Can we please ditch the intelligentsia’s perplexity about Donald Trump?
There is little mystery here, despite the prolonged “Wha…?” from journalists and politicians who don’t want to believe that American moral authority is this broken.
Look, it started out broken. Okay? This is not a new thing. It was broken from the start by an ethic that needed race as a retroactive explanation for the compulsion to invade the North American continent, slaughter its people, import forced labor to jump-start a profitable economy, and sustain the enterprise for centuries with successive adaptations of trickle-down Jim Crow.
President Donald Trump is the latest hammer banging non-wealthy white Americans upside the head with the expedient lie that their power derives from the subjugation of demonized brown people. Never mind how profoundly this ignores what actually happened. For latter-day generations of working and want-to-be-working white people in dire need of a shortcut to feeling right and powerful in a position of wrongness and powerlessness, a desperate lie will do.
This is Trump’s gig. It’s not news. It’s what he does. It’s what he did in playing contractors and business associates against one another as a real estate operator. It’s what he did in stigmatizing Native Americans who threatened his casino interests. It’s what he did on The Apprentice in putting hungry contestants at one another’s throats. It’s what he did in pitting desperate Mexican immigrants against desperate American low-wage workers. It’s what he did in setting up White House subordinates like Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Jared Kushner to suspect and undercut one another.
It’s what Trump does. He whispers implicit encouragements to underlings and lets them bleed out as they claw at perceived rivals for dominance. Then he shops for new chumps and plays golf. That’s why virtually the only Trump associates with good things to say about him are people who stand to gain something from him in the present. How many Trump backers from five or 10 or 20 years ago – or, in the case of Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, from last fall – are now singing his praises? See a pattern?
And so Trump, increasingly cornered by his having screwed so many erstwhile allies, now dog-whistles his last reliable audience of suckers – non-college-educated Caucasian voters who have lost out in the latest American manifestation of whiteness – to lash out against feared and loathed browns. One of his recent winks to his angry white base was his publicly telling the non-voting, heavily-brown U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to shut up and suffer after hurricane Maria. Meanwhile, he encouraged those who enjoy voting rights in Florida and Texas to point to his disaster response as cause for gratitude.
It’s what he does. He divides and hopes to conquer. So it is way past time for folks who have access to the relevant information – journalists and politicians, for example – to stop being surprised.
Trump is doing exactly what a defender of post-slavery white supremacy can be expected to do. And he’s doing it the way a slave master – AKA a dictator – does it: brutally, unapologetically, audaciously. The idea is to paralyze via sociopathic fury.
For plenty of we brown Americans – and for many non-brown Americans who have ancestral legacies of surviving genocidal conquest or tyranny even if they haven’t recently been messed with by an armed officer of the state – the regime of President Donald Trump is not at all a new phenomenon.
So we don’t have the luxury of shock and awe.
Previously published on aliasbruce.typepad.com
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