2016 — June 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm

The one word we have to use to describe Trump’s racism — ‘strategic’


Trump is using racism to scam white voters and make them poorer. And he’s doing it the same way conservatives have for decades.

Donald Trump could lose by 10 percent, Democrats could take the House and this election could still have been a missed opportunity.

We must use this unprecedented moment to expose right wing’s most effective tactic in tearing apart the middle class.

“Conservatives found a way to use racism to undermine confidence in everything public,” law professor and author of the very excellent Dog Whistle Politics Ian Haney López explains.

What’s the secret? It’s “dog whistle” or strategic racism.

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Again and again, Trump has engaged in race baiting that has forced even Paul Ryan to label it as “textbook racism.”

While there are still a few Trump diehards who refuse to acknowledge these slurs and connotations as racist (and even fewer who are proud of them and want to know where to buy this racism textbook), few Republicans want the stink of Trump’s race baiting on them. This is why he’s having a hard time filling his convention with Republican speakers who have actually won an election.

By distancing themselves from Trump, the party is hoping to minimize the contagion, while still embracing the ethnocentric worldview that has made the GOP the dominant party anywhere where white Americans dominate.

People on the left — including me — have rushed to point out that Trump’s supporters are at the very least tolerant of racism. But this tactic is short-sighted, I’ve been reminded thanks to this video from MoveOn.org and Demos:

Not all conservatives are racist. Sure. But all conservatism relies on the lie that government only helps “them.”

And this lie hurts everyone, especially working class whites who are dying faster thanks to twin anxieties created by conservative policies feeding economic anxiety and the agony of losing much of the privilege inherent in being part of a society built on white supremacy. By selling the fantasy of restoring an old racial hierarchy, Trump is promising policies that will do nothing but wither the little security middle-aged Americans have left.

The left will win even in off-year elections when it can empathize with these struggles, which is difficult given the implicitly racist mindset of this dying worldview.

If we can get past our resentments, the message is pretty simple:

Greedy rich men want you to blame minorities for the things greedy rich men do. Any bigotry is an attack on workers, the middle class and America.

Trump is using racism to scam white voters and make them poorer. And he’s doing it the same way conservatives have for decades.

This is our chance to expose how conservatives blame minorities for the problems conservatives have created. And it requires talking about race, without just calling people “racist.”

López and Heather McGhee explain:

The reactionary economic agenda made possible by dog-whistle politics is responsible not just for the devaluing of black lives but for the declining fortunes of the majority of white families. College costs have soared because anti-government dog whistling has mainstreamed extreme cuts to state budgets. Union busting, which drives down wages and benefits for all workers, has become popular because the image of the union worker has been tarred: now not a white man in a hardhat but a black woman behind a bureaucrat’s counter. When conservatives vilify every modest public benefit, from healthcare subsidies to unemployment insurance, as handouts to the undeserving, the social contract is shredded for everyone. By exposing how the political manipulation of racial anxiety has hollowed out of the middle class, [we] can elevate a simple message: When racism wins, everyone loses.

Conservatism has been incredibly effective in making the richest richer, shrinking the power the middle class and denying workers the ability to bargain for higher wages. And this has only been possible because conservatives have convinced white workers that immigrant and minority families are to blame for the misery created by conservatism.

It’s time to point out that thing that conservatives hate most about government is that it’s the only thing that can stop them from ripping off the middle class. And if we stand together, we can have a future where guys like Donald Trump are actually held responsible for their rhetoric and their back taxes.

We don’t know if Trump is personally a racist — though there’s lots of evidence he is. But we do know that he’s using racism strategically to pit Americans against each other, which is possibly even worse.