The events of this last week have been momentous. The long anticipated US General Election has taken place, and as I type this former Vice President Joe Biden is inching towards a victory that appears at least to be a foregone conclusion, and one that will not only carry the popular vote, but by modern standards a landslide in terms of the Electoral College as well.
The USA is evidently a divided nation; there is no other way to interpret the result of this election. Multicultural, metropolitan areas have almost exclusively voted for the Democratic ticket, at least at the top of the ticket, and even though the “electoral math” as American commentators call it will add up to Biden commanding a majority of the Electoral College’s electors there are going to be somewhere between seventy and seventy-five million Americans who will feel that their wishes have in no way been acknowledged in naming the next President Elect.
This leads us to the inevitable question; what is it about Donald J. Trump that moves them so passionately? How can it be that a little under half of the electorate and roughly twenty-five percent of all the people living inside the United States think that this man is the paragon of their society, the best choice to represent their nation abroad and set the tenor of the country’s political life for another four years?
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or perhaps living on another planet without good internet access, for the last five years there can be no way in which you have missed out on the lowlights that make up the long and terrifying list of facts that would appear to disqualify Donald J. Trump from any high office, let alone the highest. A self-confessed sexual predator, a serial adulterer with a track record of failed marriages and infidelity; how can it be that the fervent masses of Christian Fundagelicals who prop up the GOP see in him their leader? Perhaps his no-nonsense, strong-man image, one of might makes right and take what you want appeals to their image of frontier self-reliance that has long since passed into anachronism and yet still burns brightly in White America’s view of the World? Well, it may be that, but in the end I think that there is something darker, something deeper at play, and I am not alone in this suspicion. In the last few days commentators from all sides of the argument have started to talk about the ugly truth that White Supremacy is the bedrock upon which Trump’s ascendancy was built, and the man himself does appear to have form in that regard. There is no doubt whatsoever that his base, apart from the inexplicable outliers that barely crack one percent of his support, is White and either patently ill-educated or terrifyingly wealthy (sometimes both). The Grand Old Party, no longer Grand in any way in terms of its moral equivocation - how Lincoln would shudder to think that they claim him, imperfect as he was, as some kind of moral authority - has become the clearing house for shoring up the wealth and power of a small cadre of privileged White men by dancing a jig on the backs of a White populous that has been kept calculatedly ignorant. Now as they try to cling to power all of the hallmarks of the politics of fear, of wedge-politics, have been turned up to eleven and the message has been clear; Biden will allow the White Genocide.
Sure, no one has said those words out loud, but the inference has been there. Biden will shutdown the country, destroying the economy, in order to protect people’s lives. The unspoken subtext is Biden will protect the Latinos and the African Americans at the cost of your businesses and your jobs, and at the expense of this great White country’s primacy in the World. Biden will give everyone healthcare, even those who do not contribute to our economy. Those junkies and whores in the cities, who are all immigrants and non-Whites will eat up your taxes supporting their degenerate lives. Biden is a Socialist. Biden does not believe in your right as White Americans to be valued more highly than people of other races.
There will be liberal-minded people, people who see themselves as Progressive reading this and shaking their heads, comforting themselves that I must be wracked with White Guilt, that I am an apologist for the worst kind of hand wringing, milquetoast, pinkie, egghead Communists who have poisoned my poor fragile mind to believe that Racism is real and that we do not truly live in the Twenty-First Century. They are thinking to themselves, right now; “what lunacy is this, my broker is Black, my wife’s OBGYN is from Korea, and my kids both have non-White teachers, I am pretty sure one of them is a Native Person”. The middle-class Progressive thinking these things lives on the “right” side of a major city, probably on one of the coasts. They live in one of the parts of the US that has broken for Biden, that houses widely integrated, culturally mixed societies where some non-White people have risen into their field of view. Racism is done, no problem. The problem is that they can name perhaps five non-White people in their general orbit if not their actual social circle and that, coupled with their own honest and well-meant desire to treat all equally is the mother of all confirmation biases. The African American population of the United States is a little over one eighth. If Racism was over, and all areas of society were equally accessible to non-Whites as they are to Whites, then one in every eight people that the middle-class Progressive regularly interacts with, works with, does business with and socialises with would be African American. Almost one fifth of the population are Hispanic, but none of those well-meaning, unexamined existence, middle-class Progressive White people lives in a World where one in five of the families in their gerrymandered suburb is Hispanic. Now I am sure that someone is going to point out that there are not a lot of Hispanic people in Kentucky, and there are geographies within the United States where the average is terribly skewed because there are parts of the country that have almost non-existent non-White populations, but here’s the rub; if Racism were over, if there were truly a fair society then where there are large numbers of people from non-White backgrounds there would be much higher levels of financial, professional and political attainment amongst non-White people, but that is simply not the case.
