Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump's Election Was Just A Return To Our Bigoted Tradition

(Cartoon image is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.)

The election of Donald Trump is viewed by some as an abandonment of the inclusive values of the United States. But a case can be made that the United States has never truly been inclusive, and has only grudgingly given rights to minority groups. Rights that many Americans still don't agree with, and would be happy to retract. It may be closer to the truth to say Trump's election was just a return to the tradition of discrimination that has plagued this nation since its inception.

Philip A. Klinkner and Rogers M. Smith wrote an excellent article for The Washington Post on this subject. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Donald Trump’s election as president startled many Americans. A number of observers commented that Trump’s campaign represented a set of illiberal values and policy positions far outside of the United States’ political traditions of individual rightsequality and democracy.
But in many ways, Trump represents a return to the historical norm. Such classical liberal values have often not predominated in the United States. In fact, they have always logically competed against — while being politically intertwined with — a set of commitments to hierarchies of race, nationality and religion, among others. Indeed for much of American history, these illiberal values held sway.
Since the 1940s, chastened by the example of Nazism and conscious of the U.S.’s modern global responsibilities, both major parties have avoided more overt racism and ethno-nationalism.
But the U.S. has always had at least one (and often more than one) major political party devoted to some notion of white nationalism. From its founding in the 1820s up until the 1940s, the Democratic Party was explicitly devoted to white supremacy, first supporting slavery and then Jim Crow.
Similarly, since the end of Radical Reconstruction, the Republicans (like their Whig predecessors) have advocated a variety of immigration restrictions for certain nationalities and religions — positions that the party increasingly stressed as part of its “Southern Strategy” of appealing to racial conservatives beginning in the 1960s. Trump emphasized these themes more explicitly during his campaign.
As we have written, illiberal beliefs and practices have been so strong that the United States has usually only made significant progress toward racial equality only under the exigencies of war. For example, African American rights only advanced dramatically during three periods in U.S. history — during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and immediately after, and most recently during World War II and the Cold War.
In each of these periods the United States was fighting a war against illiberal enemies, prompting it to highlight its own liberal values. In addition, each of these were big wars in which victory required African Americans as soldiers, sailors, defense workers, and at the very least, quiescent citizens. Finally, and perhaps most important, black and white civil rights advocates used wartime pressures to leverage for legal changes.
But for many white Americans, these advances were instrumental to the need to win the war and accepted only grudgingly. Wartime pressures for equality were felt most keenly at the elite level. Most ordinary white Americans were apathetic at best about such changes. Many were virulentlyopposed. Once the external pressures of war were removed, the elite consensus broke down, allowing various factions to encourage and harness these racial sentiments for their own political ends.

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