It is so surprising indeed so intensely disturbing to so many Americans and citizens around the world about the steamrolling of now President Donald Trump.
Thursday June 22 as the Republican dominated Senate unveils their highly secretive health reform plan President Trump is trotting out to Iowa in the Midwest to drum up his grass root support where he remains wildly popular contrary to the views of West Coast and East Coast elites and middle classes especially in the cities. Inasmuch as the progressive media claims Trump is losing popularity due to his racial and gender bigotries and his departure from the populist common people rhetoric of his campaign, in actual fact, as alluded to above, Trump is not doing badly at all in the eyes of his base.
In an America where the public in general has been fed up for more than a while with a mainstream media viewed by many as being irresponsible while hiding behind the First Amendment, it is not difficult for Trump as a media personality to make his fake news and witch hunt accusations in defence against his deepening Congressional and Special Counsel investigation woes seem to be real among his fans and even many of his distractors.
He will more than likely beat the raps on him believe it or not given a power hungry Republican Congress and cabinet as he begins to proceed with his massive deportation plans of Middle Easterners already in motion realising the weakness of the progressive wings of civil society to put up much of a sustained fuss.
Even the federal courts may not be able to hold out much longer in opposing Trump’s Muslim travel ban give extensive Presidential powers in setting immigration policies. It all depends on how skilful the quick learning Trump team are in future rounds in stating their case. Especially since Trump now has a Supreme Court appointee, the probably first of one or two more, destined for a right wing leaning highest court in the land for years if not decades to come.
The reason why Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry is moving ahead as Presidential executive action and discretionary power public policy actions is the same reason why as a private citizen he accused Obama of not being an American by birth. Even though according to an interview by his son-in-law Trump did not believe in that claim himself about Obama not really being an America, he believed the Republican Party and general public were stupid enough to believe such a racist thing.
Such pervasive every day racist bigotry such as beliefs that Blacks and other Non-Whites like Latinos and Muslims can’t possibly be real Americans stems from rock bottom extensive insidious as well as intentional racism in American society which liberals hate to admit and conservatives deny remains a daily stable of American public and private cultures and identities.
Yes it is true there seems to be a greater acceptance of cultural differences among the younger generations in the United States like in South Africa to a lesser extent. But, when you scrap the surface many share the same cultural illiteracy about other people than their parents and grandparents. In other words, in America as long as you are a young Black digital or millennial generation Arab or Black or Latino or Asian or First People hanging out with your cool White friends and don’t get too heavy into discussing your people’s tormenting history or your incidents with racism, you are cool with your hat backwards White male and nose pierced White female peeps.
It is no wonder why so many otherwise White youths had no problems voting for Trump with a Chief Adviser who considered the young White supremacist who murdered nine Blacks in a prayer meeting as being worthy of being featured on his website wrapped in a Confederate flag symbolising the need to do what he said to his victims as he shot them in cold blood—stopping them meaning, Blacks, from taking over.
This insidious as well as well conscious White bigotry causing Whites, including White women to storm the polls for Trump is due to fear of the changing demographics in a nation which has had so many chances to get racial justice right in key areas of elected and appointed leadership in government and in civil society but has squandered such opportunities through delaying, stalling, and being fearful of being engulfed by non-White competitors. Asians in elite and middle class higher education is a chief White fear of take over which has been occurring for over a decade now in many institutions.
But Latinos with their high fertility rates and mobilising abilities in the electorate and their economic development possibilities as well as that of Asians poses along with the persistent presence of Blacks, native and immigrant, who continue to press for justice are the real reasons for what we see as the 2016 White Electoral Panic. Big Daddy Trump said he would take care of “us” that is of course if you are White or if non-White, compliant to Whites and would make America great again, meaning for especially for White males, and for White women and non-Whites who know their places.
The White supremacy agenda of Donald Trump and his core supporters could well work given what we consider what happened in South Africa in the late 1940s. Jan Smut’s United Party so smugly thought they would easily win with the economic gains of World War II and its aftermath and the urbanising white population hotly opposed to Daniel Malan and his growing out of the mainstream National Party.
Malan took advantage of Smut’s international absences instead of actively campaigning and exploited the public claim that the United Party was determined to loosen up the colour bar inducing great white electorate fear. Well as surprising as it became with Malan’s historical win, it threw the country in reverse with apartheid for 46 years still quite here socioemotionally, spatially, and economically. Especially when you have political and economic clout as post-World War II South Africa--- did enough to float a substantial loan to Great Britain----, it is open field in terms regarding what outsider elites decide to with seized access to the apparatus of the State no matter how inward looking or reverse from growing public opinion pointing in the other direction.
Just like there were numerous ways of nipping Malan’s apartheid regime in the bud, there are certainly ways to do the same when it comes to the unfolding Trump era. A most positive sounding hope though improbable way in the United States would be to mobilise the growing pockets of authentically changing intercultural lives in American life. That is, since the 1990s especially, there has been a growing number of Americans in local government and civil society systems and residential communities across socioeconomic status which have benefitted from gradual patterns of racial diversity and now power sharing racial inclusion which refuse to go back to the good old days. They see the social, cultural, and economic benefits to living with culturally different people in contrast to the groundswell of Americans, who remain paralysed in their intergenerational bigotries.
