The Donald Trump who won the presidency on Tuesday is the Donald Trump who demanded execution for five boys, wrongly accused of a crime. He is the Trump who ran on a platform of “law and order.” The age of Trump will be an age in which police can act with impunity. And as an officer of color, he knew, perhaps better than anyone, that it’s people who look like us—who are brown and black—who will face the brunt of that impunity.
Pundits and observers will attribute Trump’s win to “populism” or his “anti-elite” message. This is nonsense. Trump ran for president as a nationalist fighter for white America. He promised to deport Hispanic immigrants. He promised to ban Muslims from the United States. He refused to acknowledge Barack Obama’s legitimacy, casting him—until the end—as a kind of usurper of rightful authority. When faced with the fetid swamps of white reaction—of white supremacists and white nationalists and anti-Semites—he winked, and they cheered in response. And for good reason.
More than anything, Trump promises a restoration of white authority. After eight years of a black president—after eight years in which cosmopolitan America asserted its power and its influence, eight years in which women leaned in and blacks declared that their lives mattered—millions of white Americans said enough. They had their fill of this world and wanted the old one back. And although it’s tempting to treat this as a function of some colorblind anti-elitism, that cannot explain the unity of white voters in this election. Trump didn’t just win working-class whites—he won the college-educated and the affluent. He even won young whites. Seventeen months after he announced his candidacy, millions of white Americans flocked to the ballot box to put Trump into the White House. And they did so as a white herrenvolk, racialized and radicalized by Trump.
One of the many things I was thinking about today was Trump’s comments about the Central Park 5. Trump literally called for the lynching of 5 innocent African-Americans. Think about that for a bit. Then think about the fact that the ratio of stories about that to the stories about Hillary Clinton’s EMAILZS! was…what, 1:500? 1:1,000? One thing that enables white nationalism is that journalists don’t see flat-out, straight-from-Jim Crow racism being expressed by a major party candidate for president of the United States as a scandal, or see it was a scandal that pales next to the Secretary of State’s email management practices.
This is a serious problem for American democracy.