I’m not mad at Trump for calling himself a nationalist. He is. He just should have put “white” in front of it. But more importantly, so should the GOP. The party has been white nationalist long before anyone else ever thought of Trump and the term “white nationalist.” Let’s work backward from Trump on this.
When he called Haiti and other African nations “shithole nations” last January, he got a lot of loud media and public criticism for spewing this garbage. What got almost no attention was the reaction, or rather non-reaction, of every GOP senator that was in earshot of him saying that and those who weren’t but quickly got the news about it. With the arguable exception of South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham who very belatedly claimed he chewed him out on, not another soul in the GOP leadership said a mumbling word of criticism. Then again, why would anyone be surprised. This was far more than a case of Trump being Trump with his casual racist cracks and digs. He learned early on in the political game that the pathway to the GOP top was to take the cue from a party that had spent the past half century encoding racism within the its political marrow.
On a cable talk show appearance in 2010, for instance, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flatly refused several direct, angled, and nuanced efforts to discuss racism in the Tea Party. McConnell’s none too subtle refusal to weigh in on the issue was in direct response to the NAACP’s resolution demanding that the Tea Party speak out and speak out loudly against the racists among them.
However, long before the NAACP
stirred debate on Tea Party racism with its resolution, a legion of Democrats,
civil rights leaders, and even an online petition from an advocacy group begged
the GOP to speak out against its naked bigots. No go, and for a very good
The GOP would cut its throat if
it denounced its racists and racism, and really meant it. The shouts, taunts,
spitting, catcalls, Obama as Joker posters, n-word slurs, Confederate and Texas
Lone Star flag waved by some Tea Party activists, and the deafening silence
from GOP leaders during former president Obama’s early years in office, was and
still is very much is an indispensable political necessity for the party.
Whether Trump’s touting white
nationalism, or beating up on immigrants, Trump brags that he’s just as popular
as ever with his base. That being white, male, rural, evangelical, with no
college degree. He’s right about that and the polls repeatedly back him up on
this. When he pops off the throngs that pack the arenas for his cheerleading
sessions love it. They slap their thighs with howls of laughter. To them that’s
Trump telling the GOP establishment and anyone else to shove it and saying it
in the vilest of street language.
This is the spark the GOP has
long used to reignite its traditional conservative, white male loyalists, and
increasingly white female supporters. The GOP could not have been competitive
during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and most importantly the 2016 campaign,
without the bailout from white male voters. Much has been made that they are a
dwindling percent of the electorate, and that Hispanics, Asian, black, young,
and women voters will permanently tip the balance of political power to the
Democrats in coming national elections. Blue-collar white voters have shrunk
from more than half of the nation’s voters to less than 40 percent.
The assumption, based solely on
this slide and the increased minority population numbers and regional
demographic changes, is that Trump and the GOP’s white vote strategy is doomed
to fail. This ignores three political facts: 1) Elections are usually won by
candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters; 2) White males,
particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully; 3) they voted
in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.
The GOP leaders have long known
that blue-collar and a significant percent of college educated, white male
voters, who are professionals, can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly
on the emotional wedge issues, with immigration now front and center on the
These are the voters that GOP
presidents and aspiring presidents, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and George W. Bush,
McCain and Romney, and an endless line of GOP governors, senators and
congresspersons have banked on for victory and to seize and maintain regional
and national political dominance.
In the run-up to November 6, Trump will throw every racist code slogan, code word, racist taunt, and dig out. Much of the media and Democrats will lambaste him for it. His devout flock will love every minute of it. Meanwhile, the party that he heads will quietly beam approvingly because it knows that this is the only way it would have a prayer of total victory on that Election Day. I applaud Trump for telling that truth.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an
author and political analyst. He is the author of make the Democratic Blue Wave
More than Talk (Amazon). He is a
weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the
weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.