The (WHITE) Elephant in the Room

It was surreal. Like waiting for Godot.

Tuesday night, we kept waiting for the vote counts in metro Milwaukee and Detroit to make the difference needed to elect Hillary Clinton. But the bright blue metropolitan areas failed to shield her from unexpectedly massive turnout among white, suburban and rural voters.

It’s a white phenomenon, but Donald Trump supporters say it has nothing to do with race. They’ll talk about guns. Or God. Or Crooked Hillary. But not racism.

History will record that an insidious economic decline in the quality and quantity of American jobs began to unfurl in the ’70s in our cities. The twin forces of globalization and technology have now stretched their nasty tentacles into our suburbs, our exurbs, and our bedroom communities, squeezing our rural areas even harder. In other words, as our middle class crumbles, white people are feeling a bit of what traditionally disenfranchised people have been feeling for a a very long time.

But let’s not talk about racism.

As my medical provider, who is African-American, brilliantly said of middle-class and working-class white people: “Welcome to America. Where’ve you been?”

Working hard, no doubt. Making ends meet in an increasingly more difficult economic scenario, as most Americans do every day. Over the last four decades, the cost of everything, except labor, has gone up.

Some of my Republican friends tell me that their work ethic separates them from “groups who want a handout from the government.”

But let’s not talk about racism.

They also proclaim their fierce resistance to the “breakdown of the traditional American family.” Republicans now proudly cite Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who decried the rupture of the black family during the ’60s, and declared that the white family would follow suit. What these family traditionalists leave out is the long-term economic trends that have led to massive joblessness for otherwise marriageable men of all races.

It’s not the absence of marriage that leads to poverty, per se; rather, it’s the lack of good-paying jobs that’s leading to both the absence of marriage and economic struggle.

All this talk about “groups that want handouts” and the “traditional family” flashes me back 30 years to Reagan’s campaign, which exalted “family values” and denigrated “welfare queens.” He sure wasn’t talking about white mothers on welfare; Reagan was deliberately tapping into the “blacks are lazy” stereotype to earn votes from white racists. He didn’t invent the Southern Strategy, but, with some help from Lee Atwater, he sure perfected it.

But let’s not talk about racism.

Most of my Republican friends won’t acknowledge the connection between the “values” button and the dog whistle it sounds to racists. Worse, some Trump supporters acknowledge that, initially, their candidate deliberately appealed to racists to “build his base.”

As if this is OK. It’s not OK. And if you really don’t know why, look up the term “stochastic terrorism.” (Or read,12883)

In anonymous polls, a significant number of white conservatives, however, will own up to negative race-based beliefs. As Reuters reported in June, “Supporters of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump are more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’ than voters who backed some Republican rivals in the primaries or who support Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.”

Can anyone argue that these statements are not drenched in racism?

History will remember a celebrity salesman who knew how to read a crowd. We’ll read about the charismatic tycoon who, while hogging media attention with outrageous statements, didn’t need a good ground game. All he needed were a few good catch phrases: Lock her up. Crooked Hillary. Build a wall.

You don’t have to go further than Wikipedia to learn from a great demagogue.

Adolf Hitler wrote, in Mein Kampf, “All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. […]”

It’s going to be a beeyootiful wall.

“These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Crooked Hillary.

In North Carolina, one of the largest and most active Ku Klux Klan groups in the nation is planning a public rally for Dec. 3. The reason? To celebrate Trump’s victory.

So while Trump may not claim affinity with white supremacists, they sure are claiming him. Similarly — and this demands a whole ’nother column — Trump embraced the anti-gay message of “family values” voters, by promising to overturn gay marriage. (Trump walked that promise back on 60 Minutes after the election, saying that the area of law was “already settled.”)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has created a petition asking Trump to do two things: First, unequivocally and publicly disavow all forms of bigotry. Second, assure the nation that he will not appoint anyone associated with a hate group to a position of influence or authority in his administration.

Given our history, it’s a small ask.

This is your Third Reich moment, Trump supporters. Instead of getting offended when asked, straight up, about your views on race, you need to answer. Loud and clear. Because your party has used racism for 40 years, including this year, to bring out voters, it’s a fair question.

What’s that you say?

You’re going to have to speak louder than your party’s history, louder than your party’s extremists, louder than the KKK, in order to be heard.

Or will you just fall in line?