The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “AMERICA AT WAR WITH ITSELF” by Henry A. Giroux from Part I: “Political Geographies of the New Authoritarianism” from Chapter Two: “Donald Trump’s America” on page 27 and I quote: “Commercial media lit up like Vegas the day Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy and said the following; “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump’s hate-mongering was perfect fodder for driving up TV ratings. Rather than presenting Trump’s comments in the context of America’s long legacy of racism and state violence, the mainstream media uncritically broadcast his remarks initially as those of a fearless billionaire who has achieved such supreme success that he speaks his mind without concern for consequences. Such a process, shorn of context and historical understanding of white hegemony, highlights not only commercial media’s flight from responsibility, but how corporate power itself, combined with the Terror Wars, have weakened the American population’s capacity to protect democracy, civil liberties, and multicultural society from the allure of fascistic forms of power.
Not only have mainstream media replayed Trump’s most outrageous statements over and over again without any serious criticism, they also fill the 24/7 news cycle with endless interviews in which Trump has defended and embellished his intolerance of immigrants, Muslims, and protestors. Treated more as an indication of Trump’s no-holds-barred personality than something more problematic, Trump’s remarks have been viewed by many as honest, brave, and off-the-cuff rather than symptomatic of the bigotry and bias smoldering beneath the surface of high-end presidential politics. Such commentary collapses into the realm of the personal because by privatizing racism, it ignores the history of violence, exclusion, and coercion that has plagued the land since the first white people sailed to shore.
During the 2015-2016 presidential contest, Trump pushed the political envelope further and further towards intolerance and an American-style form of proto-fascism. The media got red meat, Trump’s ratings soared, and his Republican rivals struggled to keep up. Senator Ted Cruz argued that he liked Donald Trump and was glad he was bringing attention to the illegal immigration issue. Rick Santorum joined Cruz in praising Trump for focusing on illegal immigration, without any serious criticism of his racist remarks. Other right-wing politicians such as Lindsay Graham and Rick Perry condemned Trump’s remarks, but nothing was said in the press about how they had played a key role in supporting legislation that was both vicious and racist.
Liberals have denounced Trump but have said woefully little about the history of how both major parties have supported unjustified military invasions, racialized tough-on-crime campaigns, and a mass-incarceration state that has decimated communities of color nationwide. For instance, Jonathan Chait seems less concerned about a Republican Party that has promoted numerous racist policies, such as trying to disable the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border zone, than he is about “conservative thought leaders [who] feel compelled to defend Trump’s nativist ramblings.” Chait’s confusion is evident in the title of his article, “Why are Conservatives Defending Donald Trump?” which should read “Should We Be Surprised that Conservatives Are Defending Donald Trump?”
The mainstream media, conservatives, and a number of liberal commentators seem to have allowed Trump’s brand of racial politics to cloud their understanding of recent history. After all, it was only a few decades ago that Kirk Fordice, a right-wing Republican, ended his victorious campaign for governor–orchestrated largely as an attack on crime and welfare cheaters–with a still photograph of a Black woman and her baby. Of course, this was just a few years after George W. Bush ran his notorious Willie Horton ad and a year before Dan Quayle, in the 1992 presidential campaign, used the racially coded category of welfare to attack a sitcom character, Murphy Brown. And the Washington Post has reported that in the early years of his political career, Rick Perry hosted “fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance. . . .’Niggerhead.'”
And, of course, the racist invectives aimed at President Obama by a number of Republicans are legion. When a gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia, S.C., a longtime Republican activist, Rusty DePass, described it on his Facebook page as one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors. Among the signs at a gathering of conservative protestors in Washington was one that said, “The zoo has an African lion and the White House as a lyin’ African.” These are bits and pieces from what has been an increasingly unrestrained torrent of racism that is fueled by hate-mongers on talk radio and is widely tolerated, if not abetted, by Republican Party leaders. It’s disgusting, and it’s dangerous. But it’s the same ol filthy racism that has been there all along and that has been exploited by the Republican Party since the 1960s. A figure no less than conservative Robert Kagan claims that one register of the racism that has defined the Republican Party is evident in the party’s unadulterated hatred of President Obama, which he calls ” a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.”
Liberal commentators such as Eugene Robinson have called Trump a “farce to be reckoned with, “while Juan Cole argued that Trump failed to use more discreet racial codes because “billionaires and fabulously wealthy people in general are surrounded by yes-men.” While Robinson and Cole may be right, their commentary appears to miss the mark. Adding to the chorus of liberal denunciations were the public announcements by a number of corporations that they were cutting their business ties with Trump because the offensive nature of his remarks. Commentators praised such corporations for taking the high moral ground but most conveniently forgot that these were the same corporations battling unions, polluting the environment, underpaying their workers, and exercising an economic chokehold over the commanding institutions of American life.
