What I find absolutely delightful about the 2016 presidential campaign is that Donald Trump is holding up a mirror and America is discovering it really doesn’t like itself much. Unlike a patron in the haunted house at an amusement park, the nation is discovering that the distorted images reflected in the hall of mirrors called the Trump campaign are real. Yes, the racism, xenophobia, sexism and paranoia are all real and ‘the Donald’ is simply showing our true selves to the world. It is imagery, that no matter our best efforts to conceal, reflect the ugly truth about the United States. We are a nation invested in and beholden to white supremacy, that embraces racism as a gag reflex, is fearful that its sins of the past will be recycled by a majority of color in the future, and worships materialism even when wealth is elusive to most and controlled by the few to the detriment of the masses.
Trump appeals to many because he is the quintessential American. Brash, unapologetically racist and sexist, ignorant in his world view and delightfully antagonistic. He is what many Americans secretly yearn to be – free to be hateful and selfish without the constraints of basic human decency. That is essentially the founding principles of our country no matter the gilded words found on those documents from 1776 and 1787. Donald Trump is America and America is Donald Trump.
The compatibility of Trumpism and American “values” has been evident for some time. It is why the billionaire mogul with corner store bought hair has captured the nation’s fancy for so long. His legion of fans and admirers will never admit it, but secretly they desire to live like Trump. The jet and helicopter, and buildings with his name splashed across, the yacht, the playboy imagery and sophomoric pursuit of ‘trophy wives,’ the spending of money with abandon, even when it’s not his own, and the reckless tongue that suggests an “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude whenever pressed to explain his failures. Yes, that’s America and no matter how we try to dress it up, the essence of who and what we are as a nation.
The current effort by the news media to paint Trump as a demagogue and a modern day tyrant is comical and telling. After months of dismissing the real estate tycoon, and then miscalculating his level of support, and finally acknowledging that he could actually get elected, news organizations are in full panic mode. Not a day goes by when some of the nation’s mainline press, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, cannot spare enough ink spinning an apocalyptic tale of a Trump presidency and warning its readers of the dire consequences for the nation if Trump is elected. We are being bombarded by images of angry and racist Trump supporters on television news reports and on-air commentary suggesting that Donald Trump is the reason behind this toxic environment.
Apparently America’s news media has just discovered that, well…America is racist.
The news media’s reaction should come as no surprise given it has yet to address the calling out it received for its own racism by the Kerner Commission report in 1968. Five decades later and broadcast and television news operations are overwhelmingly white, in the newsroom and executive suites. The mirror Donald Trump is holding up also catches the reflection of our news organizations and the industry-wide embrace of white privilege. Trump only became relevant because the same news organizations that are now angling for a takedown of the Republican candidate were enamored by a figure their corporate owners admire and see as one of their own.
Directing our anger at Donald Trump is easy. He makes it easy. He is a distraction and our attention is misplaced. The hate and racism on display has always been present. Trump is just a glorified carrier pigeon. He is America’s wealthy hand puppet; a conveniently wealthy messenger for the masses of white Americans (Republican and Democrat) who have always despised Blacks and are resentful of African-American success, look upon immigrants of color with suspicion and disdain, are paranoid over their precarious economic status and look for convenient scapegoats, and are easily manipulated into voting against their own class interests.
If we make this election about Trump as the symbol of all things racist and evil, we are taking the bait. Likewise, if we fall for the packaging of Hillary Clinton as the savior in waiting, we’re on the hook. Neither party has clean hands when it comes to the maintenance of white privilege. Republicans are simply bathing in the same waters Democrats once frolicked and still dip their toes in on occasion. When we pin the current wave of hate on one individual or one party we completely miss the point. The hate we are witnessing is ‘Made in the USA’ and has been manufactured from the nation’s founding. It is a tool to divide, exploit and gain advantage. It will continue to exist no matter who wins in November and reveal itself in the daily routines of American life. Our challenge is not to stop a candidate, or elect a candidate, but to begin to deconstruct systems of oppression that define this nation.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.