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Racism - America's Original Obsession

I wrote a post on Saturday that I have quickly come to regret. It’s not that I feel my overall thesis—that broad swaths of the American electorate vote based on their sexual obsessions rather than policy—was incorrect. Rather, the point did not go far enough and did not address another unfortunate roadblock in the hearts and minds of many voters. People have commented to me that my posts are often fairly long already, so I had to keep my last one as brief as I possibly could. But that led me to omit the issue of racism. Now is the time to discuss it.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported on President Trump’s restless and angry efforts inside the White House to implement his immigration agenda. Specifically, he had this to say about Haitians:

They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Trump then added this about Nigerians:

Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

To be fair, Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied everything:

“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, referring to the current White House chief of staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of state and homeland security. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”

However, in this White House, you need to watch actions, not words (which have been factually proven to be lies most of the time). And the actions are consistent with Trump’s record, from the time he was a young scion of his father’s housing business and discriminated against prospective African American buyers.

It’s fun and easy to pick on Trump, but the truth is that he only says what countless of supporters actually believe. Some might even applaud him for at least speaking his mind, while others keep their racism under cuff. Moreover, racism is solidly built into the American system and has even expanded to include other groups. Today, it appears acceptable in many right-wing circles to demonize not just African-Americans, but Hispanics and Muslims as well.

Consider the following--

None of this is surprising in a country that has racial division and oppression baked into the system from the start and which most recently saw whites react to the administration of our first African-American president by voting in large numbers for Trump.

America is sometimes seen as the “city on the hill”, the paragon of virtue that other countries emulate. To some extent this is true, as the post-World War II world order was largely based on American ideals like FDR’s four freedoms and national self-determination. But to many Americans, these values are conditional. Once they were extended, in the 20th century, to include those with black and brown complexions, as well as women, that was a bridge too far. So for many in our country, “make America great again” means ensuring that our values and rights are mainly restricted to whites and males.

For the near future at least, it’s hard to imagine such individuals (as well as the blinkered 71-year old man in the White House) moving away from their racist, sex-obsessed beliefs. Fortunately, a significant bloc of the electorate remains open to a progressive message, which unites all the elements that Trump supporters are voting against—greater racial unity; support for women’s and gay rights; a more egalitarian fiscal approach; and solid policies to improve education, build infrastructure, and promote true economic development.

The progressive strategy for 2018, therefore, should be the same as I expressed in my last post-- nationalize the Doug Jones playbook. Focus on the message—the economy, jobs, local concerns. Make it forward-thinking. Target blocs of voters. Get the vote out, especially among African-American, Hispanic, and Muslim voters, who have every reason to support policies that are both racially inclusive and economically expansive.

And ignore the tweets. Mark my words, if Donald Trump is still president during the 2018 election season, he will issue a stream of insulting tweets against black and brown people. Call him out on it—and then move on.

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