As Trump’s campaign gained support and his commentaries became more vulgar, it became clear that he would win the Republican nomination. Commentators such as Roger Cohen, Andrew Bacevich, Mike Lofgren, and Juan Cole became increasingly alarmed over Trump’s endorsement of torture, his taste for bullying protestors, and his unwillingness to denounce support from David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, making it clear that he was “a magnet for authoritarian desires” and could pave the way for what Mike Lofgren termed “a fascist political system.” Many liberals have sensed something deeply disturbing about Trump’s politics but initially refused to describe it in terms of fascism or authoritarianism. New York Times op-ed columnist Timothy Egan argued that the media were complicit in Trump’s popularity and opened a space for the racist fringe to come to the surface by supporting a celebrated candidate who reflected their views. For Egan, the beast resides in the deep-seated racism of a sizable swath of the American populace, but what the beast represents in political terms he refused to name. Paul Krugman went so far as to claim that as bad as Trump was, he was a better candidate than either Cruz or Rubio, who were not just con artists but dangerous. In a shocking admission of political failure and moral irresponsibility, Krugman wrote: “As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.”
In response to all of this fanfare over Trump’s remarks, I argue that the widespread focus given to his displays of racism, narcissism, and arrogance misses the point. The real issue that needs to be examined is what kind of society produces a Donald Trump. Why have Americans flocked to his rallies and roared in support for his bigoted epithets and militant intolerance? Given how the legacies of white colonialism, enslavement, and Jim Crow politics have influence the nation for generations–influences that scholars like Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, and Mumia Abu-Jamal relentlessly critique–Trump is just the latest manifestation of a social order that has always been dominated by whites and that has always been deeply racist. Trump exemplifies a no-holds-barred form of intolerance that shares the ideology of hate espoused by armed vigilante groups that bomb Planned Parenthood offices, ambush immigrants on the border, and burn mosques. How else to explain that extremists such as Christian nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, and white militia groups are flocking to support Trump? The national approval ratings that soar following Donald Trump’s most outrageous statements offer clear testimony to the degree to which forces of intolerance are seething just beneath the glittering corporate surface of a democracy in deep decline. In addition, Trump provides a more direct and arrogant frontman for a society operating increasingly as a plutocracy–a society that glorifies money, excess, and celebrity, and that denigrates kindness, community, justice, and equality.
Trump is the symbol of a new authoritarianism, which is to say, the sign of a democracy unable to protect and sustain itself. Trump represents corporate domination set free, a political and economic engine that both fuels and feeds on fear and intolerance. He is also the endpoint of a long-standing political system that is “part bread-and-circuses spectacle, part celebrity obsession, and part media money machine.” Trump is the symbol of a frightened society that is increasingly seduced to choose the swagger of a vigilante strongman over the processes of collective sovereignty, a gun over diplomacy, and the wall instead of the bridge. Trump’s public rants and humiliating snipes make for great TV, and are, as Frank Rich once argued, “another symptom of a political virus that can’t be quarantined and whose cure is as yet unknown.” What the American public needs is an ongoing analysis of Trump’s messaging in the context of the historical legacies of white bigotry and intolerance, and an analysis of how right-wing politics have tapped such bigotry to further the self-serving interests of a small economic elite. Such an analysis would situate Trump in the context of the historical racism that has smoldered as a form low-intensity warfare in the United States since its inception, and that has arguably worsened for communities of color since the rise of neo-conservatism in the 1980s. Trump has simply discarded the euphemisms and deploys the ruse of national security to take bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, and political bullying to more aggressive levels.
Trump’s rise indicates the increasing confluence of religious fundamentalists and economic extremists who insist that social, racial, economic, and environmental justice are wrong, lead to big government, and are malignant to the nation. Chris Hedges captures the authoritarian and militaristic nature of the Christian right:
“The cult of masculinity, as in all fascist movements, pervades the ideology of the Christian right. The movement uses religion to sanctify military and heroic “virtues,” glorify blind obedience and order over reason and conscience, and pander to the euphoria of collective emotions. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the antichrist, attacking hypocrites and ultimately slaying nonbelievers. This cult of masculinity, with its glorification of violence, is appealing to the powerless. It stokes the anger of many Americans, mostly white and economically disadvantaged, and encourages them to lash back at those who, they are told, seek to destroy them. The paranoia about the outside world is fostered by bizarre conspiracy theories, many of which are prominent in the rhetoric of those leading the government shutdown. Believers, especially now, are called to a perpetual state of war with the “secular humanist” state. The march, they believe, is irreversible. Global war, even nuclear war, is the joyful harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms billions of apostates to death.”
