Uh-oh: Where does all the white rage go when Donald Trump loses?

Uh-oh: Where does all the white rage go when Donald Trump loses?

by Michael Bourne – Salon

They’re too angry to sit still. Too many to ignore. But too few to elect a president. Where do they go after Trump?

For all Donald Trump’s dark pronouncements about immigrants and Muslims and the sporadic fistfights at his rallies, the Republican frontrunner has so far channelled the rage and fear felt by his constituents into an election campaign. Violence is never far from the surface at a Trump rally, and as has happened with sickening regularity in recent weeks, it occasionally breaks through in wild sucker punches and outright beatings of protesters, but the goal of the Trump campaign could not be more conventionally political: to propel its candidate to the Republican Party nomination, and from there, to the presidency.

But what happens when his campaign fails, as it almost certainly will? Trump is openly at war with his own party, and even if that badly splintered organization magically unites behind him after the convention, there simply are not enough angry white people in America to elect him president. Where will all that anger go, which has been slowly building among America’s white working class for half a century, once it is left without a viable political outlet?  

In the months since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has shifted from amusing diversion to cold political reality, the narrative favoured by America’s political and media elite has been one of chickens coming home to roost. The Republican Party, the story goes, having for too long cynically played upon the ignorance and fears of its white lower-middle class base to gain the votes to pass ever more lavish tax breaks for its wealthy donor class, has had its electorate stolen by a clownish billionaire willing to say in plain English what Republican leaders have for decades been communicating to their constituents only in whispers and dog whistles.

This narrative is true, of course, but in the telling, the focus invariably falls on Trump, who is portrayed as a shameless but politically astute demagogue in the mould of Louisiana’s Huey Long or Alabama’s George Wallace, able to sniff out deep wounds in the body politic others have missed and transform them into votes. But this is absurd. For all his bluster, Trump is at best a mediocre politician. He has no core political philosophy; he rambles at the podium, and quails at even the mildest questioning from the press. Half the time, he doesn’t even seem that interested in the office he’s running for. The night he won the Florida primary, knocking the home-state Senator Marco Rubio out of the race and cementing his position as his party’s frontrunner, Trump spent much of his prime-time televised speech touting his eponymous line of steaks and wines.

Trump is the P.T. Barnum of 21st century American politics, a gifted impresario able to spot a sucker a mile off, but he isn’t the phenomenon we should be watching this spring – His constituency is. Lower-middle class white voters from the Rust Belt and South have fallen under the sway of Republican leaders for more than half a century now. In some cases, those Republicans were brilliant politicians like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Just as often, though, white working class voters pulled the lever for empty suits like Mitt Romney and George W. Bush.

Then, what changed in 2016? It wasn’t the Republican Party’s strategy or the quality of the candidates it put forward. Jeb Bush, with his jaunty exclamation point and famous last name, was a more substantive version of his twice-elected younger brother, and Ted Cruz has the sweaty, aggrievement-fuelled intensity of a young Richard Nixon. In any other election cycle, one of them, most likely Jeb Bush, would be honing his acceptance speech by now.

That didn’t happen this year because lower-middle class white Americans are hurting as they never have before. No group, after all, has been hit harder by globalization than the white working class in the Rust Belt and South. Drug addiction, long considered an “urban” [read: African American] scourge, is spreading through white society, especially in rural areas and former industrial hubs. A recent study by a pair of Princeton researchers found that, alone among all cohorts of Americans, the death rate for white middle-class people has been rising, thanks to spikes in alcoholism, drug overdose, and suicide.

It’s easy to argue that working-class white Americans have no one to blame for their predicament but themselves. For generations, white people were favoured in virtually every area of American life. Then, thanks in part to liberal legislation and court rulings, America became more colour-blind and meritocratic, while at the same time free-trade agreements helped push factories overseas, hollowing out whole towns. The wiser children of factory workers got an education and joined the information economy. Those who stuck it out in the industrial heartland hoping the mid-century American gravy train would return instead got left at the railway station.

