Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trump's Racism and Violence Run deep in the Blood of America. . .

As we watch the Trump phenomenon unfold, a number of interesting aspects are beginning to coalesce around the entire circus. Among these are questions about the 'real' heart of the Republican Party; is Trump's racism just a more blatant form of what is actually everywhere in American politics, and who is really responsible for the emerging violence anyway?

Whether Trump represents the real culmination of the recent trajectory of the Republican Party or some new manifestation of it is a question whose answer really depends upon you point of view. I think a strong case can be made for both arguments. There is little doubt that the mean-spirited, angry, nasty, evangelical, excessively (if illusory) nationalistic elements of the GOP coalesced in recent years in the so-called "tea party" movement (much like the same attitudes coalesced in the Harper Party here in Canada). And this aspect of the GOP has always been there in various forms. For a long time the more classist and racist aspects at the heart of the GOP were hidden behind neo-liberal economic policies which aimed at using supposedly neutral, purely economic approaches that claimed to have prosperity as their goal but actually targeted the poorer, more vulnerable, and racialized citizens. As many people have pointed out, this began in Nixon's so-called Southern strategy and as the limits of neo-liberalism became more clear in recent years this strategy gradually came out of the shadow and became more blatant in its "tea party" guise. It should be pretty clear that even if there have been people in the GOP who didn't really understand that the goal of neo-liberalism was to make the poor poorer (and the impoverishment of 'racial minorities' is a natural extension of those policies), that this is where the GOP was heading all along. Having said that, no political party is a monolith, least of all American political parties which have very little in the way of party law. Thus, I have no doubt that there have been many Republicans who don't like where their party has gone. Furthermore, there is some confusion about what Trump really represents, other than his angry racist firebranding. He has talked about ending certain aspects of free trade etc. So in this sense, we can't really know what kind of Republican Party Trump would represent unless he (gasp) became president.

But there is a deeper, perhaps more pressing, question below the epiphenomenon of the racism and violence of Trump and his supporters. Anyone who takes a serious view of American society understands that violence and racism (both at home and abroad) have been central to American development and economic power. As Zoé Samudzi pointed out recently in her article for, Hillary's Liberal Cowardice Enables Trump's White Supremacy. Samudzi is right in pointing out that there is no American without a "legacy of brutal state violence, a fact that Democrats conveniently forget as they attempt to make [a] more diverse and positive counterpart to Trump's "make America great again" slogan." What Samudzi and some others have been trying to point out is the message that few Americans want to hear, and that is below the blatant racism and violence of Trump and his supporters there are deep structural elements of racism and violence in American society that not only have been long supported by both parties but they continue to support them in various ways. Racism and violence are endemic in US society and politics and the political establishment of the Democrats and the Republicans are doing almost nothing to address these issue. More than that, they continue to trade on racism and violence for the wealth that an unfair system gives to the one percent. Anyone who thinks that Hillary Clinton doesn't have years of blood on her hands for her continual support of international violence and racism committed by the American military machine should reevaluate their knowledge of US foreign policy and Clinton's role in it. In other words, to concentrate too much on the violence and racism of Trump and his supporters diverts attention from the violence and racism that IS American society as constructed and supported by the establishment in both political parties. It is not unlike pointing to child-molesting priests in the Catholic Church as simply a way of taking attention away from the centuries of violence, sexism, misogyny, and racism, that the entire Church has always, and continues to, represent.

And this brings us to the strangest question of all, the question of culpability in the escalating violence around the Trump campaign. One particularly distasteful aspect of Trump supporters is the way they have begun to point fingers at everyone but themselves for the violence that is no plaguing the Trump campaign. By pointing fingers at groups like Black Lives Matter and Sanders' supporters, the Trump supporters are undertaking a classic smoke and mirrors strategy of violent authoritarians everywhere. This strategy is most historically obvious in colonial history. As colonized people became more aware of their oppression and began to fight back against the colonizers, the colonizers used these fights as a way of post facto justifying their colonization by suggesting that the colonized peoples were demonstrating their inherently "savage" makeup. (This strategy has been used regularly by the oppressive Israeli state) It is a simple strategy, ignore the violence upon which colonization and land theft is based, and portray yourself as the victim of a savage group who have actually been the victim all along. Thus in the US, the history of slavery and oppression don't matter, the routine death of African Americans at the hands of white police don't matter, so African Americans can be portrayed as a bunch of unreasonable, rioting fanatics.

The US is unquestionably going through a disturbing process. But it would be a serious, irrational mistake to suggest that Trump is unique. Violence and racism have been and continue to be fundamental aspects of American life, politics, and foreign policy. And until Americans begin to admit that to themselves, politics will continue to be a circus that is used to justify profound injustice.


Owen Gray said...

An excellent post, Kirby. Chris Hedges has been writing for sometime about what the death of the Liberal class has wrought. Trump is more of a symptom than a cause.

Askingtherightquestions said...

Nice work Kirby. The faux horror of the Republican elite needs to be addressed as you pointed out, because the Donald does not represent an aberration in policy or thought. His only crime is to break the unspoken "gentlemans's agreement" to not speak overtly of these policies (much like Stephen Harper flaunted the rules of Parliament!).
Racism, militarism, authoritarianism and demonization of the poor are hallmarks of the party and as you and others have pointed out. The violent undercurrents of American society are more widespread and have been present since its founding.