On November 4th, 2008, a junior Senator from Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America and also became the first African American to ever hold office. While that fact is incredibly impressive in-and-of itself, what’s truly incredible is how involved Americans were in electing him. A staggering 63% of voting-eligible Americans went out and cast a ballot, which was the highest percentage in 50 years. The fact that a Black name with Hussein in his name, won 53% of the popular vote in America, can be largely traced to the fact that Black voters rushed to the polls in ways we’ve never seen before.
Minorities and millennials got Barack Obama into office. Although I was in Barbados at the time, there was a few months where it was damn-near impossible to turn on a TV without seeing an emcee, DJ, actress or professional-pretty-person stumping for Obama on BET, MTV or some other network old, white Republican men wouldn’t dare try to push their brand on. Vote or die, son.
As Obama’s second-term comes to a close and his run as President quickly approaches its cessation, there’s one word that could most aptly define the American public: polarized. Not only did a Gallup poll from earlier this year reveal that he has a 79% approval rating from Democrats and a 9% approval rating from Republicans (a 70% gap which is one of the highest in history), but the social disconnect has become so palpable it’s hard not to notice it, especially when it comes to race and religion. Most of the baseless, prejudiced attacks against President Obama have been centralized around anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.
Besides the often treasonous, disgusting and anti-intellectual bullshit the President has had to put up with, probably the most annoying fake-ass “controversy” he’s had to contend with is the idea that he’s nothing more than an African impostor, trying to covertly undue America’s greatness by working on the inside. We can pretend that this is a balanced viewpoint predicated on his father’s heritage, but the reality is that it was nothing more than discriminatory straws grasped at by the xenophobic idiots who felt his Blackness and his name were not worthy of his office – a place only fit for white men. Throughout Obama’s first term he had to hear so much shit about this topic throughout his presidency, that eventually the White House had to release his original long-form birth certificate to reporters in 2011.
Although the bullshit claims came from all sides, guess who became the most well-known face of the xenophobic fight against the President? If you guessed Donald John Trump, you’re absolutely right. And the thing is, Trump is such a professional narcissist, that he can not bear to come in second in ANYTHING. So when he went at Obama, he went hard as hell and somehow managed to be positioned as the leader of the birther campaign – and this is when shit got REALLY interesting.
While I won’t assert to definitely know whether or not Trump had real presidential ambitions throughout his time spent harassing the White House for President Obama’s birth certificate, he learned that he had an incredibly passionate, inflamed and animated group of people who were eager to digest his particular brand of xenophobia: the poor, angry, uneducated and disenfranchised white folks of America. The impoverished caucasians who don’t trust the system, who think the government is out to get them, who blame “foreigners” and minorities for their lack of upward social mobility, and who believe that the second amendment is their most powerful weapon against systemic tyranny.
Now if there’s one thing you should take away from this article it’s this: those poor whites are NOT the ones voting for people like George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney because THEY DON’T VOTE and they currently represent an incredibly large non-voting block in America. In the great article by Alec Macgillis where he effectively breaks down this point, there are two paragraphs in particular that should scare the shit out of any common sense voter:
Basically, the poorest white folks in the poorest, predominately white neighbourhoods are completely disconnected from the political process. And it is these disenfranchised voters that heartily supported Trump’s xenophobic attack on Obama’s nationality, and they are now the people who are supporting Trump’s racist campaign. While Barack Obama managed to energize a large group of first-time voters of mostly young folks and minorities, Trump is energizing a large swath of voters untouched by any candidates, comprised of the angry and the hate filled. And the way he has leveraged that audience against Democrats and Republicans alike is nothing short of genius.
Amongst that crowd of people, there’s no anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant or anti-Black message that is too offensive or divisive to receive backlash from. The more ignorant you are, the more you are praised for being honest. So Trump knew that in order to energize this group, he had to divorce himself from the concerns that other Republicans were playing up to for the traditional base, and aim for the xenophobic rhetoric that appeals to the hearts, minds and souls of the ignorant.
In the press conference where he took an openly hard line on undocumented immigrants, talking about building walls and calling them rapists, the Donald put his brilliance into action – and it worked like a charm.
This disgusting rhetoric is exactly what the politically disconnected poor nationalists (his base) wanted to hear. He immediately began controlling the conversation and he left the other Republican presidential candidates in an incredibly tough position: either agree with him and essentially become a parrot of Trump ideas (not a presidential quality at all), or stand up to his bigotry and alienate a portion of your own traditional base who actually agree with Trump.
And Trump has been relying on that brilliant tactic from that day on, and that’s why he’s absolutely decimating the other candidates.
When Trump recently said that all Muslims should be temporarily banned from entering the United States, his poll numbers went up amongst his base because, once again, there’s nothing TOO ignorant for them. Public Policy Polling recently stated, “Trump’s Islamophobia is a central feature of his appeal to his supporters.” And the recent poll numbers support that claim.
“Among Trump backers, 67 percent support creating a national database of Muslims, 62 percent believe the discredited story that Arabs in New Jersey cheered as the twin towers fell on 9/11, more than half (51 percent) want to shut down mosques, and a full 44 percent believe Islam should be outlawed.”
