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Pissed off at black people? You’ll probably vote for Trump



If Trump wins this thing it will be in large part because of the way white and Asian voters interpret the state of black America.

Yesterday there was a Facebook video making the rounds. It was of a rather angry middle-aged white woman, who said she was “in real estate,” decrying the condition of black people. Her more salient quote (I paraphrase): “If you’re black and haven’t advanced in America during the last 50 years, there’s something wrong with you.” She pointed out the dysfunction in the African-American community: babies having babies, babies born out of wedlock, the failure of young people to complete their educations, the drug addiction, the normalization of crime and asocial behavior, etc. etc. For these reasons, the woman said she was voting for Trump because “He can turn it around.”

We have to be clear here and separate out fact from fiction. (1) It is a fact that there is an enormous amount of dysfunction in the black community, of the type the woman described. (I myself see it every day, living in downtown Oakland.) (2) It is a fact that lots of white people are angered, mystified and terrified by what they perceive as a willful disregard of the conventional rules of society by black people, and an almost masochistic indulgence in self-defeating behavior. (3) It is a fact that this has been central to Trump’s messaging, and to his appeal.

If anyone denies any of these three facts, he or she is delusional, or “lying to themselves” as Nate Silver put it the other day.

So much for facts, upon which we ought to all be in agreement. Now we get to unquantifiable hypotheticals. What should we do about the state of black America? This is where things break down. Every American president at least since Thomas Jefferson has grappled with this problem. Not one of them has ever been able to solve it. Lyndon Johnson most famously applied the full power and resources of the Federal government to the cause, but as we see around us today, while there is a vast middle class of African-Americans, as well as a black president (whom I revere), there remains a huge black underclass. Just as that white woman is worried about it, so should we all worry.

Hlllary Clinton has no particular credibility here. She offers sympathy to black people and claims to support Black Lives Matter, and of course she (and Bill) have a long history of being supportive of black people (they used to call Bill “the first black president”). But beyond that, her views either are undeveloped, or she matter-of-factly believes that there’s not much the government can do to fix a problem that is essentially behavioral in nature. However, since her election depends on black people getting out and voting, she doesn’t really want to say anything that will alienate them.

White voters, like the real estate lady, hear Clinton’s reticence, and it annoys them. They believe that they perceive reality when they point out black dysfunction, and they believe that Clinton sees the same things, but is afraid to admit it. Trump, on the other hand, is “the guy who speaks his mind.” He “says it like it is.” He “says things everybody is thinking but is afraid to voice.” When Democrats accuse Trump of racism, it actually plays into his hands. Put yourself in the shoes of the white real estate lady. She doesn’t see herself as racist. She sees herself as a “behaviorist.” There are certain behaviors she resents because they are destructive to our society. She resents the implication she has something against black people purely and simply due to the color of their skin. She has something against the way some black people behave. She wishes for them to change that behavior. She believes that Hillary Clinton cannot solve a problem that she (Hillary) doesn’t even perceive, or is unwilling to admit exists. Donald Trump on the other hand has no problem admitting its existence. He also has the will power to resolve it. Therefore, she is voting for him.

Here’s what I think. Donald Trump is correct to point out the dysfunction, and the Democratic establishment by and large is wrong to deny it. Having said that, we have to play out in our imaginations how Trump’s philosophy would actually unwind if he is elected. This is where I think Hillary wins the argument. I can see no way for Trump’s anger, and the anger of his followers like the real estate lady, to resolve anything. How would that fix stuff, anyway? If you have a U.S. President, backed by an American Congress and a majority of American voters, angrily denouncing the black community, but offering no solutions except for platitudinous pieties that both parties agree on (stay in school, work hard, raise your children right), then you are simply going to raise the tension in the black community by an enormous degree. What will Trump do? Let’s say he finds money to hire tens of thousands more cops for our crime-plagued cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland, Atlanta. What does that accomplish? More confrontations. More street deaths. More anger. It feeds on itself, like the wildfires that sweep through California at this time of year. You cannot pit the U.S. government against a sizable portion of the American people in a confrontational way and expect stability. This is the stuff riots and, eventually, the breakdown of order feeds off.

We’re supposed to believe that Trump—a greedy con-man, who has shown not the slightest sign of caring about black issues in his seventy years on this earth–suddenly has seen the light on the road to Damascus. That is not only not a convincing thesis, it’s an insult to rational minds. Hillary may not have specific solutions—do you? Does anyone?–but at least she gives the impression of thoughtful caring. Her body language is softer, her message more conciliatory, her attitude more embracing than anything that has ever emanated from any Republican politician. This may be of cold comfort to the real estate lady, who wants things to change Now! and who has seen decades of the rhetoric of harmony achieve so little. But really, when you think about it, what are her options? What are ours? The real estate lady may wish to demand that black people clean up their act, but obviously her demand has no impact whatsoever on the real world. It may make her feel better to vote for Trump, whose hard line she believes, sans proof, will work a miracle. But voting for Trump in the hope he will “solve” America’s race problem is naïve, will prove to be ineffective, and may eventually be severely destabilizing.

Well, the white lady replies, destabilization is exactly what Trump intends to do. Shake things up, from the top down. Make a revolution. The status quo isn’t working for anyone, she says: not her, not whites like her, not black people. Therefore, let’s sweep away the status quo and try something new.

And this is the crossroads at which this election stands. My own feeling is that America has made and is making steady progress in race relations. It’s not far enough or fast enough for anyone: conservatives, liberals, blacks, whites. Everybody wishes we could somehow leapfrog over the speed bumps and get this thing done.

But we can’t. That’s not how history works. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The question voters like the real estate lady have before them in this election is, do we continue slow but steady progress, as it has existed under both Republican and Democratic administrations? Or do we gamble everything on a person whose mental instability, narcissism, and mendacity continue to be displayed in awful blatancy? I personally prefer the former approach, which is why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton. If there are enough voters out there like the real estate lady to actually elect Trump president, I think we’re in for a horrendous future. They will regret the day they voted, and so will we all.

  1. Very good analysis Steve. And I found this interesting: ” She pointed out the dysfunction in the African-American community: babies having babies, babies born out of wedlock, the failure of young people to complete their educations, the drug addiction, the normalization of crime and asocial behavior”
    I live in Maine, and this could be describing a good swath of rural Maine, which, as everyone knows, is about 99.9% white.

  2. Bob R, isn’t it interesting that “poor white trash” doesn’t receive the condemnation that poor black people do? I’m not sure why that is, but thanks for raising that point.

  3. Rich Reader says:

    Trump can’t say how he’ll accomplish anything because he does not know and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about actually getting the result. Following him is the road to global bancruptcy & deeper chaos.

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