There was enough growth of these culturally inclusive Americans in local opening environments by the early 1990s that it surprised a powerful right wing movement challenging university affirmative action cases that they lost their challenge to the University of Michigan before a conservative majority Supreme Court insisting that given the changing demographics of America such programmes were needed.
Three hundred and fifty friends of the University signed up from all key sectors—business, education, military, etc. testifying to the benefits which came from culturally different people living together Many of these friends of the University of Michigan made it clear they would not go back to their racially exclusive pasts even if it meant designing and implementing policies which counter acted into negative court decisions. And that is precisely what many local and state institutional, systems, and residential community leaders have been doing for the past 20 or so years increasingly. It explains the unexpected election of Senator Barack Obama to the Presidency.
It also ironically explains the backlash against the Obama years through the orchestrated efforts of White Supremacists and Tea Party Republicans using populist candidate Trump as a poster boy to win an election such extremists could not do on their own. The backlash was effective given the reluctance of the Obama administration to strongly proactively address racial civil rights and broader cultural inclusion questions with effective federal policies given his 2008 Civil Unity address.
Rather than organising and mobilising the very intercultural American constituency that got Obama elected, once elected, he did nothing to little. The Obama administration’s timid passivity and reactive damage control approach to effectively address racial civil rights issues created the national public space for the emergence of an aggressive multifaceted right wing movement, lead politically by the Tea Partiers in the Republican Party in Congress and on the Supreme Court. They would effectively block him in his second term and eroded major civil rights such as the 1965 Voter Rights Act. And President Obama’s solution to his political entrapment by having to resort to Executive Orders than legislation or court orders has made Trump’s undoing of his legacy a wide open turkey shoot.
The numbness of this growing population of intercultural Americans in countering the Tea Party strategies in the Obama years and now in the Trump months shows that though promising, it has yet to mature into sources of influential well mobilised and organised civic engagement on national levels in addressing the deepening needs of a rapidly demographically changing America.
Meanwhile what has become worse than the Tea Party, is the mainstreaming and emerging public face of what really inspires it, namely, a historically persistent and determined racist right wing movement actually a constellation of organisations determined to keep the rulership of America White and keeping Non-Whites subservient no matter the cost to national wellbeing. It is has been organised in numerous ways in America since the American Civil War such as the Klu Klux Klan and its various branches and right wing think tanks around since the late 1940s. This is the ultra-right wing Trump has tapped into so skillfully with the paradoxical or intentional or naïve assistance of a society with leadership in government and in civil society which has cosmetically and otherwise superficially played with rather than destroyed “race” as a chief cornerstone in colonial to nation-building.
We shall see today when the Republican dominated Senate unveils their highly secretive and un-vetted health reform bill while Trump struts out to Iowa in the Midwest to drum up his solid base. If it is a generous bill which replaces the 2009 Affordable Health Act for America then we can see Trump heading to two terms in office riding on an Electoral College win as last time wedding the Midwestern and Deep Southern White vote and conservative if not evangelical non-White voters. Meanwhile the progressive wings of American civil society has its good days of opposition but along with the myopic Democratic Party has virtually curled up and failing to mount effective sustaining oppositional national coalitions.
The four events which could wake up the American electorate and even sway Trump voters to another side are : the impacts of the draconian big social services, education, and employment programmes the Trump administration is trying to implement which hurt working and middle class Whites disproportionately; a Trump scandal beyond the wobbling Russian probe which threatens Republican survival at the polls; terrorist attacks in the US and Trump's authoritarian use of the Patriotic Act with its scary seemingly limitless Presidential discretionary powers, or like in the 1850s with the imploding of the Whig Party over the slavery question, the formation of a viable third party composed of independents and disgruntled Democrats and Republicans or pick two or three or pick all four (in 1860 the emergent third party, The Republican ran Abraham Lincoln as their candidate).
In other words, no matter the demographic changes which soar ahead in America including in the electorate, Trump has managed to capture the White vote in ways which makes winning the Electoral College a breeze for himself and for those Republicans following him. Unless, that is, somehow Whites of all class statuses supporting him due to racial factors which include not realising that the Affordable Health Act for America which the majority support is Obamacare begin to seriously suffer even more deeper wellbeing lost and consequently come to vote for rather than against their quality of life interests.
This is to say, with enough tragic well being devastation done to them blamed on the Trump administration’s dismantling of wellbeing policies so beneficial for Whites, we just might see enthusiastic White Trump supporters even in the Midwest and Deep South shedding their racist inclinations and instead begin to vote their human interests and not against them due to the pervasiveness of insidious racism deep in the routine fabric of the land. But even then, if Trump is forced out of office or voted out, what then?
More games with race or settling down and using the knowledge we have had for 70 years as best practices in building an authentically culturally inclusive democracy? When will we Americans like South Africans come to think about it and Brazilians and elsewhere where race dehumanises everywhere it touches with its cancerous limbs learn that living together inclusively is much more beneficial to all than living fractured dehumanised lives apart?
Written by Professor John H Stanfield II, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Democracy, Governance, and Service Delivery (DGSD) programme of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)