This, obviously, is not how Trump’s white working-class constituency sees it. They blame 1960s-era legislation and court rulings for promoting the interests of minorities and immigrants over their own, just as they blame the free-trade policies of both parties for sending their jobs offshore. Their economic power waning and their social status under threat, they lash out at the minorities and immigrants themselves, fearful that these once lower-caste workers are fast climbing past them on the ladder of American society.

Ultimately, though, whether one views Trump’s supporters as victims of American progress or as a bunch of over-privileged bigots matters less than the undeniable facts that they exist and there a lot of them and they are stuck. Having lost faith in the traditional Republican Party, they have pinned their hopes on Donald Trump, but even if Trump could deliver the jobs and self-respect they seek – a doubtful proposition, to say the least – they lack the numbers to make him president. So what, then? All that highly combustible anger and fear we’re seeing on the nightly news and in shaky YouTube videos shot at Trump rallies – where will it go once Trump is gone?

We may already be getting a chilling preview of a possible post-Trump future in the spasms of seemingly random gun violence such as those at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Neither of these alleged shooters has been brought to trial and there is much we do not know, but what is clear is that we are in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic of mass shootings, a disturbing number of which seem to be carried out recently by emotionally troubled white men harbouring right-wing views.

For a generation, gun advocates have defended the right to bear arms as a check against tyranny, and for just as long liberals have dismissed this as a melodramatic talking point. But what if we take them at their word, and accept that it is possible we are witnessing the opening phase of a still-inchoate violent uprising by a broad class of Americans, who, ignored politically, bypassed economically, and dismissed socially, are beginning to take matters into their own hands?

What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?

One way or another, we’re going to find out soon. Trump made headlines when he suggested his supporters would riot if he were denied the nomination despite his lead in the delegate count. Even if we are spared that spectacle, the Trump era will almost certainly come to an end by November. And then we will be left with the naked fact of his followers, too few in number to effect meaningful change on their own, too numerous for the rest of us to ignore, too angry to sit still for long [and armed with guns].

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  • Leslie Chin  On 04/07/2016 at 1:08 am


    Please refer to the referenced link for more analysis about America.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/07/2016 at 1:09 am

    Worth repeating: “… And then we will be left with the naked fact of his followers, too few in number to effect meaningful change on their own, too numerous for the rest of us to ignore, too angry to sit still for long [and armed with guns].” –

    “Drug addiction, long considered an “urban” [read: African American] scourge, is spreading through white society, especially in rural areas and former industrial hubs.” [and armed with guns]

    If this does NOT terrify you – IT SHOULD …!!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/07/2016 at 2:40 am

    The Sources of Political Gridlock and Anger – by Bishop John Shelby Spong

    It has been a very unconventional political primary season. In the last three weeks two public debates sank to what seem to me to be new lows in presidential politics. In the first of these debates three of the candidates called other candidates for the same office “liars” on fifty-two occasions in that single debate. In the next debate incredible insults were hurled at the other candidates by each other, reaching the level of attacking the shape of the candidates’ ears, mouths and hands. The suggestion was made that that one candidate had suffered a “meltdown,” and that another had “wet his pants.” Political anger was so high that I thought I might have been listening to fourth-graders competing for the presidency of their class.

    As if the debate needed another emotional issue to heighten the negativity, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia brought into this campaign new dimensions of fear and anger. The majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announced that he would not even allow hearings on a nominee submitted by the President until after the election in November. While that attitude is not unfamiliar in American politics, it has never before been articulated in such a bald way in the history of our constitutional democracy. Still other evidence of anger and gridlock occurred about six weeks ago when the President of the United States submitted a budget to Congress as the Constitution requires him to do. The leaders of the opposition party, in control of both houses of Congress, announced that they would not even receive that budget.

    Senators have the constitutional authority to reject any nominee to the Supreme Court, but do they have the right to refuse to consider that nominee? Members of the House of Representatives in which, under our Constitution, all appropriations bills must originate, have the right to reject any item found in the president’s proposed budget or even the entire budget, but do they have the right to refuse to receive the budget that the President is required to submit?

