Donald Trump’s Win Isn’t Some ‘Anti-Establishment’ Wave, It’s the Racism Stupid


It’s all over but the crying, which will also be fun to watch, but even after all these many months of Donald Trump vanquishing foe after foe, the media still doesn’t get it. They still bang on about this anger at “the establishment,” and as a result, they are giving Hillary Clinton bad advice already. During CNN’s coverage of the Indiana primary Tuesday night, liberal commentator and Bernie Sanders supporter Van Jones became just the latest pundit to misdiagnose the Trump phenomenon, and connect it to Bernie Sanders. There is a similarity, but not the one Jones identifies:

The same rebellion is happening in the country in both parties. The reason Hillary is still fighting is the reason that Trump won. There is a big, big discontent in this country and tonight for Bernie Sanders and we can say the same thing about Bernie, he shouldn’t be here either. I just don’t think that people get it yet. You got people sitting on a white hot stove in their houses right now and they are mad… I do think (Hillary) has got to, tonight, show that she’s got the message from both parties, the message from the Republicans, they’re mad and hurting, the message from the Democrats, they’re mad and hurting.

Jones is so close to being right, he even calls the anger “white hot,” but he just misses the absolutely crucial key to Hillary Clinton’s eventual defeat of Trump.

Since this race began, I have been predicting Trump’s victory. Just hours after he delivered his Mexican Rapists announcement speech, I predicted he would rocket to the top of the polls and stay there, and in my very first Mediaite column in over a year, predicted Trump’s victory in the 17-candidate field to a tee. I say this not just to brag (although I am doing that), but to try and get my media colleagues to understand that they need to listen to why Trump is winning, they need to stop ignoring it.

But first, allow me to rebut their ongoing theory of the case which is that this is all just a rebellion against “establishment politics” and “anger at Washington.” That argument held some water against dynastic sleepwalker Jeb Bush or Gang of Eight-er Marco Rubio, but most of the other candidates were not part of the establishment. But the greatest proof against this theory was demonstrated Tuesday night:

Ted Cruz, whatever else you think of him, is the most anti-establishment figure there is, and he was standing onstage with a high-powered, wealthy CEO who has never held public office, yet Trump managed to beat them all.

The reason is crystal clear, and always has been: it’s the racism, stupid. More broadly, though, it’s the racism’s kissin’ cousin, white male resentment, which isn’t just for white males. Trump has been forgiven every possible deviation from conservative orthodoxy and simple human decency because he has remained rock-steady about fighting the dirty Mexicans, the evil Muslims, and the uppity criminal blacks and their liberal allies. In his desperation, Ted Cruz actually managed to pick the only kind of hate that doesn’t sell so well anymore.

Van is onto something about Bernie Sanders, though it isn’t some general anger at Washington, either. Sanders’ largely white liberal support comes from a different strain of white resentment, a more patronizing one. While they all pay lip service to having the “right” positions on black issues, their overarching theory is that what’s good for everyone is especially good for black people, and if they’d only listen, they would get that. This is essentially what Bernie said at the beginning of his campaign, and what his campaign is still saying now. Yes, he was pressured into rolling out a racial justice platform, but even in that document, pivoted to his broader economic policies. Ask him today what needs to be done first, and his answer will be to overturn Citizens United and end economic inequality.

Sanders’ policies and philosophies come from longstanding and sincere beliefs that have a lot to do with his experience, but his supporters have long displayed an impatience with black voters and their allies who fail to show sufficient gratitude for all that Bernie has done for them. Ironically, it’s very similar to the attitude of many Hillary Clinton supporters who saw her support among black voters evaporate in 2008. What, if anything, will ever be enough for these people?

The common thread between Trump and Bernie supporters is the feeling that doing something for someone else takes something away from them. This is the message that Hillary Clinton needs to hear and address. She needs to figure out a way to make white voters in both parties feel included, which is what Barack Obama did so skillfully in 2008. Unfortunately, Hillary doesn’t have any absolution for white resentment to offer, so she’ll have to do it substantively.

One of the great mistakes that liberal politicians make is to frame their policies as issues of “fairness,” a word that doesn’t mean jack to center/right-leaning Democrats and independents. If unfairness means I make more money than someone else, that’s my kind of unfairness. What they should do, and what Hillary should do, is explain how her policies specifically advantage white people. She needs to explain how employment and wage discrimination depress white people’s wages, how keeping 12 million immigrants in the shadows costs white people money and makes them less safe, how police stopping and frisking and occasionally killing innocent black people costs white people money and makes them less safe, how discriminating against Muslims makes them less safe.

Democrats like Hillary and President Obama are constantly resting these arguments on the notion that “that’s not who we are,” but obviously, that is who a lot of us are. We need a leader who can tell us why there’s a better way for us.  Hillary has to figure out a way to make white male voters and their allies feel included in the “you” part of “Fighting for You.” That’s how she’ll beat Donald Trump, not by fighting against some anti-establishment anger that doesn’t exist.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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