Trump is just one boisterous voice speaking for a sector of white America that feels threatened by people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people of conscience who form communities of solidarity and resistance. The end-time religious wars that many in the Republican Party embrace are not much different than those professed by ISIS and other fanatics. It is also the party of political fundamentalists who hate democracy, attack women’s rights, destroy or underfund healthcare programs that benefit the poor, turn back hard-won voting rights, and believe governance is a tool of the financial elite.
Trump is simply the most visible and vocal member of a fractured party made up of frightened Americans religious fundamentalists, and self-serving economic extremists who believe that the market should arbitrate and dominate all aspects of government and society. Trump represents a new form of social disorder–intolerant, authoritarian, and violent–that sees preventable inequality as part of the natural order of things. Guns, walls, laws, surveillance, prisons, media, and wars are there to serve the interest of the wealthy winners, and to keep the rest of the population in check. Bankers who commit theft, fraud, and acts of economic mass destruction never feels the cold steel of handcuffs tighten on their wrists. Corporate suspects never get shot down accidently in the streets, as do unarmed Blacks, by white cops who feel threatened by skin color. Trump’s rise reinforces these injustices and gives anxious whites a boastful businessman and TV celebrity to rule as their strongman.
More than any other recent politician, Trump speaks to the existential fears and anger of many Americans who have every right to be distressed over their lives and their futures. These are people who live on the edge of financial ruin, people who have few resources for retirement, who are either unemployed or work in dead-end jobs. Not all Trump’s base are racist. Many of them are fed up and angry over establishment political parties whose allegiance is to the rich, not to them, and it shows in the increasing anxiety and despair of middle-aged white Americans who are dying early, and who “are committing suicide with guns, drugs, and alcohol at shocking levels.” Trump has tapped into this anger by exposing the class-specific fault lines that dominate the Republican Party while directing it into a discourse of hate, fear-mongering, xenophobia, racism, and violence. Trump has proven to be a formidable foe in revealing the elitist pretentions and class boundaries of the ruling-class wing of the Republican Party, and his appeal may rest less on ideology than on his struggle to wrest power from the GOP establishment. Frank Rich is worth repeating at length on this issue. He writes:
“What GOP elites can’t escape is the sinking feeling that a majority of Republican voters are looking for a president who will repudiate them and, implicitly, their class. Trump refuses to kowtow to the Establishment–and it is precisely that defiance, as articulated in his ridicule of Romney and Jeb Bush and Megyn Kelly and Little Marco, that endears him to Republican voters and some Democrats as well. The so-called battle for the “soul” of the Republican Party is a battle over power, not ideology. Trump has convinced millions of Americans that he will take away the power from the pinheads on high and return it to people below who feel (not wrongly) that they’ve gotten a raw deal. It’s the classic populist pitch, and it will not end well for those who invest their faith in Trump. He cares about no one but himself and would reward his own class with extravagant tax cuts like any Republican president. But the elites, who represent the problem, have lost any standing that might allow them to pretend to be part of the solution.””
(THE FOLLOWING IS ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND I QUOTE:
HENRY A. GIROUX is a world-renowned educator, author, and public intellectual. He currently holds the Professorship for Scholarship in the Public Interest and The Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar Chair in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books include The Violence of Organized Forgetting (City Lights, 2014); Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket, 2014); Disposable Futures (City Lights, 2015; Dangerous Thinking (Routledge, 2015); and America’s Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016). A prolific writer and political commentator, he has appeared in a wide range of media, including Truthout, Counterpunch, the New York Times and Bill Moyers & Company. He currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux.”
MY COMMENTS: THIS CHAPTER TALKS EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT DONALD TRUMP AND I FIND IT SIMILAR TO FOUR OTHER BOOKS I’VE READ ON HIM. DONALD TALKS LIKE HE’S A CONSERVATIVE BUT HE DOESN’T HAVE ANY PROOF TO BACK THAT UP, PARTICULARLY SINCE HE WENT BANKRUPT SIX TIMES. WE HEARD ABOUT THE AUTHOR HERE FROM TRUTHOUT WHICH IS A NETWORK ON COMPUTER THAT HAS A LOT OF UP TO DATE INFORMATION. A LOT OF THINGS YOU DON’T HEAR ABOUT ON THE REGULAR TV MEDIA.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen Member and USAF Veteran