: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign
…derives from two Greek terms: xenos, which can be translated as either “stranger” or “guest,” and phobos, which means either “fear” or “flight.” Phobos is the ultimate source of all English -phobia terms…
By now it is still uncertain whether the juggernaut of the Donald Trump campaign will reach Nirvana in the Oval Office, but it certainly has earned itself more than a mere footnote in the annals of American politics. From coast to coast oppositional forces have mounted protests to counter Trump rallies and personal appearances as the upstart real estate mogul-turned-reality-T.V.-star and legitimate contender for the nation’s highest office has swept primary after primary to become the presumptive Republican nominee well before the convention in July.
The fact that a political newcomer, seen as too verbose and controversial, might ascend to the pinnacle of the political hierarchy, that of Chief Executive, bears closer scrutiny. The motivation behind Trump’s success might be tied to the surge of far-right activism seen over the past few years here in the United States, although this trend has simultaneously manifested itself throughout Europe during the same time span.
“…it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active, and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” 1964.
How then, might we explain the successes of a figure most rational political commentators would not even take seriously; the rise of a demagogue who seems to ride upon the more base emotions of a dissatisfied public by alienating and insulting vast segments of the previously marginalized (but now coming into their own as politically aware elements to be reckoned with)? A cursory view of our own history reveals that this is no new precedent, but one that has been repeated time and again by the likes of Father Charles Coughlin and Senator Joe McCarthy.
This time however, the scenario is abetted by a “mongrelization” (or the more euphemistic “creolization”) of a traditionally Eurocentric populace.
The browning of America
“Whenever there has been a significant advance for African Americans, there has been a reciprocal White reaction.” -James Lance Taylor, University of San Francisco.
Taylor is a political scientist specializing in affairs of state and religion, particularly as they impact the issue of race in America. He argues that the present situation is a cyclic phenomenon that has manifested itself throughout the history of this country, at least as early as the Abolitionist movement of the pre-Civil War era, then moving on to Reconstruction (and with it the appearance of the original Ku Klux Klan). In his view, this trend has been exacerbated by a number of factors, economic and societal, that have contributed to the anxiety of the voting public.
Moving on to the modern era, the Civil Rights Movement with its advances in equality among the marginalized elements of society actually threatened the psyche of the then-voting majority.
Following this train of thought, says Taylor, “Ronald Reagan’s election (in 1980) was at least partially a reaction to the impact of Martin Luther King’s successes. “This is the first time this has been elevated to mainstream politics movement of ‘fringe elements’ to center stage,” he goes on regarding the current situation.
“I think it’s built into the genealogy of the United States,” he says.
“The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there.” -Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker, Dec. 27, 1999, issue of Sports Illustrated.
This quote from the end of the millennium demonstrates that these events did not happen overnight. The fact that this observation came from a handsomely compensated athlete/celebrity merely highlights the angst that surely exists among those further down the monetary pecking order.
Media concerns here and abroad have noted the travails of economic hardship and grinding unemployment have resulted in galvanizing disaffecting White youth to form or join nationalist/ racist entities such as the American Freedom Party, which is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center “arguably the most important White nationalist group in the country.”
It’s head, Long Beach State professor William Daniel Johnson (who has proposed that U.S. citizenship be restricted to Whites proven to be of 100 percent European descent) made news when Trump initially selected him as one of his California delegates for this coming July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, then claimed this choice was a computer error.
Scores of similar groups have sprouted up here and throughout Europe, including the British National Party, the National Democratic Party of Germany, and Greece’s Golden Dawn.
Taylor does not stop there in his assessment of this global schism, however. Other dynamics not regularly associated with the spreading racial divide come from other sources.
A strange phenomenon has transpired in the eastern United States over the past few years. As documented by several news organizations, heroin and opium abuse—once the surge of inner-city America—has moved to perhaps the most hallowed bastion of the American Dream: the suburbs. Taylor connects this social malady to the previously mentioned economic woes.
The national White American population is in crisis on several levels. Taylor cites “Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century,” a Princeton University paper, November 2015. It projects the “quiet epidemic” of alcohol and opioid abuse among middle-aged White American males (along with a rising suicide rate) as evidence of this once privileged portion of the American populace’s inability to cope with the uncertainties of daily life.
