The Darker Key to Trump’s Success

To those of us who are surprised by the rise of Trump: Yes, people are afraid of terrorism and understandably so, but Trump’s series of racist remarks point to another less understandable key to his success. In 2012, an article on an AP poll stated: “The election of Barack Obama failed to usher in a post-racial US, with a new poll showing that 51 percent of Americans hold explicitly anti-black views.” This figure is higher than other surveys I’ve seen which indicate that roughly 20 to 25% of whites hold explicitly anti-black and racist views. But even that percentage of white Americans is no small number–more than sixty million people.

Many white liberals aren’t aware of these statistics, but Trump’s surge to the head of the Republican presidential campaign is exposing the reality that there are tens of millions of white Americans who are explicitly racist. While Republican party leaders have been aware that a large portion of their base is racist, Trump has tapped into that racist base and shown that it is far larger than the party leaders were aware of or wanted to admit. By his leading in the polls and constantly being in the news, he’s given this racist base more and more permission to come out of the closet (witness the white supremacists saying Trump has been a boon for them): “Oh, he’s said all Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists. That’s what I’ve felt all along.” “Trump said the majority of murders of white people are committed by blacks [sic—a bogus statistic]. I always knew the blacks were out to get us.” “Trump wants to ban all Muslims. Great, it’s okay for me to say now I hate Muslims.” Now Trump will say he doesn’t hate Mexicans or “the blacks” or Muslims, but he will never criticize those in his base who do, and that gives them more and more room to hate.

It used to be that the racism the Republican party handed out was done covertly, on the sly, like a backroom take out order so no one would supposedly notice (the so-called dog whistle politics telling them their order was ready). Trump has moved the dish of racism to the head of the main room menu, and now the Republican party leadership and the rest us see how much of their party eagerly wants to gobble up that dish.

Link to article on the AP poll:  https://www.rt.com/usa/majority-americans-racist-poll-378/

Trump’s Racist Precedent

To justify his anti-Muslim racist proposals, Trump invokes the precedent of FDR’s Executive Order 9066. This order imprisoned Japanese American citizens like my parents (ages 11 and 15 at the time) and Japanese immigrants like my grandparents who were forbidden by racist laws from becoming citizens.

To Trump and his supporters, racism had nothing to do with the internment during World War II. Here is an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, 1942, arguing for the internment; it provides a vivid sense of the racism that was rampant at the time:

A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched. A leopard’s spots are the same and its disposition is the same wherever it is whelped. So a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere and thoroughly inoculated with Japanese thoughts, Japanese ideas and Japanese ideals, notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship, almost inevitably and with the rarest of exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, into an American in his thoughts, in his ideas, and in his ideals, and himself is a potential and menacing, if not an actual, danger to our country unless properly supervised, controlled and, as it were ‘hamstrung’.

Even President Ronald Reagan, in an apology to the Japanese American community, admitted that the camps were not militarily necessary and said the real reasons for the camps were racism, wartime hysteria and a failure of leadership.

Our fellow Muslim American and Arab American are experiencing now what my family experienced in World War II–having their patriotism and loyalty questioned, enduring insults and prejudice and vandalism, fearing what might happen next. I wish, I hope, those who say we are better than this are right. Principles–of equality, of justice, of what America is supposed to be–are not principles if they can be abandoned in times of crisis. And if we abandon our principles that will not make us safer. It will only make us more afraid. It will only make us weaker. It will only give encouragement to those who wish us harm.