We should have seen this coming. For some time now Donald Trump has been creating a mythic persona of outsize success and machismo wrapped in patriotic lore, and many in the nation were duped by his ‘self-made man’ narrative. “The Donald” became ingrained in the minds of the public with his penchant for identifying his real estate properties with the “TRUMP” name emblazoned on the exterior and an over-the-top tastelessness in his Atlantic City casinos that redefines gaudy. The Trump legend gained new heights in popular culture with his “Apprenticeship” show that provided a showcase for his brand of incendiary insults masquerading as business acumen.
Donald Trump is the ultimate hustler. He makes legendary pimp Bishop Don “Magic” Juan look like an amateur. With a silver-spoon-in-the-mouth arrogance, Trump has ‘played’ America, knowing our penchant for celebrity worship and excessiveness. Trump’s smarts did not put him in positon to exploit one of our two primary political parties. His ego gave him that advantage as well as the gullibility and dumbness of many Americans who see in him a truth teller, when in fact, he is a charlatan, a caricature that was created by the vices of the very party he is about to take down. He is everything that the core of the modern day Republican party idolizes – wealthy, white, male, sexist, racist and arrogant. Most of all he is unapologetic for his ignorance and basks in his dismissive attitude toward those not ‘smart’ enough to see his brilliance.
Don’t get me wrong. He is not a stupid man, as evidenced by his Wharton Business School credential, but he is ‘The Great White Dope.’ Trump’s embrace of gutter politics plays to the misplaced fears and anger of many whites who have longed for a hate whisperer who could sense their outrage over the audacity of Blacks, Latinos and immigrants not knowing their place. His campaign is the perfect echo chamber for the uneducated or minimally educated white masses that can’t understand how their whiteness has not benefited them and pin their unhappiness on the unearned benefits they claim Blacks have received from the government. The irony is that Trump and his ilk have done more to crush his supporters than the imagined terror of a Black takeover. The country that Trump’s legions want to ‘take back’ has never been theirs; they have simply leased a bit of privilege along the way. By appealing to the latent racism of angry whites, Trump is creating a crescendo of hate that history teaches us leads to evil acts done in the name of national pride.
The Great White Dope is lowering the Republican Party into its grave and the party has itself to blame. Its rightward embrace of a racially constructed framework that denies historical injustices, discounts present day racism, casts people of color as leeches, feeds the wealthy and starves the poor, and champions wedge issues to divide Americans by race is shortsighted. If the truth did not catch up with the Republican Party, demographics surely did. The Frankenstein monster they cobbled together in 1964 and animated in 1968, and unleashed on the nation in 1980 has now turned on its creator. Our only hope is for the village to unite around its demise. This means Republicans that know better are going to have to carry some torches too.
While the current wave of hate has swept the Republican Party this moment is really America’s to own up to. The Republican Party of today is simply a reflection of the post-civil rights resentment that was never extinguished and was played upon for political and economic gain. All the residual hate of the Dixiecrat era needed someplace to go and it found refuge in Richard Nixon’s southern strategy. Barry Goldwater might have espoused conservatism but Nixon defined a way for racists to cloak their racism in public policy. The Great White Dope has simply made openly racist expressions cool by knowingly manipulating the ignorant masses.
The emergence of Donald Trump cannot be divorced from the dumbing down of America. Our nation has celebrated stupidity in popular culture to the point that life is really imitating art. We consume dumb television and fact-less news, celebrate trivialities, put on a pedestal those who provide little value to our humanity, troll in ignorance on social media, deny history, dismiss real scholarship and legitimize conspiracy theories. We would rather hate than learn, despise than appreciate, and deny than acknowledge. Our civic demise is well earned.
While not absolving the Democratic Party of its many shortcomings, and paternalism around issues of race, the takedown of the Great White Dope is primarily the responsibility of the Republican Party. The lack of decency shown the nation’s first Black president over two terms, the demonization of blackness and the estrangement of moderates has transformed the GOP into a radical fringe group. Not only has the party alienated Blacks and Latinos, Muslims, immigrants and a large swath of women, it is facing its wholesale rejection by millennials. The manner in which white supremacists have gravitated toward Trump is an indication that the Republican Party is in danger of principally being the champion of angry, racist white males.
This is the opportunity for the Republican Party to reclaim decency and begin rebuilding itself as a moderate party that is inclusive of a wide range of Americans. Though some celebrate the party’s implosion, it does not bode well for where our country is heading. We need a multi-party system in which all political parties adopt justice as foundational to their mission. This does not mean that philosophical differences will cease to exist, it simply means that racism will be rejected as an organizing strategy and policy tool. If Republicans truly believe that they have a better plan to bring the nation into its democratic fullness, a plan that respects and addresses the needs of the historically disadvantaged and confronts racism and poverty – now is the time to put it on the table.
Walter Fields is the Executive Editor of NorthStarNew.com.