    Political gridlock and anger in Washington have been growing stronger over the last decade. It has now reached levels never seen before in American history. The presidential campaign reveals this anger in spades. Thirty years ago, Antonin Scalia, a brilliant legal mind with a deeply conservative point of view, was nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by a Democratically-controlled United States Senate by a vote of 98-0. How is it possible that in the brief span of thirty years we have gone from unanimity to the inability even to consider a nominee to the highest court of this land?

    Behind the political anger of our day there appears to be enormous fear, which suggests that power has been or is being lost and with it the ability to keep control of the political process. The articulated fear is that America is changing and that never again will the future be better than the past. What is it that creates and feeds this fear, fuelling what sounds like apocalyptic, end of the world, political rhetoric? Today, I search our nation’s history for clues.

    Contrary to what most people seem to think, the United States was not born as a democracy in which the voices of the people were allowed to be heard and the will of the people was allowed to rule. We were born rather as a “Republic,” in which power was limited to a very few. At our nation’s beginning, the only people who were allowed to vote were white, land-owning males. There was nothing strange about this requirement. Indeed, it had long been the norm in most of the developed world. Beginning in 1215, however, with the adoption of the Magna Carta, the forces of democracy have slowly but surely eaten away at the prerogatives and challenged the white landed gentry. It is, nonetheless, a fact of history that this nation has from its beginning been substantially controlled by white males. Over the years, however, the power of that group has been eroded on a regular basis. Those steps can easily be documented.

    Step one came when the power of the ballot was extended to all white males, not just those who owned property. That step expanded the electorate, but it did not greatly weaken the power of the ruling landed gentry. Economic pressure was used to keep the electoral process relatively unchanged. Following the Civil War, the franchise was extended to black males. Once again this step expanded the electorate, but it did not disrupt white male power. This was especially true since black male voters were a distinct minority and they could be and were controlled through intimidation, both physical and economic. The result of this step was that the rule of the white male aristocracy continued, a bit less secure, but with little change.

    In 1920 after a decades-long struggle, the constitution was amended to allow women to vote. The number of people with the power of the ballot was theoretically doubled. The great fear of the male voters at that time was that uninformed women might choose an ill-equipped man to run the nation. Their fears proved inaccurate for many years. Black women, facing threats and oppression voted in very small numbers. White women, however, tended to vote in almost identical patterns with their husbands. From 1924, which was the first presidential election in which women could vote until 1996 this pattern persisted. Finally in 1996 the voting patterns of males and females diverged sufficiently for women to be credited for the first time with actually determining the presidential outcome. Without the female vote in that year, Republican Robert Dole would have defeated President Bill Clinton in his quest for a second term. That result sent shockwaves of fear through the white male establishment.

    Next a new immigration pattern developed during the sixties when the “quota system,” which favoured immigrants from Great Britain and Europe, most of whom were white, was changed to give the people of all nations equality of opportunity in immigration. Immigrants from Asia, Africa and South America, all of whom were people of colour, began to seek their futures in this nation. The rainbow coalition of the world’s population began to describe America’s profile.

    One of the results of the Vietnam struggle in the 1960’s was to solidify the power of young adults who led the protests against that war. That power found expression in the adoption in June 1971 of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which lowered the voting age in this country from 21 to 18. The winning argument was that if eighteen year olds could be drafted to fight this nation’s wars they should be given a voice in setting this nations policies. When the voting age was lowered to 18 colleges and universities became hotbeds of political activity. It was a scary development for the white male establishment.

    When we add to these systemic, structural changes of history things like the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement and the gay rights movement, the empowerment of heretofore marginalized people began to be real. These groups began to organize and to claim their voices in the political arena. Intimidation no longer worked. The political power of this nation was clearly shifting from the control of the white males of yesterday toward a new kind of democracy marked by the power of the people, who once had been so deeply marginalized. The white male-ruling oligarchy thus became deeply threatened.