Once again, the other presidential candidates were forced to choose Trump’s extremism or their old-hat brand of coded racism and dog-whistle politics. Those who agreed with Trump’s statements, like Ted Cruz, have found themselves buried beneath a pile of irrelevance as society continues to collectively ignore anyone we believe is imitating Trump rhetoric. And then there’s the candidates who stood up against Trump’s bullshit, like Lindsey Graham (the same man who called the brutal execution of nine innocent and unarmed Black folks at the hands of a white supremacist, “Mideast hate”) who have now found themselves at odds with their own base, who actually don’t think Trump’s sentiment is as crazy as it is.
Republicans actually underestimated how racist their own party is, which is a mistake that Trump is simply to smart to fall for. That’s why Trump has doubled his early-lead on the nearest Republican candidate.
Even using terms like “low energy” are genius insults to his Republican brethren. When he attached that label to Jeb Bush, many thought he was calling him boring, but what he was really saying (and what his base internalized it as) was a direct-questioning of their passion for defending the issues “patriots” truly care about. After all the offensive bullshit Trump has said about Mexicans, this is what Jeb Bush, a man with a Mexican-American wife named Columba, said in response:
While I understand the concept of professional and political decorum, that would’ve been the perfect moment to tell Trump a classier version of “go FUCK yourself” but he didn’t even have the intestinal fortitude to do that. Even I, a man who would never vote for the Republican party sans a family member being held at gunpoint, agrees with Trump that Jeb is passionless and corny.
Oh, and are you interested in hearing what Carly Fiorina thinks about Donald Trump’s comments? Well, neither is anyone else.
Omg the crowd for Carly Fiorina's town hall right now in Iowa….. pic.twitter.com/vib7KAhEXg
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) December 8, 2015
Trump has become the only Republican candidate that anyone is interested in talking about or debating, and that has little to do with dumb luck or chance – it has everything to do with effective strategy.
And while he has brilliantly outmaneuvered his own party, his true brilliance is revealed by how he treats the media and Democrats alike. Trump realized that a man of his social celebrity simply does not need Democrats or the media (liberal or conservative) to like him – he just needed them to communicate his message to his base. The more he said crazy shit, the more press he received. The more ignorant he was, the more Democratic candidates were forced to talk about him, instead of talking about their policies. Huffington Post and other publications thought it was prudent to keep his name out of the political section and place him in the entertainment section, as if that was some slight to him, when he knew damn-well that the entertainment section has more eyeballs and traffic than the political section. The m0re he says crazy shit, the more media reports on it and the more Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have to talk about him.
But what’s truly brilliant about this part of his plan is how he has managed to bond with his base over projecting himself as the unfairly demonized rogue candidate who is spitting truths that the media doesn’t want people to know. Seeing as his base is full of white folks who feel perpetually persecuted (think: Duck Dynasty defenders), they have found a common enemy in the media (which, unbeknownst to his loyal supporters, is actually Trump’s greatest ally). So when Arianna Huffington, editor in-chief of HuffPo, recently announced that they would no longer be covering Trump, he won again by brilliantly outplaying their hand. If the media doesn’t cover him, they hurt themselves because Trump news is what drives traffic, and they help him by assisting his image as a maverick truth-teller that society wants to restrict. And if they continue to cover him, it just keeps giving him the PR that helps his campaign. Heads he wins, tails you lose.
Trump has brilliantly attached folks to his campaign thanks to baseless rhetoric – and that has become all people need in order to support him. He doesn’t need to back up his statements with facts, because his base (and the people attracted to join his base everyday) are in it for the emotional satisfaction. He doesn’t need to reveal any plans about foreign policy, economic recovery, law enforcement reform or improved trade strategies because his base doesn’t want, nor need, that. Russell Simmons letters be damned.
People who believe his alienating of folks has greatly diminished his chances of acquiring certain voting blocks, like the Latino vote, are not paying attention. Those segments are only gravy to him, because he believes that nurturing his xenophobic base will be enough – and the polls aren’t proving him wrong. Trump just released a plan to get 100% of the Black vote, and regardless of how corny you may think it is, he doesn’t even need a sliver of the Black vote to become the Republican nominee – but he’ll probably get that.
But the smartest thing Trump has done has played stupid. Every time he opens his mouth to spew some hateful, divisive rhetoric, we all talk about how dumb he is while his poll numbers climb. Every time he doubles down on some offensive comment, his fan base gets wider. Every time the news (and satire-news alike) does a segment exposing him as being profoundly, intellectually stunted, his campaign gets more press and his appeal widens. Since 2011, we’ve all been committed to the idea that he’s just a big, stupid, sideshow that doesn’t stand a chance of becoming the 45th president of the United States.
And now, four years later, Trump is leading every poll by double-digits, in some cases doubling the next nearest candidate. Trump has made a spectacular fool out of all of us because we allowed him to play by his own rules and settle into his own self-created comfort. We laughed at his ideas of building walls; we laughed at registering Muslims; and we kept laughing while he plotted, planned and executed his way into being the most newsworthy presidential candidate on Earth.
Donald Trump isn’t dangerous because he’s some buffoon spewing nonsense into a crowd, he’s dangerous because he’s a brilliant tactician of fear-mongering, racism and nationalism. And if we continue to treat him as a buffoon, the real idiots will be the nation that sat back and allowed him to rise to actual, real political power.
This Is Your Conscience