Essays

Look at the Hat

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC 2.0 license

Look at the hat. “Make America Great Again.” It’s no mistake that the letters are white. The real message is “Make America White Again.” Let me revise that. “Make America White-Male-Dominated Again.” But that sentence would be too long for Trump. “Dominated” is a big word. Trump is the perfect Republican candidate. It’s all bluster and hatred for anybody who is not a straight white male. He is not an aberration. He is an old kind of normal. America was not white to begin with. It became white after the Native American genocide. But facts are irksome details to the Republican presidential candidate and probably most of the Republican Party.

Let’s be honest. Those of us on the left are skeptical about Hillary Clinton’s close relationships to Wall Street and to right-wing Israel, about her previous stance on the Defense of Marriage Act, and about her center-right finger-in-the-wind conscience. But we have to work on many levels to create radical social change. We need someone who will appoint sane people to the Supreme Court who will repeal Citizens United. And we need people from the center-left, like Bernie Sanders, agitating, and we need radical voices like Occupy and Black Lives Matter marching in the streets. Indeed, one of the victories of this awful election will be that we moved Hillary slightly left. It will help get this country ready for the day we are no longer a white majority nation.

Almost everybody I know wonders how this presidential election could even be close. Ever since Vietnam and Watergate, we have not trusted the President. We don’t believe politicians any more. There has been a trend to favor outsiders, whether they are spoilers like Nader, slightly wacky like Perot, or cranky old lefties like Sanders. Hillary has spent her life playing the insider to the hilt. And nobody has been able to play the outsider quite like the Donald. The hair, the gilt apartment, the doll-like wives and mistresses say to all of us, “This is not a cultivated, well-educated insider.” (Degree from Wharton aside.) Brooke Astor probably didn’t invite him to her parties. Nor did Anderson Cooper’s mother! Trump’s brand is the cunning outsider who outsmarted the establishment and wants to return the country to other cunning white guys: “Stick with me and those Brooks Brothers Ivy League types won’t crap on you anymore. If we have to wear a suit, it will be a Trump brand. Never mind that it was hecho en Mexico.”

Some have argued that the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, which includes Obama, it turns out, has not improved the lives of the middle class or the lower middle class. And certainly not the lives of most African Americans, who may stay away from the polls this go round. This election is the last hurrah of the straight white man, who is fast losing ground. If Trump fails, it’s over for them. But it may be a bloody mess getting to true integration and true democracy.

The question remains, is it over for the rest of us?

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I would like to be optimistic and say the hegemonic patriarchy will be over any day now. But that’s not quite true. Look how long it took for majority rule to take hold in South Africa. This mad devotion to Trump is, in the main, the last gasp of white men who feel the sands shifting beneath their feet. But it’s not just white guys losing ground. Are they just intensified by the anybody-can-be-a-journalist social media (irony duly noted)? Wanting it simpler is a rational reaction to the overstimulation of the internet, TV, and the merging of the two. Donald Trump contradicts himself every week, but he stands out from the noise. Hillary looks like your well-to-do grandma who favors pantsuits. The weird thing is that she probably knows how to run the country better than any other candidate who has shown up for a long time. She’s not left-wing enough for me, but she does understand how policy is both made and implemented. In her ambition, she has made mistakes, but I don’t think she’s a crook. If she were a male, nobody would have noticed those mistakes. A great deal of the backlash against her is because she is your very pushy and smart grandma. It doesn’t help that her husband outsmarted the Republicans a few times.

I suspect that the pro-NRA and pro-Trump factions have similar mailing lists. So, they are probably armed to the teeth. A revolution without an idea beyond white entitlement can’t survive. But given all that is going on with the Middle East, Russia, and the plight of refugees worldwide, the last thing Hillary Clinton needs, if she is elected, is to have to deal with a white nationalist revolution. After a long list of vulgar insults, it seems that the election may have turned on insulting women. That tells us something as well. The challenge for us is whether we can stabilize this ship, given how many people would vote for a dictator. That will have something to do with not only the way Hillary leads, but also the way the rest of us act toward each other too.

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Social justice activist Van Jones has been very courageously meeting with disaffected white voters. They like that Trump refuses to be prepared or polished. He is basically a great big middle finger to centerish elites. And that plays well to a large swath of people who don’t understand that what little economic benefit they enjoy was largely the result of the government redistributing the wealth. Which was fine until they perceived nonwhite people enjoying those same benefits. But Van Jones is willing to sit down with them and hear them out. I think that’s what Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., or Cesar Chavez might have done. There is a lesson for me there. It is easier to throw my arms up in despair.

The other day, I got into the elevator in my office building, which is generally a friendly place, where people are courteous and familiar. I was the last one in the elevator, and it was obvious that the woman next to me was irritated with the man at the rear of the cab. I assumed that he had brushed her with his backpack as he rushed to catch the elevator. She said something disparaging to him about needing his own private elevator. He pulled his ear plugs out and said something disparaging about her being white. (He appeared to be nonwhite.)

Recently someone spray-painted “Vote Trump” on a burned-out black church in Mississippi. This is the residue this awful man has left behind. If white power is on a slow decline, it is going to be a bumpy road, with everybody suspicious of the other. I can’t wait until we cross this Rubicon.  

Posted Friday, November 4th, 2016 | Essays
COMMENTS
  1. Eric says:

    This is an insightful article that captures the groundswell of our nation

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