Much, even if not all, opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy derives, not primarily from the policies that he advocates as from the symbols that he embodies.
Barack Obama’s political fortunes stem much from the same thing. The success of Obama’s candidacy, then, was driven largely by the psychology, not the rationality, of the electorate, for it was not really Obama the man for whom they were voting, but an emblem, a story, that transcended its candidate. Obama himself (to say nothing of his party) knew as much.
While Obama was most definitely a left-wing Democrat, he and his supporters packaged him, quite persuasively by the lights of millions, as something on the order of a trans-partisan candidate. Obama appeared to realize the hope of scores of Americans from across the political divide that “politics as usual” would come to an end with his election.
Trump similarly signifies for millions an overcoming of the stale dichotomies on which Americans have soured.
This is one respect in which Trump’s candidacy resembles Obama’s in 2008. It is not the only respect, however.
And here’s where we need to cut to the chase: Though few political and media elites generally, and even fewer Republicans, want to explicitly mention it, the reality is that just as there was a sub-textual racial symbolism to Obama’s candidacy, so is there the same in the case of Trump.
Bear in mind the following considerations:
(1) In America, whites—who still, much to the disappointment of left-wing Democrats, constitute an overwhelming majority of the electorate—do not vote bloc-vote (at least not as of yet). Non-white groups do. And they tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. In 2012, for example, Barack Obama elicited the support of 93% of blacks, 71% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians.
At the same time, while the white vote has always split amongst candidates, 59% of whites voted for Mitt Romney.
(2) This racial divide generally, and in particular the shockingly high rate of support that non-whites throw to Democrats, doesn’t occur within a vacuum. Republicans are tirelessly smeared by non-Republicans as “racists,” the party of “white men.” And this is the message that is repeatedly conveyed by way of the culture’s precincts of power: academia, Hollywood, the media and, of course, Democratic politicians.
Because the GOP remains a mostly (yet certainly not exclusively) white party, it is attacked as “racist.”
(3) However, in deriding the GOP as “racist” because of the preponderance of whites that fill its ranks, its opponents are also implying that there’s something inherently “racist” about any organization, institution, or community that is predominantly white. Indeed, the popular culture has long been infected with the notion of “institutional racism” (i.e. white “racism”) and, more recently, “white privilege.”
While cultural and media commentators conspicuously neglect to note its existence, “Living While White” (LWW) is a real phenomenon, the omnipresent, if not always conscious, suspicion on the part of whites that they are morally suspect just for being white.
Carl von Clausewitz said that “war is politics by other means.” Yet the converse is also true: Politics is, or at least can be, war by other means. Contemporary identity politics all too easily lends itself to being read along these lines.
(4) Among whites, that group which has been most vilified, most demeaned and mocked, consists of those who Obama himself once described as being “bitter,” “cling [ing]” to their “guns or religion” and of having “antipathy to people who aren’t like them[.]” Such whites are “anti-immigrant” and “anti-trade,” he remarked confidently, because they blame such things for their own “frustrations.”
These are the folks who may otherwise be sneered at as “rednecks.”
They are also the same whites who have otherwise been disaffected with politics for years—until now.
Donald Trump has drawn them back—and in record-shattering numbers. He has been especially effective at drawing in white, heterosexual, working-class men, independents and former Democrats who, in spite of the abuses to which they’ve been subjected, constitute the lion’s share of police officers, fire fighters, border patrol agents, active military personnel, truckers, coal miners, small business owners, and even union members, nationally and locally.
These people refused to vote for either John McCain or Mitt Romney. Not only will they vote for Trump, they will do so enthusiastically. Though Trump, being the billionaire that he is, has little in common with them as far as their backgrounds are concerned, and while Trump’s untrustworthiness leaves it an open question as to whether he will do much if any of what he promises to do, the fact is that the GOP nominee is a symbol for them:
That, in this Age of Political Correctness, a white, heterosexual, testosterone-charged man—a “man in the old mold,” as Ilana Mercer describes Trump in
But make no mistakes about it: This is exactly what Trump symbolizes to his enemies as well. From the perspective of leftist Democrats who have mastered the art of identity politics and who seem to delight in the prospect that whites (so they hope) will one day be a minority in America, Trump signifies the resurgence of what they fear most of all in the world—and of what they felt, mistakenly, they had largely defeated with Obama’s presidency.
Had Romney gotten just four percent more of the white vote, he would have won handily. It’s hard to imagine that Trump won’t be able to succeed where Romney failed.
However, even if, for whatever reasons (and anything can happen), Trump loses in November, the truth is that he has already won. He will remain a symbol that the silent majority need be silent no more.
Trump has changed American politics. There is no going back.