Could this be additional proof that White men, long the anointed successors to the reigns of society and its bountiful harvest, have been dethroned from their place as first-in-line heirs?
More seeds of discontent
“Filled with obscure and ill-directed grievances and frustrations, with elaborate hallucinations about secrets and conspiracies, groups of malcontents have found scapegoats at various times in Masons or abolitionists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jews, Negroes, or immigrants, the liquor interests or the international bankers.” -Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”
The fairer sex might well be added to the above excerpt from a 1964 essay by cultural historian Hofstadter. The presence of Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman, as Trump’s most formidable opponent in the election, is just another manifestation of how the world order has evolved.
At San Francisco State University, Professor Robert Smith provides a differing point of view, as he suggests these current events are a result of the capitalist system’s inability to “deliver the goods,” in terms of job security and economic stability. Under conditions like this, Smith inferred the natural tendency to scapegoat typically arises—a trend that White Nationals have historically ridden the crest of—in much the same way that a surfer rides the top of a tasty wave to enjoy success, if only for a limited time.
No less an ideological movement than the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed its greatest popularity during the devastation of the (1930s) Great Depression, as its members acted out of fear, in much the same way that their forbearers did amidst the privations of the Civil War’s aftermath.
Europe and the United States currently experience backlash from a surge in immigration of non-White foreigners which-in-turn stir up the more base emotions of fear and intolerance.
In this, Trump differs from political figures in the European political sphere who harbor long-held convictions, such as Marine Le Pen, leader of the French conservation National Front (NF), a standard bearer upholding the beliefs of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. The fascist appeal is not necessarily built upon rational thought (Trump positions himself as the strong man, and the only one able to right the course of a wayward nation in much the same way that Adolf Hitler assumed the mantle of Germany’s savior in the interval between the world wars).
Trump differs from European conservatives in another important way. He has demonstrated sympathy to liberal/progressive issues like social security and Medicare. As has been noted by political observers, Trump has demonstrated a tendency to flip flop on key topics, among them abortion, gay rights, and taxation of the very wealthy, along with building of a massive wall separating the United States and Mexico.
Paraphrasing his quote “… well, that might not be the case—it’s open for negotiation,” referencing his plan to make our southern neighbors pay for this fixed fortification. Smith infers this might be a telling indicator of how a Trump administration could progress.
“I don’t think that Trump believes everything he is saying.”
In the event Trump does win the election, his administrative style may well veer sharply from his campaign pledges (a fact that could apply to scores of politicians, in the eyes of the voters who elected them).
“Obama’s election (in the last two elections) kind of symbolizes that,” Smith concludes.
Journalistic ethics mandate that at least an attempt should be made to explore an alternate point of view. This logically leads to contacting a Black Republican (yes they do exist). Building upon his occupation of doing tax returns in southern California, this unnamed interviewee opened our discussion by voicing the opinion that Trump would be a better choice “…then that clown they got now.”
Identifying himself as a registered Republican (“…more of a Libertarian, really,” he interjects), my anonymous San Diegan insists that Obama is bad for business, citing the recent federal regulation mandating overtime for anyone making $47,000 a year. This encourages (in his view) businesses to hire several part-time workers instead of incurring the burden of having a full-time employee (along with the requisite medical, sick time, vacation, 401Ks, and other expenses incurred in the course of maintaining a worker toiling at least 40 hours a week).
The provocative personalities vying for chief executive may be explained away (in his view) by the fact that the voting public is fed up with the inability or unwillingness of political choices to properly execute their duties. Using this rational, he lumps a reactionary (Trump) along with a socialist (Sanders) together as desperate choices for the masses, who are in effect “grasping at straws” in terms of political leadership.
Regardless of the quality of Obama’s job performance, the issue of his race is likely a compelling factor in the growing unease among the discontented masses.
The impact of this dangerous revival of racism and violence shows no signs of culmination. All of the social upheaval mentioned—along with other behaviors or issues that directly tie in (or may be completely unrelated) including gay rights, police misconduct, and so on, make for a volatile run up to this summer’s political conventions (the Democrats will be in Philadelphia ). Whether this leads to conflict of the type that accompanied the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago remains to be seen. All in all, with the overarching transition of the American population to people of color, the likelihood is that this may be the last election of its kind.