for it.
Be on guard
Be aware of anti-black aggression and avoid putting yourself at risk. Simply put: if you are black, you need to watch your back and make sure that you’re not putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Guard against complacency and embrace discomfort.
Teach your children what to expect
Our children have grown up in a world in which they struggle to recognize the need for black solidarity. Many of them are convinced that racism is a product of a bygone era. They need to be awakened to the fact that our fight is their fight, and they’ll need to be prepared to take up the mantle.
Circle the Wagons
While I’m certainly not foolish enough to believe that a Trump presidency will somehow bring black people together, I’m hopeful that it will, at least, put us on the defensive. If you haven’t done so already, make inroads with like-minded black folks and regularly check in on them. Bolster your friendships and engage in meaningful, helpful discussions about our own self-betterment.
Remember that we have survived much worse
The final point that I want to make is this: we have lived in this country for hundreds of years, and he have managed to survive the slave trade, chattel slavery in the US, the purposeful, systemic destruction of the black family, the complete obliteration of our former culture, the three-fifths of a man decision, lynching, race wars, Jim Crow, Plessy v. Ferguson, economic lockout, poll taxes, literacy tests, rampant police brutality and murder, the KKK, the assassinations of King and X, white flight, underfunded public schools, predatory lending, land rent schemes, etc.
In 2006, Jesse Jackson (from whom we hardly hear a word these days) said something that has stuck with me. He said that this country (read: white America) has a “great tolerance for black suffering and black marginalization.” Everything that we have seen, both historically and presently – culminating in the election of a dangerous bigot – supports his statement. We no longer have the luxury of pretending that white racism is waning, or that race relations are improving. My hope for my people is that we all learn the terrible lesson that this election should have taught us. It’s time we woke up and faced the harsh realization that all we have is ourselves. Yet, if we remember who we are and rise to the challenge with which we are faced, that should be more than enough.
There Is A Chance We Could Finesse This Trump Presidency And Here’s How. was last modified: January 17th, 2017 by