Racism Trumps Everything
By Gwen McKinney,
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Latinos didn’t vote their interests. Blacks stayed home. Millennials failed to register. Too many progressives wasted their vote on third-party candidates. And the Obama coalition evaporated.
Don’t take the bait for any of these flawed explanations about why Donald Trump scored his stunning upset over Hillary Clinton.
For those of us still suffering the shock of a Trump victory, self-recrimination is diversionary. This is not the time for finger-pointing. Plunging into us-against-them analyses only feeds the divide-and-rule syndrome. The blame game further undermines the basic democratic values we all embrace.
The outcome of this election is too heavy to carry on our backs. Black, Brown, Asian, Native Americans and White people of good will who understand America’s deepest divide did our part. We collectively and individually showed up. It wasn’t that we underperformed. Simply, white nationalism over-performed.
And to the refrain that Hillary was a flawed candidate: When stacking the two side by side, who could deny that Trump’s flaws are exponentially larger?
Not since the election of Ronald Reagan has our nation been so fractured by America’s most intractable gulf: racism. But even more than 34 years ago when Reagan came to power, this election was about color.
The hues of blue collars and rust belts translated into white rage, simmering quietly and stoked loudly in calls for the “great again” good old days. The indignities of being unemployed, outranked and losing privilege gave Trump an ascendancy that took the nation by surprise. Even whites who cast their ballots for him – many secretly and cheering from the closet – found the election outcome stunning.
To declare Trump’s election as a statement from working-class white men belies the returns. The margin of victory among white voters for Trump was larger than that for Mitt Romney or John McCain. This includes college educated white men who gave Trump 54 percent of their votes. More astounding than the overall white vote, is the disappearance of the gender gap. A full 10-point divide among white women – a whopping 53 percent voted for Trump compared to 43 percent for Clinton – separated Trump supporters from the first woman nominee of a major party.
Demographic shifts and democratic values clashed. Interests were undermined. Rational explanations were inexplicable. But racism trumped everything.
Once again as in the Reagan era, Trump captured imagination that compelled whites to choose racist codes over their own economic and political interests. With no policies, proof, record or plan, they banked their electoral capital on empty promises and dark homilies. Perniciously, their vote gave consent to Trump’s assault on Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, women, workers and even their own children. It is not hyperbolic, factoring in all Trump’s threatening world view pronouncements, to conclude that his electorate undermined America’s future and put the world at risk.
While their votes were fueled by a longing for the past and a fear of the future, time will tell that the clock won’t turn back. The multiracial, pluralistic society that we are today is here to stay. We who have a collective stake in a more inclusive and equitable country aren’t going anywhere. America’s browning is unstoppable.
If there is any hope for white voters, it springs from the next generation. They are the racially tolerant population under 35 who gave more of their votes to Hillary and third-party candidates than to Trump.
This historic Presidential Election leaves our nation at a crossroad. With many grievances and causes to champion, we are more unified than we know. What connected us to Hillary were the values and ideals that Trump threatens: increased minimum wage, fair trade, universal health insurance, college affordability, immigrant rights, pay equity, clean energy, environmental justice, making Black lives matter, ending mass incarceration, and confronting Islamaphobia, homophobia and xenophobia.
Our tent is big. Our unity is possible. The glue that binds is greater than any singular issue, election, candidate or president. It is our toil, determination and imagination that forge collective causes and plead the case of true democrats.
The leaders and organizations that represent these diverse constituencies – dynamic advocacy, action and civic organizations – can coalesce beyond this election cycle. We owe it to the possibilities of real hope and change. Strategic action, shared vision and public engagement are the only response to the Trump presidency.
Hillary’s slogan Stronger Together has more meaning today than ever.