Why Donald Trump's Triumph Is A Victory For White Supremacy
How did this happen? Racism.
BY BRITTNEY COOPER | Nov 10, 2016 | Culture
Donald Trump's victory yesterday is an attempt by disgruntled white Americans to slow down the American social progress ushered in by Barack Obama's presidency. Trump's triumph is a victory for white supremacy. We should not equivocate on that point. This is retaliation toward a country that voted for a black president and had the audacity to try to leave the racial politics of the last two centuries behind. Those racial politics have been a steadfast friend to white elites and a fair-weather one to the white working class. What do I mean? White working-class voters don't fare well with low tax rates, the rise of big corporations, or a shrinking welfare state. These kinds of policies make the middle class out of reach and lead to the feeling of being left behind. It is this anger at supposedly being left behind that has driven this latest appalling exercise in American democracy. But it is misdirected anger, for it is the Republican Party that keeps creating a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Meanwhile, white working-class voters continue to vote for a party that uses their anger as a pawn for power, because even as party elites squirrel wealth and power away into their own hands, they offer whiteness—and in particular, white supremacy—as the coveted trophy, gilded though it may be.
Trump's victory also isn't solely the result of angry white working-class voters. Based on exit polls, 49 percent of college-educated white voters voted for Trump. Clinton had a slight edge with college-educated white women at 51 percent, but a resounding 45 percent of college-educated white women still voted for Trump. In the end whiteness, rather than class, or gender was the great unifier in Trump's victory.
I begin with racism, when perhaps I might have begun with sexism and patriarchy, because white women voters didn't vote their gender interests. They voted for their racial interests. Based on exit polls, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. These women voted for a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. They voted for a man who routinely insults women and reduces them to sexual objects. These same exit polls indicate that 64 percent of white Protestant women voted for a man who doesn't even know the correct name for his favorite book of the Bible.
Ninety-six percent of black women voters voted for Hillary Clinton. Those percentages of support are on par with our levels of support for President Obama. Seventy-four percent of Latina women supported Clinton. Women of color voted for their gender and racial interests, while the majority of white women voters have decided that shoring up the project of white supremacy is what matters most. It is women of colour, and black women in particular, who keep on saving democracy. We have been most deeply committed to a progressive agenda that moves the nation forward inch by inch in a way that includes vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, those with disabilities, immigrants, and queer communities. Last night, our rescue mission was thwarted.
Last night, white women and men together put their boots on the neck of such visions aiming instead to take the country back(ward), to a time where white male dominance was clearly the order of the day. Yesterday, white voters formed a coalition across the lines of gender to assure that white men's place and white people's power will remain untouched. The hallmark of unchecked white supremacy and patriarchy is the limitless opportunities available to mediocre white men. No one, not even Trump supporters, would argue that he is anything other than mediocre in morals, accomplishments, and political vision. But Hillary Clinton's prodigious history of achievements both in and out of public office was no match for the astounding depths of Trump's mediocrity. Up against this country's best, most accomplished women, even the worst of men can still win. Last night, patriarchy had the last word in this battle with an eager pantsuit nation.
Riding home from doing television coverage at 2 am, I pondered on the phone with a close friend the meaning of these things. Given that Republicans have won the White House, have retained both houses of Congress, and will have the opportunity to appoint a super-majority to the Supreme Court, I wondered aloud about what it was about an Obama presidency that has made white people so angry.
The Obama presidency, with its victories on health care, LGBTQ rights, and low unemployment rates, has been a success by several key measures. Conditions are far better for almost everyone than they were eight years ago. But white racial fragility is still powerful. Eight years of watching a black man prove that he is in fact as good as any white man to have held the office before him turned out to be a truth that more than 50 million American voters, the vast majority of them white, simply could not stand. Instead, they choose to believe the lie that a black president and subsequently a woman for president point to a nation in ruins. They chose to use their considerable superpowers to terrorise us all with this lie. They chose to cement the shifting foundations of American democracy with the cultural quicksand of racism and sexism.
I know that I should offer some hope. I know that I should say something optimistic about the resiliency of our people, about the resiliency of this republic. After all, I come from people who figure out on the regular how to make a feast from the scraps. But many, many white people went to the polls yesterday to use their votes as a weapon of mass destruction, against everyone who is not like them. If the bomb doesn't get you, the shrapnel very often will. Most of the folks of colour I know are picking shrapnel from wounds this morning, figuring out whether we have lost too much blood to live. In place of shattered ceilings, we have democracy in broken pieces. We have four years of being terrorised by a lie, four years ahead of us of watching white supremacy attempt a Humpty Dumpty act—as it tries to reassemble all these broken pieces in a way that aids the majority of white folks. By winning every level of government, it seems Trump and co. have marshaled every level of power—"all the king's horses" and "all the king's men"—to do their bidding. But they will learn, like all children who recite this rhyme do, that after a fall as great as this—and stock prices do confirm it as a great fall—there is no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.