The Role of Racism in American Politics
In the light of the recent massacre in Pittsburgh, we should look at the role that racist and nativist groups have come to play in our political system, and we should ask ourselves what we can do to minimize the role of racism in our politics. Today’s Republican Party depends on an alliance between racist and nativist groups on the one hand and conservative, business groups on the other. That alliance was not created by President Trump, but, in his presidency, his party has exploited it very effectively.
From the point of view of the business conservatives, the purpose of the alliance is to mobilize racist and nativist votes for candidates who will pass legislation that is friendly to business interests. Such legislation includes tax reductions and elimination of environmental and safety regulations. From the business point of view, the alliance has been quite successful. There are now no limits on financial contributions to campaigns; environmental protections are being eliminated; and business has received a big tax cut.
President Trump's Role
In this alliance, President Trump’s role is to keep the troops fired up. He travels the country fulminating against immigrants, Muslims, the news media and occasionally, Jews (aka “globalists”). He reminds his constituents that their problems are caused by foreigners, by people of other races and by globalists. He makes sure that his constituents do not notice that, while he claims to want to return power to the people, his party actually works for corporate America.
I do not know whether Mr. Trump is a racist, but he knows how to communicate with people who are and how to fan their fears and hatreds while maintaining a convenient, rhetorical distance. He doesn’t advocate violence. Oh no, not he. As long as this continues to be a winning strategy, his party will continue to maintain its alliance of convenience, and racism will continue to play a big role in American politics.
How Can We Fight Racism in Our Politics?
We who think that this strategy is abhorrent cannot win by fighting it directly. Telling people that they are racists doesn’t get us anywhere. The people who really hear what we say already agree with us, and the people who support Mr. Trump know that we have been deluded by “fake news.” We can win only by providing our own, coherent, compelling moral vision that offers people alternative ways to see their problems and alternative ways to solve them. Here is one approach to creating such a vision. Here is another approach. Here is a third approach.