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Whiteness visible: White America’s Siege Mentality

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This very interesting Thomas Edsall piece explores a question I asked yesterday: What are the odds that the 2020 presidential election produces something other than a peaceful transition of power, if Trump loses? Edsall spoke to a lot of experts who weren’t particularly optimistic on this score. Trump’s base is made up of white people who are simultaneously paranoid about the supposed plot being engineered by liberal (white) elites to use the support of not-so-real Americans (minorities) to overthrow the legitimate government, aka, the Trump cult, and realistic about the fact that white hegemony in America is fading.

Some quotes:

Now Trump is conducting an all-out assault on the impeachment process, calling it a coup in a pair of tweets posted on Tuesday:


“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”


All of this raises a couple of questions: What drives the depth and intensity of support for Trump? And how far are those supporters willing to go to keep him in the White House?

Extensive evidence suggests that the passion of Trump’s loyalists is, to a considerable extent, rooted in what they perceive as racial and cultural threat. Polls and surveys from Pew, N.P.R. and the Public Religion Research Institute show that 55 percent of whites believe they are discriminated against, that a plurality of whites (46 percent) believes that a majority-minority nation will “weaken American culture” and that once dominant white Christians are no longer a majority.

. . .

Bart Bonikowski, a professor of sociology at Harvard, reiterated the importance of norm violation in Trump’s governing strategy:
It signals to Trump’s (overwhelmingly white) supporters that he’s willing to represent them at any cost, even that of liberal democracy itself.


Bonikowski contended that while the substance of Trumpism is ethnonationalist, its form is authoritarian. Like other aspiring autocrats, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán or Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński, Trump seeks to delegitimize his opposition as “enemies of the people” in order to mobilize his base and maintain a stranglehold on power.


Whether perpetrated by “journalists, independent judges, career civil servants, or legislators,” Bonikowski wrote, “any attempt at checking his power is seen as a betrayal of him, his supporters, and ultimately, the nation.”

David Brady, a political scientist who is also a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, provided poll data indicating that the hard core of Trump supporters is quite likely to disbelieve outcomes in which Trump is cast as the loser.


Brady pointed out that in “the latest YouGov poll, 89 percent of those who strongly approve of the job Trump is doing also say that the deep state is trying to overthrow the president.”

A lot of this is a product of whiteness becoming a marked category in American culture, thus creating a kind of overt mainstream white identity politics, unlike the white nationalism of a generation ago, which was treated as a fringe phenomenon:

Ashley Jardina, a political scientist at Duke, cited the sense of racial isolation common among many Trump supporters. “Some of Trump’s most steadfast supporters are white Americans who feel a strong sense of solidarity with their racial group,” she wrote, while experiencing “a sense of racial alienation — or a profound feeling of group disenfranchisement.”

These voters, according to Jardina, tend to agree that American society owes whites a better chance in life than they have received, that it hasn’t given them an opportunity to get ahead, and that it hasn’t dealt fairly with white people.

It’s funny until somebody gets hurt.

Speaking of mordant humor, the article concludes with Charles Murray’s musings, who acknowledges that Trump is utterly unfit to hold office, and that indeed he lacks a single redeeming quality as a human being, but on the other hand tax cuts and judges, so he’s going to vote for him anyway, probably.

If the 2020 presidential election is at all close, political chaos accompanied by violent social unrest are practically guaranteed. Let’s not test this prediction.

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