2018, Barack Obama, Donald Trump — August 18, 2017

Trump doesn’t care about Confederate statues any more than he cared about Obama’s birth certificate

by

But you knew that

Like voter ID laws, the preservation of Confederate statues polls quite well. This could be an odd correlation, but I think you get what both of these wedge issues are about preserving.

Trump has a preternatural sense of stoking and capitalizing upon white grievance. It’s a pattern that he developed well before he met Steve Bannon. And it will be the one great consistency in his life, regardless of what happens to Bannon.

Trump seems to have used white racial anxiety in his youth to increase rents on his family’s properties. It’s how he became the world’s most famous birther and a hero to the right. It’s how he became president, with some help with the too human failings and nefarious forces that collected to oppose Hillary Clinton.

Obviously, Trump doesn’t give a shit about the history of the Civil War, or history in general.

You don’t fake a Civil War monument or crush actual historic art to save a couple weeks of construction time on Trump Tower if you care about our shared heritage.

Trump doesn’t care about the truth. He understands the power of a lie and knows that he has never been hurt by lying. It’s when he tells the truth — as in how he feels about Judge Curiel, the Khan family or “very fine” white supremacists — that the public gets the sense of what he’s all about.

He’s all about preserving power, mostly his power and the power of people with his name and, sometimes, of people who look like him. That’s why “culture” is central to his strategy.

His race-baiting is so repulsive to those on the left that we assume that it’s not only unhelpful but will sow the seeds of his demise. In reality, it’s the core of his appeal and the reason he appeals to voters who wouldn’t normally consider voting Republican.

“The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day,” Steve Bannon told the American Prospect. “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

I don’t know if this is true. I know that it worked in Michigan last year, with a big help from the Clinton campaign not waging the sort of persuasion campaign the Obama and Kerry campaigns did. Does it work without many on the left voting third party or James Comey and the Republican Party affirming Vladimir Putin’s active measures?

It could!

Trump is a master of identity politics, white identity politics.

And as CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson explains, Democrats have not yet figured out if they have an answer for working-class white voters who feel usurped by sudden and long-term demographic changes. In fact, many on the left oppose even having one, noting that the party’s coalition of minorities, women and college-educated whites is larger than the right’s and growing every day, even if it isn’t geographically located in a way to deliver legislative majorities.

Non-voters, as Demos’ Sean McElwee points out, are the most important target for Democrats. Automatic registration and mail-in ballots matter most in the long term and registering and making sure people can and do vote matters most in the short term.

But I think Trump offers an opportunity to expose racism as a strategy and a scam to divide us and empower plutocrats who exploit us all. We’ll never be able to truly combat climate change, wealth inequality or poverty or avoid disasters like the Great Recession if we do not subvert this extraordinarily effective gambit and win everywhere. So even if we aren’t going after Trump voters, we need to be winning over their kids.

How do we do this?

David Atkins has been pointing out how Elizabeth Warren’s recent Netroots Nation speech as a model for pointing out how “the system is rigged, in its own way, against everyone whose not a rich cishet white dude.”

Watch it for yourself:

Here’s the key passage:

We need to see each other’s fights as our own. And I believe we can.

In the wake of the last election, I’ve heard people say we need to decide whether we’re the party of the white working class or the party of Black Lives Matter.

I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work – and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop.

The way I see it, those two parents have something deep down in common—the system is rigged against both of them—and against their kids.

Over the last generation, the most powerful people in this country have gotten way more powerful. Corporate profits and CEO pay are near record highs. But workers’ wages haven’t budged, and, one after another, workers’ rights are getting wiped away. Unions are under attack.

Millions of people are struggling to piece together two, three, or four jobs just to pay the rent.

The balance of power is shifting in other parts of our economy, too. In industry after industry – airlines, banking, health care, agriculture, tech – a handful of corporate giants control more and more and more. The big guys are locking out smaller, newer competitors. They are crushing innovation. Even if you don’t see the gears turning, this massive consolidation means prices go up and quality goes down for everything from air travel to broadband service. Rural America is left behind, dismissed by corporate giants as fly-over country.

This concentration of power strikes at the heart of our democracy. Our government is supposed to be the one place where everybody gets the same fair shot, no matter how powerful or powerless they might be. But thanks to the revolving door between Capitol Hill, K Street and Wall Street, powerful people have more and more influence in Congress. Thanks to Citizens United, corporate money slithers through Washington like a snake. Washington works great for the rich and powerful, but for everyone else, not so much.

Yes, the system is rigged – and if you don’t feel like anyone in politics is doing anything to un-rig it, well, that’s how a lot of folks who should have been with us last November wound up voting for Donald Trump.

For many Americans, it isn’t news that the balance of power in our country has seriously tilted away from them. African Americans. LGBTQ Americans. Immigrants. Muslims. Women. Poor people.

No, I have not personally experienced the fear, the oppression, and the pain that many of my fellow Americans endure every day. But I do know this: For a lot of our fellow citizens, the system is rigged now and it has been rigged for a long, long time.

Don’t take my word for it. Just look around.

Trump looks to statues of racist traitors and sees their fight as his own. We just need to figure out a way to do that with everyone else.

[Photo by the great Anne Savage.]

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