In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77% of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?
— David Brooks, opinion columnist, The New York Times
Most white pundits — conservatives like Brooks and liberals — spend a lot of time seeking explanations as to why so many people voted for President Donald Trump.
“Detached from reality” is a description applied to Trump’s followers who believe: he really won the election; climate change is not real; and scientists are wrong about the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Brooks leaves out the elephant in the room — white racism.
While Trump lost the popular vote by some six million votes, the Republicans made gains in the Congress and state legislatures. Trump’s failure to contain the pandemic lost him some Republican voters, but many of these same voters still voted Republican for the rest of the ticket.
Democrats, except the few progressives, were not seen as better choices. Not a single incumbent Republican lost. Yet, many incumbent “establishment Democrats” were defeated.
“I think it’s a dose of reality of the times that we are living in,” said Nicole Small, vice chair of the Detroit Charter Commission, who believes the election was marked by a “blatant attempt at voter suppression” of African Americans.
“I do not believe that Trump has created racism amongst people, but I do think he was the safety net and the vehicle for people to be more active in practicing their racism and their prejudiced beliefs publicly,” Small told the Detroit News.
The proper identifier for why so many voted for Trump is not “paranoia” or “detached from reality”. It is pure and simple “white racism”. Trumpism exacerbates what has been true for centuries. The cult-like enthusiasm for whatever Trump says and does rests on his exacerbation of white racism by his open embracement of it.
Whites are the real victims in our society, he says, not Black people marching against police violence. He even raises an old racist stereotype to charge that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement will result in white suburban women being raped by Blacks from the cities.
African American activists, pundits and reporters see the reason for the polarisation and existential crisis in the country differently. It is white identity politics that convinces the poorest working-class whites to unite with billionaires against Blacks and non-whites. Racial group solidarity comes first.
Blacks understand this. It is part of the blood and bone of US history. The race card is always played by white politicians and those in power to win the white racist group to oppose socio-economic progress.
Trump continues to argue that Biden must “prove” he got 80 million votes. He repeats his racist charge that in cities with large Black populations such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee, their votes should be not counted.
What is rarely mentioned by the media is that the Black voter turnout was similar to 2016. Some 88% voted for Biden and the Democrats. Hillary Clinton had similar results in 2016. The change this time was that Biden won more suburban white voters.
According to reports, the turnout was less than 50% of registered voters in Detroit. African Americans are 80% of the population.
In interviews with Blacks who did not vote, many said their lives have not, and will not likely change under Trump or Biden. They saw little reason to vote. They are waiting to see if real fundamental change is possible. It did not occur under the first Black president, Barack Obama.
Not surprisingly, about 12% of African Americans voted for Trump based on his argument, “What do you have to lose?” According to NBC News, “About 26% of Black men who had a high school diploma or less supported Trump.”
Biden team reflects establishment
Biden acknowledges his nomination and electoral victory relied on the votes of Blacks in urban areas, Latinos, Asian Americans and indigenous peoples.
Yet, Biden’s nominees for the top posts in his administration so far are mainly pro-Wall Street, linked to the Military Industry Complex and pro-imperialist multilateralists.
According to The Economist, “Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump concluded that he could block the transition to Joe Biden’s incoming administration no longer, the Democratic veteran took the stage alongside his chosen national-security team. ‘America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,’ he said. The happy gurgles of relief this elicited in Washington DC, London, Tokyo and beyond may be imagined.”
The big media has focused on the Biden cabinet’s female and ethnic composition, as compared to Trump’s mainly white male cabinet. But not a single person outside the Washington establishment has been selected. Every name, including climate czar and former Secretary of State John Kerry, is from the “old guard”.
Biden’s foreign policy may be different in style than the Trump administration. On substance, few expect a shift on China, Israel and Saudi Arabia. He may seek to adjust the anti-Iran and anti-Venezuela campaigns, but not at the expense of broader Middle East policy.
Russia policy may change in rhetoric.
Biden announced that a Black Louisiana Congressperson, Cedric Richmond from New Orleans, will serve as his senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The 47-year-old former chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus was a co-chair of Biden's presidential campaign and a close ally during the 2020 race. He is now set to become the highest-ranking Black aide to the President-elect.
Climate activists reacted with outrage to his appointment. Richmond has received more money from the fossil fuel industry than any other Congress member. It is not a good sign for Biden doing something about climate change.
Richmond’s appointment also indicates a more conservative approach to social justice issues. Not a surprise, if one looks at Biden’s record.
In response to the BLM movement, Biden made clear his opposition to defunding the police. He said he will sit down with the police “unions” and chiefs, politicians and traditional civil rights leaders, to make modest changes. No activist leaders are expected at the table.
Biden’s concept of government is to make deals with conservatives, even if it hurts more liberal positions. His team will reflect moderate Democrats who care more about working with mainstream Republicans than promoting progressive policy.
Need for mass resistance
New York Congress representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has been the most outspoken against Biden’s drift to the centre right. Her strategy, and that of other progressives, is to pressure Biden’s team.
It is a flawed strategy — working inside the Democratic Party to bring social and economic change has not worked for the past 80 years.
What inspired a multiracial and working-class coalition against Trump, and by default for Biden, was the broad-based BLM uprising that built an effective Rainbow Coalition to fight racism. It was directed at governments, whether led by Democrats or Republicans.
Trump will likely be gone after the December 14 meeting of the Electoral College. He says he will leave if Biden is elected at that meeting, and will build a permanent following calling Biden’s election illegitimate.
The answer to Trumpism is to continue to mobilise and demand real change. The leaders of the BLM movement have all pledged to continue to fight police violence and institutionalised racism. Others, including leaders of the women’s, gay rights movements and unions must do the same.
To defeat Trump’s cult-like white racism means “fighting until we win.”