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How Trump exploited the disaffection among whites

By Makau Mutua | Published Mon, November 14th 2016 at 07:35, Updated November 14th 2016 at 07:39 GMT +3

The term Monday morning “quarterbacking” in American football describes the “day after” couch potatoes who second guess why their team lost. The quarterback in American football is the most pivotal position because he calls plays and directs the offence. He’s the goat if the team loses, and the GOAT (Great of All Time) if the team wins. Of course this is hyperbole. That’s because many factors account for why a team wins, or loses. Rarely does a team lose or win because of only one player, let alone the quarterback. Let’s find out why Hillary Clinton lost, and Donald Trump won.

CNN analyst Vance Jones, the African-American Harvard-educated lawyer, memorably opined that Mr Trump, the bombastic real estate mogul, beat Secretary Clinton because of “white-lash.” It was a cute play off the term “white backlash.” But it wasn’t off the target, although a more complex stew explains the historic loss by the first female major party nominee for President of the United States. But if there’s an overarching canopy to explain the loss, then Mr Jones was on target. A large segment of white American males has been angry ever since Senator Barack Obama, the Kenyan-American, was elected the first black President of the United States in 2008. All previous US presidents had been male and white. Let’s chew on that. As soon as Mr Obama was elected, the leadership of the Republican Party vowed to make sure he failed. They openly said it, and attempted to block virtually every item on his agenda. They encouraged the rise of a populist and fascist movement called the Tea Party whose rallying cry was to “take their country back.” They charged that Mr Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim ineligible to be US President. He and his family were subjected to unmentionable epithets. No American president faced more death threats. A large proportion of white Americans couldn’t come terms with the fact that the Obamas slept in the White House, long the symbol of white American supremacy. The Republican Party egged them on.

Mr Trump, like no other person in America, seems to have best understood the American racist underbelly. His campaign was founded on a textbook definition of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and islamophobia. What’s amazing is that Mr Trump himself isn’t a Republican ideologue. In fact, he slew many Republican values and icons along the way. Even for a party that prides itself on being grounded on conservative Christianity and “family values,” Mr Trump broke every rule in the book. He openly boasted of grabbing women by their private parts. Yet white evangelical Christians and white women overwhelmingly voted for him. White women rejected Secretary Clinton, one of their own. They wanted to return the White House “home” to a white patriarch.

Secondly, Secretary Clinton lost because globalisation may have ended democracy as we’ve known it since World War II. The core of democracy — and its seduction — has always been its potential to enlarge human dignity, liberty, and freedom. It has opened doors to minorities, women, people with disabilities, the politically unpopular, outsider religions, the poor, sexual minorities, and racially and ethnically excluded groups. For most of the last 70 years, democracy expanded political space and gave millions access to a meaningful social, cultural, and economic life. Then globalisation — with the creation of a single global market — happened. The “labour aristocracies” of Western hegemons, especially in the United States and Western Europe, lost out as industrial jobs left for the Global South. No other “labour aristocrats” have been more bereaved by globalisation more than white males. For the last 70 years, their incomes had been rising. And then the bottom collapsed. You have to understand that “whiteness” in the West is property. To be white is to be privileged. But this only works when unemployment is low among this group. Never mind that for blacks and Latinos unemployment has always been high. But unlike white males, who feel entitled, these minority groups don’t threaten Armageddon for high levels of unemployment. Mr Trump vanquished the entire Republican field and decimated Secretary Clinton because he spoke to the angry, racist, white male in Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Lastly, Secretary Clinton lost because of inferiority complex and false consciousness among white women and lack of enthusiasm among traditionally Democratic groups. Many white women labour under the white patriarch. Some don’t believe a woman should lead. Over 90 per cent of black women voted for Secretary Clinton. But fewer white women voted for her than voted for Mr Trump. She underperformed Mr Obama among Latinos. Some blacks were turned off by the crime bill under President Bill Clinton. Some left-leaning supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders stayed home. Others were unenthused by Secretary Clinton’s email woes and trustworthiness. Call me a Monday morning quarterback.

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