Okay, so are things as bad as they were? Of course not, but to be clear there are still unacceptably large numbers of racially motivated crimes that go unsolved and unpunished every year, and while there are more Black lawyers and more Latino politicians and more non-White doctors and police officers and business people and software engineers and all the rest, there are more Black men incarcerated in the United States than any other racial group. If you compare the non-White prison population to the White prison population, and then compare their relative sizes in terms of the overall population it is easy to see why my Progressive middle-class White cipher above does not interact with more Black folks, even while living in a metropolitan area.
There is no doubt that Racism, structural Racism and imbalance in the United States is far from being a solved problem, and the only reason I am saying this as a White non-American, is that someone with a White skin needs to tell y’all, like a friend, that your are only at the start of the journey towards the fair society that you trumpet around the World as the basis for your moral authority.
I may upset a few more people here when I say that I find it almost impossible to blame the White People who are voting for Donald J. Trump, even though deep down they are doing it because of Racism. They have been failed by your society; while there is an infinitesimally small minority of them that would kill over race without thinking, and those people do exist and they are mentally ill as far as I am concerned, the overwhelming majority would help a non-White person in need, would probably get on reasonably well with a non-White colleague, and would possibly not be averse to a Black family moving in next door, at least as long as it remained hypothetical. They are not violent, angry people, but their so-called leaders have been keeping them just this side of Racist since the Civil War. Division is useful when you are trying to distract people from how little you are giving them in return for the power that you have been handed by them. It has been useful for generations of White political operatives and White business people and White power brokers to be able to insinuate that the American Dream of self-sufficiency and hard work favours White People, and that they will always make sure that White People do not have to give up what they have to raise up those that were previously left behind, now that overt forms of White Supremacy are no longer acceptable to modern mores.
Imagine you are a middle-aged White guy, living in Kentucky, you just about graduated High School and by hustling hard in your early twenties you managed to set up your own business, and now you are on the lower edge of middle-class life. You pay your taxes, you go to church, you employ a handful of people and because you turned out to be pretty good at what you do and because you live a frugal life, you treat your people well with basic healthcare and some paid vacation. You have two kids who are doing better at High School than you ever did, and you are keen for them to go to College, something you never hoped to do. Your level of political sophistication is not great, but you are reasonably evolved - you have a gay employee and no one cares less than you do that he is queer. One of your suppliers is a muslim and you are impressed by the way he lives and does business; you see him as a man of honour who cares for his family and community. Even so, the local GOP campaigning apparatus is set up to hammer in as many wedges between you and the idea that there is anything out of balance in America, and before you have had a chance to meet with or hear anything from the Democrat running for Congress in your District, let alone turn your attention away from making sure the College funds are up to par and that the mortgage and the car payments are made and the house is not falling down in time to hear from the options for the Democratic candidacy, the GOP has already hit you with direct mail, and targeted online advertising and lawn signs and shady TV spots paid for by SuperPACs that remind you that the Democrats are going to raise your taxes and spend it all on gay theatre summer school for the disabled kids of immigrants. Yes I am exaggerating, but not by much. Here you are a decent family man who means no one any ill, now confronted by the idea that maybe there will not be enough for both of the kids to go to College, and sure the Republicans are running an idiot who cannot talk in complete sentences, but you do not need to see your taxes go up, and they did they last time the country went Democrat, didn’t they? The machine that creates this illusion, the mirage that the Republicans are on your side in terms of giving you the freedom to make your own way in the World feels more familiar and in line with the narrative at the root of your experience of your White culture, is relentless and precision engineered. The machine makes enough noise that you want to hear on some level that you are really not reasoning about, and that is not your fault, that you have not thought about what happens if you slip on the driveway and break your hip that coming winter, God forbid you or your wife develop a chronic or aggressive and likely life-threatening illness. Without socialised medicine how far will your insurance carry you? How will you cover the co-pay when you are not able to carry your share of the work at the business that got you this far? What will happen to your staff as your sickness leads to that business going under as you sell it off under duress to save your life or the life of your wife? Even if you paid a few hundred dollars more in taxes and never reaped the benefit, surely there is a benefit to you that your neighbour, your interconnected business associate, even your employees all had the sure knowledge that they would not be ruined by one bad day. That is just the tip of the iceberg. What if everyone you knew got a better education for their kids so that by the time your kids are out of College and one of them wants to carry on your business after you step away there are more skilled, capable, educated people around looking for work when they need to scale up the workforce?
The political agenda of the Right in America is not about providing you freedom, it is about selling you on the idea that a life constantly in peril is worth the risk to keep those behind you beneath you and that is the booby prize for helping the one percent to hang on to their increasingly terrifying wealth as they live out their own pathetic struggle to join the 0.1 percent. The Right gets you to double down on this macho lie of self-sufficiency by tying your gun rights to their wagon. By preying on your religious beliefs to force you into outrage about people who do not share your views choosing to abort unwanted pregnancies. By showing you the spectre of Communist Russia whenever someone suggests that Education and Healthcare are as necessary as a National Defence.
