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Thank You President Trump For Waking Us Up!

I may have finally found something of an answer to the question I have been asking since November 3rd: How do we explain the massive 2020 rejection of Trump, even in states where the GOP candidate usually wins?

But perhaps what has been missing from my attempts to find an answer to that question is the answer to another question, which is figuring out how and why Trump won in 2016.

In that respect, I suggest you read a current piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic Magazine, which explains Trump’s electoral surge which Coates believes was due overwhelmingly to the issue of White supremacy and race.

What Coates basically says is that understanding Trump means that we must acknowledge the strength and staying-power of racism both in our past history and current-day culture: “It is still deeply challenging for so many people to accept the reality of what has happened—that a country has been captured by the worst of its history, while millions of Americans cheered this on.”

My only problem with this essay is that it was evidently written before Coates had an opportunity to reflect on the degree to which the results of the 2020 election showed that both racism is still alive and well, but that racial attitudes which figured into how people voted in 2020 may have been exactly the reverse of the racial beliefs which helped shape the outcome of the 2016 race..

In 2016, Trump got 58% of the national White vote. He got the exact, same percentage of White votes last year. Trump polled 81% of the White, Evangelical vote in 2016, he slipped down, but only slightly, to 76% in the 2020 race.

While these numbers can be used to argue for the persistence of racism and White supremacy in terms of explaining how people vote, I’m not sure that the argument can only be cast that way. Do a majority of White voters pull the GOP lever because they necessarily subscribe to the idea that Blacks are somehow inferior to Whites or that they feel threatened by the legal advance of civil rights?

I have looked at endless polls taken before and after Presidential elections and I have never seen any poll which asks White voters to make a direct connection between how they vote and what they think about race. Obviously, we can make such inferences in specific parts of the country where race has always been a defining social and cultural issue, i.e., the South.

Take, for example, a state like Georgia, whose electoral outcome was crucial both for the White House race as well as the balance of power in the Senate, Trump’s voters were 90% White. In Florida, a state where the outcome might have decided the national election were it not for Biden flipping back several northern states (MI, WI), 79% of the people who voted for Trump were White.

But in both states, on the other hand, Black turnout in 2020 was far beyond either previous elections or even what the most optimistic predictions said would happen this year. So who cares whether Whites voted for Trump because they didn’t like Blacks or because they always voted Republican anyway, or maybe a combination of both? Again, what’s missing in the very readable and thoughtful Ta-Nehisi Coates text, is a discussion about what really happened and why it happened on November 3rd.

With all due respect to Ta-Nehisi Coates, coming up with something about Trump being a racist and using racism to promote himself and his political goals is hardly an incisive or new idea. What I am beginning to believe, on the other hand, is that what Trump really accomplished over the last four or five years, was to unleash a much more potent, anti-racist movement which has gone far deeper into current culture than I would have otherwise believed.

And if Trump continues to promote MAGA as an alternative to the mainstream GOP, I’ll continue to see BLM yard signs and flags wherever I drive around.

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