Why Trump? Why Now?
He’s been called a new phenomenon. He’s not. He’s been called an aberration in American politics and political life. He’s not. He actually does represent a significant segment of the American society. It’s been said, including by Trump himself, that there is almost nothing he can say or do to make him lose his supporters, who have so far steadfastly stuck with him. That’s almost true. The reason for that is first and foremost his racism and secondly his ultranationalism.
What suddenly and significantly made him popular with white voters, especially white men, was his openly and unabashedly racist remarks about Mexicans, calling them rapists and drug dealers, followed by his promise to round up all Mexicans, which to him and his white supporters means all Hispanic immigrants, whether or not they’re Mexican, “who came here illegally”, and “send them back to Mexico”, and that he would build a wall along the entire US-Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it.
There are a few things we must understand about such extreme and racist comments. First of all, it doesn’t really matter whether he would or could actually build the wall, making Mexico pay for it or if he would kick out millions of Hispanic immigrants once elected president. Just the fact that he says it, it shows that he feels exactly how a significant portion of the population feel and that he’s the only one who openly says it. They like that because it shows he’s really one of them and his (racist) feelings are real and genuine, unlike typical politicians who try to be measured and are careful about what they say.
They also understand his contempt for Blacks. He’s hardly the most conservative of Republican candidates. He’s certainly not as conservative on many issues as Ted Cruz or even Marco Rubio. He even agrees, or at least has agreed in the past, with some of Obama’s and other Democrats’ views, including about Bush’s war on Iraq, abortion rights and healthcare. But, he is virulently anti-Obama and that’s because of his racism. He was one of the most ardent and persistent “birthers”, insisting right to the end that Obama wasn’t qualified to be president because he was, according to him, born in Kenya. His real objection, of course, was that he’s Black and his supporters get that and love him for it. His motto of “making America great again”, after the presidency of the first black president, is also related to that, as is the line “let’s take our country back”, as if it’s been stolen by “others”.
What also gave Trump an extra boost in popularity, in addition to calling Mexicans “rapists” and drug dealers, was his open Islamophobia. Other politicians may feel the same, but he’s the only one who actually says we should prevent all Muslims from entering the US. Even if he can’t as president do it, it shows his open bigotry that his supporters can relate to and which makes them feel he’s one of them. People like candidates who they feel are like them and “understand” them.
What his supporters are also enthused about is his nationalism, which usually goes hand in hand with racism. His nationalistic message of wanting to “make America great again” hints at the totally false notion among rightwing nationalists that “America is being pushed around” and is being cheated or violated – that “we keep losing”, that “we don’t win anymore” – which invokes anger at other races and peoples among his supporters, although that impression has absolutely no basis in fact, and in reality, it’s the US that violates and bullies other nations and even, in some cases, destroys them, killing hundreds of thousands or millions of its inhabitants. This is why his audience chant “USA USA USA” in his campaign rallies and cheer him when he says he “will make the US military so strong that no one will mess with us”. The fact is that the US already has by far the most powerful military in the world and no nation ever can or will “mess” with it. But, somehow that reality has been totally twisted and turned upside down in his supporters’ minds, thanks to brainwashing by rightwing media.
Trump’s Popularity is indicative of not only racism and misplaced nationalism, but also the extreme naïveté of the white working class, who have been brainwashed by the corporate media to hate their black and Hispanic countrymen, blaming their economic hardship on them, just as blacks’ embrace of Hillary Clinton is indicative of their naïveté. But, in the case of the Black community, their support for Clinton is also because of their fear – fear of the likes of Trump. Racists like Trump make minorities rally around someone who they believe has the greatest chance of beating someone like Trump in elections, even if she’s not their best choice or even on their side. So, the entire elections and their outcome are based on fear – fear of “others” by whites and understandably fear of white reaction by blacks.
There is one thing that white racists and reactionaries are right about and that’s their assertion that the country is “headed in the wrong direction”, not the direction they think and fear, but the direction of more fear, more anger, more bigotry, more wars and more disunity and distrust among the working class, as their living conditions worsen and as the political leadership keeps the flames of racism and islamophobia raging for the sake of its endless wars for empire. If not stopped by a national grassroots working class movement that unites the class and turns its ire against the real culprits, who fleece them and leave them poor, divided and confused, the direction we’re headed is fascism.