    The remaining avenues of power open to the entrenched white male ruling class were laws that controlled the electorate by making voting difficult for minorities, combined with the use of unlimited money to manipulate the political process so as to guarantee predictable political outcomes. The Supreme Court of this nation alone could and did open these doors. The voting power of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s that guaranteed the vote to minorities was rescinded by the Court and turned back to the states. The result was that states from Texas to Pennsylvania immediately moved to make voting more difficult for the young, the elderly and the economically challenged minorities. Next the Court defined corporations as people and voted to allow unlimited and anonymous money in the billions of dollars to flow into the electoral process. One man, one vote died and money was allowed to magnify the vote of the wealthy hundreds of times. Today this practice is so common that we know the names of the billionaires, who fund the super PACs and we watch our politicians grovel before them.

    Then in 2008, the growing tide of the much-feared, non-white voters in the country accomplished that which up to that moment had been unthinkable. An African-American was elected president by a 53% majority! He had won the nomination of his party over the challenge of a white woman. White male power was no longer in control. It would “just be for four years” became their hope, expressed literally by Senator Mitch McConnell, who at that time was the minority leader of the Senate. The African American President, however, won re-election four years later by five million votes over a very well-known white business man of enormous wealth. Shudders ran through the political power structures. The Supreme Court had become the final defender of their power. Then the leader of the 5-4 conservative majority on the Court died and the African-American President was in the position of nominating his successor and the 5-4 conservative majority might be lost forever. Anger abounded. The presidential nominating process reflected that anger. Establishment figures in both parties were challenged and began to be shunted aside.

    Popularity seemed to be correlated with anger. It was said that the 2016 election would be “the most important one in our history.” The election of 2016 will either hold back the tide of change for four more years or it will open forever the floodgates. How we negotiate these issues will determine whether democracy will survive in this nation. How we got here is clear. How we will get through this transition is yet to be determined.

    ~John Shelby Spong+

  • De castro  On 04/07/2016 at 2:52 pm

    American civil war reincarnate…..🗽
    Hope not ! A nation that uphold the ‘right to bear arms’ in its constitution may
    regret that decision.
    Too big to fail ! Too greedy to share !
    Hope am incorrect in my assumptions.
    Land of hope and glory …
    Land of the brave but misinformed-uninformed-illinformed.
    God save America …from Armageddon.

    Lord lucifer

  • Albert  On 04/07/2016 at 4:04 pm

    “God save America…from Armageddon”………God save the world from Armageddon. If Donald becomes US President you might do like Cameron and piss your pants.

    The writer of the article miss one possible scenario. Its likely Donald and Hillary will be nominated by their parties. If the unexpected happens to Hillary before the election (serious illness, stroke, death etc) Trump has an easy path to the Whitehouse. Hillary is no Spring chicken, and America is known for its assassinations.

    We better pray Bernie stay around to substitute for Hillary, should there be any surprise, to stop Trump

    • De castro  On 04/07/2016 at 5:15 pm

      Share your optimism but not your
      Trump will fade away into the abyss
      of American raz Ma taz politics.
      Hilary will emerge as first female
      president…some already suggesting
      First gay president….
      As for the world Armageddon that
      would be ‘scare mongering’…
      However with a lunatic as CIC
      think assassination of another
      the more likely outcome.
      Cameron’s inner circle have
      already drawn swords…et tu
      Not long to go to 23 June or November.
      Que sera
      Lord predicter

  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/08/2016 at 6:52 am

    LOOK: I am NOT going to waste time trying to convince Trump supporters they are WRONG – but, if you feel the way I do – terrified around the man – I will reinforce your concerns with facts:

    Why Trump Is REALLY Predicting a “Very Massive Recession”
    by Marc Lichtenfeld, Chief Income Strategist, The Oxford Club

    In an interview with The Washington Post on Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that now is a terrible time to invest in the stock market.

    He couldn’t be more wrong.

    But before I explain why, it’s important that we understand the reasoning behind his comments.

