America continues to watch in disbelief as business man-turned-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes his way to the nomination. This week, Trump beat his opponents as he won primaries in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.
News reports on Trump show scenes reminiscent of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan rallies, featuring Confederate flags, alleged Hitler salutes, unapologetic phrases like “white power,” “Go back to Africa” and “Go to Auschwitz.”
While hate was already in the toxic mix of Trump’s campaign, the affirmation came February when known former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke urged his followers via radio to support Trump.
Viral videos shared across the Internet show white Trump supporters confronting Black protesters, sometimes violently. Footage resembling film reels of violent acts by whites during the Civil Rights Movement resisting integration or the right for Blacks to vote is becoming daily coverage on newscasts. One of the latest videos shows a white police officer preventing a Black women wearing a headscarf with tickets from entering an event though said she was not there to protest.
The officer said, “The campaign has told us that they don’t want them on the property.”
A white man shooting the video then asked, “What if I have tickets?” The officer then replied, “If the campaign tells me you can’t go in, then you can’t go in.”
The white man then replied, “I have tickets and I am here to protest.” The white man is then permitted to go in.
President Barack Obama addressed the violence at Trump rallies, calling them “vulgar and divisive.” He noted that Trump’s rhetoric is embarrassing the United States.
“I’m not the only one in this room who’s more than a little dismayed about what’s been happening on the campaign trail recently,” Obama said. “We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech, however offensive it may be. In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence, and we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders.”
Obama added that the behavior has often been accepted as the new normal and that what people have done in leadership to contribute to the current political atmosphere.
“Donald Trump continues to be the overwhelming front-runner, running away with the GOP nomination,” said Harlem Assemblymember and congressional candidate Keith Wright. “From coast to coast, Americans are choosing his violence-inducing hateful rhetoric at the ballot box. And it’s not just Trump. Congress is being overtaken by right-wing extremists. We won’t let it go unchecked.”
Instead of denouncing Trump as dangerous to our democracy, Republicans in Congress are showing their willingness to work with him. Members of Congress are starting to engage with him. This week, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP’s highest ranking members of Congress, took calls with him. The more outlandish Trump gets, the more influence he gains.
Last week, 78-year-old John McGraw was caught on video punching a young protester named Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C. McGraw was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. He’s due in court in April. The television program “Inside Edition” asked McGraw about punching Jones, and he responded by saying, “We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Trump, to people such as McGraw, represents aggrieved, white, working-class Americans, but he’s representing them in a way that even some members of the Republican establishment (and conservative media) feels has gone too far. Kevin Williamson, of the right-leaning publication National Review, wrote about how he thinks the white working class is no longer useful and blamed them for their own problems.
“Economically, they are negative assets,” Williamson wrote. “Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.”
Attitudes such as these make it easier to see why working-class white Americans are putting all of their eggs in the Trump basket. They feel betrayed by the Republican establishment. They’re afraid of the changing demographics signaled by the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. They’re recognizing that the white privilege they so desperately want to cash in on was only meant for a particular kind of white American. They’re angry and they “want their country back.”
For them, “Make America Great Again” is what “Hope” was to Obama supporters in 2008. It’s become a rallying cry. But what happens if they don’t get what they want in November?