In conversation with friends over the weekend, I bemoaned the fact that the newspeeps seemed to have decided to take Donald Trump seriously. They made the very good point that it’s about time we took him seriously, because he is a very serious threat, and I agree. But I wasn’t talking about that kind of serious. I was talking about the kind of serious where you give the man’s utterances credence and discuss them as if they are worth some kind of consideration, based solely on his popularity with a certain demographic.
This demographic should also be taken seriously, maybe more seriously than Trump himself, because, to my mind, it threatens our way of life in a way that ISIS never could.
I don’t think we should be fooled into thinking that the anger and frustration of his followers comes from a disgust with Washington or the political process or even the gridlocked quagmire that is today’s Congress, much less income inequality or any other social justice issue. I believe that it boils up from a deep seated racism and street level insecurity that Trump has melded into a mob mentality of the kind that cheers on hate speech as “telling it like it is.” Because that’s how it is for them.
Mr. Obama likes to remind us of our better angels, that the United States does not discriminate against people because of who they are. Because, he tells us, that’s not who we are. But that’s exactly who the folks in the Trump demographic are. And that’s what I don’t see being addressed when the newspeeps take Trump seriously. Seventy percent of Trump supporters in South Carolina wish the South had won the Civil war, but so far I haven’t seen much discussion about what that means, exactly.
Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote recently in The Atlantic about what it could mean. In that article, he quotes Jefferson Davis:
You too know, that among us, white men have an equality resulting from a presence of a lower caste, which cannot exist where white men fill the position here occupied by the servile race. The mechanic who comes among us, employing the less intellectual labor of the African, takes the position which only a master-workman occupies where all the mechanics are white, and therefore it is that our mechanics hold their position of absolute equality among us.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina was the first of those states that seceded before he could reach the White House. Their descendants – and their compatriots scattered throughout the nation – seceded from the Union before Mr. Obama took his oath of office. There is nothing of the country that our President works so hard to bring into greater fruition that they recognize as their own. Nothing of the country that I hope a majority of us wish to see progress in maturity.
Even before Mr. Trump appeared on the horizon in his latest guise, I ventured to comment to a far right classmate of mine that we both loved our country and wished the best for it. His reply was short and not so sweet. “You are not we. You are them.”
I distinctly remember a day – it was sometime during the Reagan administration – when, musing about the future, it occurred to me that we weren’t heading toward Star Trek. It was far more likely that we were heading toward Mad Max.
Nothing has borne that prediction out more than the prospect of a Trump Nation Triumphant. We should take that very seriously.