No one likely to read this, or even frankly to have got this far without rag-quitting, needs me to tell them this; they have already seen the angles and figured how the game is rigged. They have been door-knocking or envelope stuffing or dialling for Biden / Harris for months. I see you All. I know that you are there, if for no other reason that I could see it from the results as they roll in.
So what is my point? Well, Biden is better than Trump, but some of you need to get on board with the idea that Biden is not enough. Real change does not come from incrementalism, even though incrementalists like to point out that in the modern age they are the only ones who have achieved any change without significant bloodshed or backslide. If you want a fairer society you need political leaders who have the will and the belief that White Supremacy can and should end in such a way as to not create the fictional White underclass that the Right predicts will come about if real equality comes into being. Along that line you need to get Intersectional and bring your hypothetical love of equality and “The right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for All” along to all the minorities in your emerging modern society, protecting the status of Trans, Gay and Disabled people to the fullest extent alongside non-White people. You need political leaders who will make it happen, who will bring America into the club of wealthy nations wherein slipping on an icy driveway does not mean financial ruin; where healthcare is a right and no one dies because they are poor. You need political leaders who are not afraid to pour a lot more money into education, to recruit, train and pay the talented to teach your youth and to make education the commonly understood silver bullet that it can be for poverty, crime, addiction, and social inequality. Start to teach your children how to think and how to learn, and do not continue to hide the darker chapters in your country’s history from them. Teach them that they may learn and understand the serious and essential duty they all bear to never go dark again.
All of this means that you cannot just jeer at the people who voted for Trump. I know how much you want to, and I am willing to accept that there will be a period of good comedy and shared social catharsis, but sooner rather than later you need to heal your country, and that means listening and hearing, and that means a gentler, kinder approach to pointing out the ways in which they were fooled. I understand that those of you who see him for the abject monster he undoubtedly is cannot fathom how anyone could bear to give him their vote, unless they too are a misogynist, racist, self-serving, empty shell, but they are not ALL that way. Far too many of them are as much victims of the darker movement that paved the way for Trump’s Presidency as are the people you have already seen as victimised by it. Stockholm syndrome is not really the correct description for it, neither is trauma bonding, or negging, but a combination of these things has led people that were otherwise decent into a place where their lack of a broad horizon, a carefully curated and purposefully deficient education and their own fears and troubles have made them accomplices to oppression, and oppression that is much of themselves as it is of anyone else.
Now the level of compassion I am talking about showing Trump voters is not an easy path to walk, but I have one important point to make. You do not have to forgive them for what they did to your country, but you do need to show them compassion instead of hate. You do need to set out your store on the high moral ground, because no one ever won an argument by just yelling “you are a thoughtless, prejudiced, selfish CUNT!” at anyone, no matter how true, how righteous or how satisfying it might be. Jim Jefferies said it best, when he pointed out that all moral victories aside if you are magnanimous to a fault and they are the increasingly small group who sink to abuse, in the end everyone will agree that they are the arseholes. For what it may be worth, I am not actually saying that weaponising compassion is the right or better choice, and I do absolutely believe that if you can start from a place of compassion for its own sake you will reap far greater benefits, but I am willing to admit that if you do it even through gritted teeth you will get better results than open war and hostility.
Meanwhile, by raising the standard of education and general debate in the country you can slowly banish Racism and Misogyny and Transphobia and Homophobia and Abelism to the margins, where we need to accept they will always exist, and make these things as unacceptable as anti-Semitism and outright adherence to Naziism, or overt racial abuse. Five or six generations from now, if you all work really hard on putting your society ahead of your position in the World, or the wealth of a few hundred scary billionaires, or anything else that does not benefit all Americans, you might actually solve some of these issues, but you need to see them as long term projects that our grandkids will not see come to fruition.
How do I know all of this, why should you listen to me? Because I live in a country that missed its moment to make a fair society, that no longer has the financial might to bend its culture into a shape that is fairer to everyone, and I really want to believe that not every nation has to make the mistakes that we have made, over and over again, until there is no alternative than to accept grotesque inequality as an unbreakable rule of society.
Seize this moment, America. Take this last moment, this very real last chance and start to build a consensus behind true equality, behind the value of people over profits, behind the idea that all people deserve true agency over their bodies and their lives, and that fairness has to mean that those who have too much need to give some of it up. There will always be the insanely wealthy unless America spontaneously metamorphoses into an untainted Communist utopia, but they should probably view their status as being stewards of wealth that should be used to benefit all Americans, rather than miserly dragons sleeping on their piles of gold. A few less billionaires but a true National Living Wage, universal healthcare and world class education and none of that will take away your cereal aisle or the ten different places you can buy coffee between your train stop and your office, but it might mean you can look the people stocking the aisle or making the coffee in the eye and know that they are not victims of your unprecedented affluence and comfort. Moreover, more of them will be White People, and that will not be so bad because the prize for banishing Racism and making your society truly equal will necessarily be raising the bar so that the lowly, the invisible people that make your country function, are no longer condemned to a life of poverty and struggle.