White voters: It’s up to you!
Labor Day’s behind us. With fewer than 55 days until November 3, the presidential election is in full swing, and the differences between the two parties could not be clearer.
For Joe Biden, the issue is: Donald Trump has sunk this country into a four-fold catastrophe: the worst public health crisis in our lifetime, a pandemic that’s killed almost 200,000 Americans; the resulting economic crisis, leaving 20 million Americans out of a job; systemic racism, especially in our police departments and system of justice; and climate change, as evidenced by the growing number of disastrous tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires.
Message: Only a solid, experienced, competent leader like Joe Biden can get us out of this mess and back on track.
For Donald Trump, the issue is: The white race is in trouble. By 2042, ethnic and racial minorities will compromise a majority of Americans. Whites will no longer be the dominant force or largest voting bloc.
Message: Only an outright racist like Donald Trump can protect and preserve your white power or, to borrow a phrase, “Make America White Again.”
Let’s be honest. For Donald Trump, that’s what Election 2020’s all about: white supremacy. He doesn’t even use dog whistles anymore. He’s running the most openly racist campaign since George Wallace in 1968.
For five years, Trump led the birther movement, denying the legitimacy of our first African-American president. As candidate for president, according to former counsel Michael Cohen, he made a video with a “Faux-Obama,” whom he ridiculed and then “fired.” He launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “criminals and rapists.” As president, he praised white supremacists, chanting racist and anti-Semitic hate-speech in Charlottesville.
Now running for re-election, Trump calls peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs.” He told Bob Woodward he felt no need to understand the anger and pain felt by Black Americans. He went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, without even mentioning the name of Jacob Blake, the unarmed African American shot seven times in the back by police officers, while praising a white vigilante who shot and killed two peaceful protesters. He compared police officers who kill unarmed black men to golfers who “choke” and miss a putt. He claims Joe Biden would “destroy” suburbs by forcing them to build “low-income housing,” meaning: “Watch Out! Blacks will soon be moving in next-door.”
And this week Trump ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity training. Because, according to Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, such programs are nothing but “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” Only in the world of Donald Trump (or George Wallace) would teaching federal employees that the words of the Constitution actually mean what they say be considered “anti-American.”
Under the banner of “LAW & ORDER,” Trump is trying to scare white Americans into voting for him in order to prevent black and brown people from taking over their jobs, homes, cities, suburbs, and power. As Finian O’Toole writes in the latest New York Review of Books, “Trumpism is a Ghost Dance for white, male America, an act of faith that the invaders can be banished and the old order restored.”
Trump used the same, racist, scare tactics in 2016. The only question is: will white voters fall for it again? Duke University professor Ashley E. Jardina warns they might. After all, she writes, “These are people who feel that the rug is being pulled out from under them – that the benefits they have enjoyed because of their race, their group’s advantages, and their status atop the racial hierarchy are all in jeopardy.”
And remember, as much as we celebrated election of the first African-American president in 2008, the majority of white voters did not vote for him. Only 43 percent of whites voted for Obama in 2008; 39 percent in 2012. In Mississippi, only one in 10 white voters pulled the lever for Obama in 2008. In 2016, only 37 percent of white voters supported Hillary Clinton; 58 percent went for Trump. Even 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. (94 percent of black women voted for Clinton).
Because of the Black Lives Matter movement, this election, for white voters especially, is a pivotal moment. It’s about a lot more than Biden or Trump. It’s about whether this country leaps forward or lurches backward. Whether we follow Martin Luther King Jr. or Jim Crow. Whether we embrace the premise that “all men (and women) are created equal” or continue to mouth the words, while living the opposite. Whether the America we love finally lives up to its promise. Whether we fall for Trump’s racist appeals, or reject them. White voters, it’s up to you.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)