    It’s simple. If Trump can make people feel worse about the status quo than they already feel, he’ll attract more votes. The opposition party is always the “doom and gloom” party. Whatever’s going wrong at that moment, they have the solution. People need only vote to make the change.

    Meanwhile, the party that’s in power sugar-coats things.

    The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    If the market slides over the next several months, it will be good news for any Republican candidate. It’s visual proof that things are bad. Trump is a smart guy. He knows that by scaring people away from the market, he can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more investors bail, the worse stocks will perform.

    Let’s look at a direct quote:
    “First of all, we’re not at 5% unemployment. We’re at a number that’s probably into the 20s if you look at the real number. That was a number that was devised, statistically devised, to make politicians – and, in particular, presidents – look good.”

    That idea is silly. No doubt the 5% number is not a pinpoint-accurate calculation of the jobless figure… but to think unemployment is in the 20s? Even lifelong conservative commentator and economist Ben Stein called Trump’s 20% unemployment assertion “unbelievable.”

    True, the economy isn’t humming along as well as we’d all like. But many companies (including my own) are having a tough time finding qualified workers to fill jobs. And, at the same time, wages are rising. This would not be the case if 20% of the country were unemployed.

    And as far as the conspiracy theory stuff is concerned… the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a nonpartisan agency. If you believe the numbers are made up to make a president look good, then what happened when the unemployment numbers were bad and in double digits?

    Trump also claims that “cheap money” is causing a bubble that will lead to a “very massive recession” [although he didn’t go into any detail as to why].

    He’s partially correct there. Recessions happen every few years, and we haven’t had one since 2008. So we’re due. But while recessions can be painful, they’re simply part of the normal business cycle. [For more on this topic, listen to my Oxford Club Radio interview with former Fed advisor Danielle DiMartino Booth.]

    That being said, I don’t see any reason to expect a “massive recession.” As stated earlier, joblessness is declining and wages are increasing. This isn’t a period of strong growth by any measure, but there’s no evidence to suggest a major downturn is around the corner.

    And yet, when asked if now is a good time to invest, Trump replied: “Oh, I think it’s a terrible time right now.” On this, the interviewers pressed him. And he mentioned the strong dollar and how regulators are running the big banks…

    But as far as the markets are concerned, the conversation sputtered out from here.

    Obviously I disagree with Mr. Trump’s assessment of our current investing landscape. Unlike seemingly all political candidates, though, I’m going to back my opinion up with facts.

    As I pointed out in a recent Wealthy Retirement article titled “What a Trump Victory Will Do to Your Portfolio,” over the long term, the market historically goes up 7.65% per year. That includes dips after catastrophic events like the JFK assassination, Watergate and 9/11. It also factors in the Great Recession.

    There will always be temporary setbacks. And afterward, the market will go back to doing what it always does.

    Sure, if you could time the market perfectly – selling before downturns and buying on the dips – you’d increase your returns. The only problem is that’s impossible. [Editor’s Note: If you don’t believe Marc, check out the woe-some tale of the “world’s greatest market timer”.]

    No one knows what the market will do in the short term. Not even The Donald, as evidenced by the launch of his mortgage company at the top of the housing market. Or his corporate bankruptcy in 2009.

    Then there was his failure to pay a personally guaranteed $40 million construction loan in 2008 on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. [As a sidenote: The Oxford Club will hold its Private Wealth Seminar here in September. Early financing issues notwithstanding, it’s a fantastic hotel. Hope to see you there.]

    The Chicago loan went bad when Trump pointed to a “force majeure” clause in the loan. So, essentially Trump said the 2008 recession was an act of God.

    Lots of people got hurt in the Great Recession. I’m simply pointing this out to show that his short-term prediction abilities are the same as those of all mortals… not good.

    My point is this…

    Don’t take market advice from politicians (or any other advice for that matter). They have vested interests in trying to scare or soothe you. And their accuracy rates for economic forecasts are abysmal (same as economists’ rates).

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